Tony Williams: Drumsets Should Sound Like One Instrument (1983)


SKF NOTE: In a sidebar to this interview, Tony Williams said he was playing Gretsch drums: 24″ bass drum; 5 1/2 x 14 snare; 14 x 14, 14 x 16, floor toms; 9 x 13 and 10 x 14 rack toms. All Tony’s drums are double-head, he said, “with black dot (REMO CS) heads.

Interviewer Paul de Barros asked Tony, “Is tuning [drums] important.” Here’s Tony’s answer:


Tony Williams: Yes. I hear drummers that have maybe 12 drums which all sound the same. If you closed your eyes, you wouldn’t know where they were on the set. Or else you have guys where each drum sounds like it’s from a different set.

It’s important that the drum set sounds like one instrument.

Like, if you have a piano, you wouldn’t want the C to sound like a Rhodes, the D to sound like a Farfisa, the E to sound like a Prophet. A keyboard is a uniform system; a trumpet is a uniform system…drummers are out to lunch.

On some of my drums, the bottom head is tighter than the top head. On other drums they’re about the same. And on the bass drum the front head is looser than the batter side.

Source: Tony Williams, Drum Innovator, by Paul de Barros, Down Beat, November 1983

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