Teen Crafts Personalized Drum Sounds through Self-Built Creations

by Madonna

Rochester’s rhythm aficionado, Conner Nation, is in tune with the subtleties of how different wood types orchestrate the symphony of a drum’s resonance.

“The wood’s hardness influences its resonance,” he asserts, articulating his musical insight. Nation, a 16-year-old prodigy, is poised to enter his junior year at Lourdes High School this fall.


Initiating his percussion journey in seventh grade, Nation’s passion found greater depth when an upperclassman kindled his ardor for the quads in the marching band and the drum set. Currently, he harmonizes his beats within the precincts of his school’s marching, concert, and jazz ensembles. Beyond this, he radiates his musical essence through the punk trio named Kill Ben.


In the course of acquiring his drum set, Nation encountered a dissonance with the snare drum’s timbre. Steered by his drum instructor, Alec Tackmann, the prospect of crafting his own snare drum surfaced as an intriguing endeavor.


“It’s another profound way to grasp your instrument,” elucidates Tackmann, underscoring the intrinsic value of this artistic voyage. “Deconstructing a drum may initially evoke trepidation, but as familiarity sets in, your creative impulse takes flight. If you possess a penchant for construction, it transforms into an enjoyable pursuit of building and tailoring your own.”

Nation’s drum-making odyssey entails a meticulous sequence: selecting a shell, employing a router to carve the bearing edge, calibrating holes for lugs and hardware, drilling, ensuring precise fit, embellishing an exterior wrap, and finally assembling the components. He underscores the gravity of precision, citing aspects like shell flatness and tension rod measurements. “Thorough triple-checking is imperative,” he asserts.

Within drum crafting, the art of problem-solving occupies a substantial role. Nation attests, “When a concept falters… you’re compelled to rectify your approach and seek fresh solutions. The journey offers rewards at every juncture, witnessing tangible progress and, naturally, relishing the splendid culmination.”

While Nation’s garage becomes a sanctuary for sanding and routing, his room metamorphoses into a symphony of drum accouterments—abundant hardware, salvaged drum shells, and an array of serendipitous cymbals and sticks. Amidst this harmonic assemblage, his drum set, featuring a self-fashioned pink piccolo snare and a colossal bass drum he ingeniously reclaimed, finds its rightful place. In a whimsical anecdote, he recalls transporting the outsized bass drum to school during a “anything but a backpack” theme day to hold his essentials.

The crux of Nation’s sonic voyage encapsulates the unwavering support of his father. With gratitude, he extols, “I owe a heartfelt thanks to my dad, who not only equipped me with the initial skills and know-how but remains an invaluable problem solver, a wellspring of inspiration, and a devoted father.”

At the behest of his mentor Tackmann, Nation embarked on a quest to replicate a vintage 13-by-3-inch Ludwig jazz combo snare from the 1960s. This endeavor entailed meticulous scrutiny of the original drum, dissecting its unique nuances such as the interior’s distinct white hue and the precise count of snare strands adorning the underside.

“It represents my finest achievement,” Nation states with pride, reflecting on the vintage replica he executed for Tackmann.

Tackmann, appraising the craft, commends, “The build quality is impeccable. Certain measurements are prone to mishap, but he executed them brilliantly. This drum mirrors a rare ’60s piece, and owning an original for live performances would be precarious. Moreover, vintage hardware lacks robustness, rendering a new replica more dependable on stage.”

A seasoned professional drummer, Tackmann endorses the significance of local drum artisans. “Customization to precise specifications becomes feasible, and there are repairs and alterations requiring specialized tools that I lack space for,” he opines.

In Nation’s perception, local drum builders embody a broader ethos of supporting local enterprises. He champions the uplifting outcomes of “backing our community members over conglomerates.”

With unswerving devotion, Nation aspires to transcend his avocation, envisaging a future where drum crafting evolves into a full-fledged vocation, resonating harmoniously as a cornerstone of his musical journey.


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