Barton Drums


A: Barton Drums are built and painted or wrapped at the Barton Musical Instrument Co., LTD in Tianjin, China. I directed the design of all fixtures and equipment. My Chinese partner, Ken Chou and I trained the craftsmen to do the work. I design every kit we build.

A lot of independent drum builders opt for Keller shells, which they then trick out. I don’t do off the shelf. I’m too picky.

I do outsource hardware. But designed starting with the vintage style lugs. I specified solid die cast hoops. The old-school tom legs and bass drum spurs have memory locks. It’s all solid stuff, heavy enough to increase my shipping costs.

A: I use the same premium woods that go into $2,000-$3,000 kits: mostly North American maple, European beech and birch.

I used a 45-degree inner edge and a rounded over outer edge on all my shells. That was the standard cut on the vintage kits we all love. I’m not a fan of the sharply peaked edges that became standard in the 1980s. It’s hard to tune out ugly overtones. That’s why you see drummers plastering their heads with tape and gel.

Sound engineers tell me that microphones love Barton drums. It’s easy to get a gorgeous musical sound without a lot of compression, reverb and muffling. That round edge seats the head nice and perfect. The tone is huge in any tuning range, low to cranked.

I like light, resonant drums, but I’m not a fan of thin shells. They’re unstable. The sound gets mushy when you lay into them live. All Barton drums feature medium shells. I think that gives you the most attack and resonance. The toms and bass drums are usually 7 ply. The snares are 9 ply. Barton shells begin life perfectly round, with no gaps in the plus. They’re built to stay that way for a lifetime of playing.

A: Barton is a super-efficient boutique builder. My factory is tricked out with the with best available shell molds and computer-controlled drills and routers. Human craftsmen select the plies, cut and sand bearing edges and apply the eye-popping painted finishes and wraps Barton is known for.

A: Forget about oddball sizes. I use the tried and true standard sizes. They’ve been proven to work in every genre, even metal. I saw 1969 footage of Black Sabbath playing live in Germany. Bill Ward is inventing big arena metal drumming on a standard four-piece Ludwig black oyster kit. Those kits were built for jazz drummers. Didn’t matter. Ward sounds like God rolling boulders across the sky.

It’s about air movement. You don’t want a huge cavern. The sound can’t bounce from one head to the other. Super deep bass drums go against the laws of physics. And micro drums? They sound like toys to me. Not an all-purpose choice. The standard sizes resonate naturally and beautifully.