Glass Drums: Orlich Drums

I recently discovered something so beautiful and unique that I had to write an article about this. On the odd occasion you will be lucky to find something so special that you stare at it in awe, and I just knew I had to share this breath taking find with you.

Actual Glass Drums

In 1977, Jon Orlich, the creator of Glass Drums, became interested in the glass arts. Since that time he has made his living in the field. He has had hundreds of commissions and won numerous awards. In 1989 he developed the glass drum concept. Orlich knew, from the simple procedure of running one’s finger around the brim of a wine glass, that glass had wonderful musical properties. Orlich felt that this musical resonance could be coupled with the beauty of art-glass to produce a drum of superior quality, tone-wise and visually. Next would come the experimentation to produce a glass shell that would meet both these criteria. Early shells, nearly one-hundred percent glass, would provide too much overtone. Many refinements followed. To tweak overtone to just the right level, Orlich then chose to produce a segmented shell, utilizing strips of beautifully beveled glass, set within a framework of brush-finished brass. Finally, Orlich felt he had arrived at his destination — an incredible sounding musical instrument with the visual appeal of a work of art. Orlich Actual Glass Drums were born. Over the years that followed, musicians such as Prince, Alan White (Yes), Tris Imboden (Chicago), and Richie Hayward (Little Feat) would come to own Orlich drums.

Features of Orlich Actual Glass Drums
Orlich drums are composed of multiple plates of 1 ½” wide, 3/16” thick, clear glass. Each plate has ½” decorative beveled edges. A superstructure of lacquer-coated, brush-finished brass holds the beveled glass together. To allow for a vent hole, one panel of glass is segmented.

Tuning lugs are tubular in design and art deco in appearance. They are attached to L-shaped brackets in a manner that dispenses with thru-shell attachment. No holes drilled through the glass, and no nuts, plates, or washers to loosen up or rattle, or to encumber sound deflection.

The drum-head bearing-edge is 1/8” wide and ¼” deep and slightly rounded. It is constructed from cold-rolled steel and attached to the shell rim. Unlike hand-sanded, wooden bearing-edges, this edge is machined and therefore consistent. In a tedious process, the final tone of each drum is adjusted by purposefully distorting the perfect circle of the bearing-edge hoop until the most optimum and consistent sound is achieved.

Snare drums possess a radically recessed strainer bed, a dip or valley of nearly ¼” at bed ends. Here the bearing-edge has been cut away and tapers down. This allows the snares to curve uniformly against the bottom head. Snare drums incorporate the incredible Trick Percussion ™ throw-off. The Trick throw-off is perhaps the smoothest operating lever on the market today. It features a cylindrical unit, precision machined, which rotates with a whisper-quietness and allows for the most exacting of tension preference. Standard equipment also includes 20-strand, coiled wire, snares of premium quality.

Die-cast hoops are standard on the snare drum. Tom-toms utilize top quality triple-flange hoops. Die-cast tom-tom hoops are available for additional cost. Bass drums hoops are chrome plated with inlaid matching brass strip.

Special artistic embellishment can be added to your drums for additional cost. This could include custom etching on the glass, electroplating a different metal finish, or variations on a number of glass ideas.

Differences and concerns about Glass Drums:

Durability: Say “glass” and most people cringe, especially when the glass is used in the construction of a musical instrument that will be struck with a stick! Rest assured, however, that for a product made with glass my drums are quite strong, especially since much of the shell’s strength is

Weight:  perhaps twice as heavy as conventional drums. While that may pose transportation drawbacks, bear in mind that my drums stay nicely put when played upon and offer a feeling of solidity when seated behind them.

Head changing: A bit different than conventional drums, this may seem a little unusual at first. But this is only because a new and slightly different procedure is being introduced. Head changing Orlich drums is fast and easily mastered. Complete directions are provided with each drum ordered.

Special Considerations
They are heavier and they are more fragile than regular drums. But not like you’d think. Weight wise, perhaps twice as heavy, depending on the individual drum and the drum you may be comparing it to. But this has a great advantage: Tom-toms don’t bob up and down when played upon; and when seated behind a kit the drummer senses of feeling of solidity. Roadies might complain a bit (but then again they complain about most everything)!

Yes, glass will break. But these drums will not break from being played upon, nor will they break from normal handling. For years I carried around my personal set without cases and had absolutely no mishaps (though I do not recommend this). Most guitars dropped from waist-height will suffer more damage than my drums. A Stradivarius is fragile, a Rolls Royce will dent if you walk upon it. Why is it that everyone wants to think that my drums should warrant extra mishandling? If you’re a klutz, don’t buy my drums – if you’re a true artist, my drums may provide the sound you’ve always envisioned.

All in all I was really impressed by these drums. I have not seen anything quite like them and I hope you will be as fascinated as I am.

Taryn Young

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  1. i helped tear down and transport this very set for alan white a few years ago. he loosely wrapped them in random blankets and put them in the back of his minivan. i kid you not. cases? we don’t need no stinkin’ cases!

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