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Painting a drum

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  • Painting a drum

    I bought a 26 inch bull hide drum a few weeks ago and I was thinking about painting it but am unsure what type of paint to use. It's 14 inches deep so it has a deep loud tone to it, I never had a painted drum so I'm worried that the sound will be different after it's painted. should I use acrylic paint and delute it with water? will the drum lose some sound after it's painted? these are my concerns and advice would be great.


  • #2
    Hi Greyfox:

    Acrylic paint is primarily made up of polymers and binders the same stuff that plastics are made of. Acrylics drying process is by evaporation of the water content. Because it's a plastic acrylic does tend to have a little more elasticity over other paints but it is temperamental to heat and cold... at room temp (72F) it starts to become soft and can easily be damaged.

    When it comes to the adhesion to the support, acrylic tends to bond only with the surface (unless the support is super porous). It coats rather than enters the support's surface. Acrylic is also vulnerable to absorbing dust particles which are impossible to clean. Freezing acrylic because the paint never fully dries, can cause the paint to crack and in some cases, fall off the support.

    Recalling what most hand drummer's do to tighten up the drum by exposing it to the warmth of a fire, I'd say that practise would start to damage the paint. Now, considering acrylic is a water based paint, having moisture permanently on the drum's head might cause the sound to vary if not cause the hide to sag a bit over time. I know in some of my canvases, excess moisture can cause the canvas to sag.

    Acrylic when it gets wet (think rain) tend to cause the paint to swell. This may alter the sound of the drum over and besides the wet hide.

    Oil paints dry by a chemical reaction and the paint would require the support to be sealed prior to painting otherwise the oils would just keep getting soaked into the support.

    If it were my drum I would try using an artist quality acrylic ink or fluid. You'll get the hues and chroma you want without having to dilute the thicker paints. Keep in mind that when you dilute acrylic paint it messes with the binders and pigment and can cause poor adhesion. I would suggest you look at Tri-Art Paint and their ink/fluid line. Inks behave very much like watercolours and tend not to leave a large build up in the support as do their heavy bodied paints. It doesn't however cover in an opaque film but rather a transparent one. (although there are tons of mediums that can be added to the paint to help with flow, opacity and drying time)

    Another type of paint you might want to experiment with is Gouache or Egg Tempera. Gouache is an opaque, water based paint and Tempera s also a water based paint. These paints tend not to be as temperamental has the heavier bodied acrylics.

    I would think what would be ideal for the drum head is a stain rather than a film on it. A film may very well affect the sound as it adds an extra layer to the head whereas a stain would be absorbed into the head.
    A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. — Robert A. Heinlein

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    • #3
      I'm no expert but just from my expierence paiting it, will cause a different sound.
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