Vintage Ludwig Drums

Own A Piece Of Drumming History!

Vintage Ludwig Drums are extremely desirable these days. Have you checked out eBay lately? 1960s / 1970s and older Ludwigs are very collectible. Thousands were made because of the explosion of Ludwig drum set and snare drum sales in those decades. They also just happen to sound incredibly good, and wonderful for daily use if in excellent condition!

Ringo, drummer for the Beatles can be given most of the credit for this sudden huge demand. He requested a very obvious "Ludwig" logo placed above the larger "Beatles" logo on his bass drum head. Wow! What a free marketing jackpot for Ludwig! His drum kits also included Premier and Ajax before switching to oyster black Ludwigs.


The Beatles - August 19, 1965
Photo Courtesy of the Houston Public Library

Famous drummers that have played Ludwig drums were Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix), John Bonham (Led Zeppelin), Jeff Porcaro (Studio Legend), Hal Blaine (Studio Legend), Steve Gadd (Studio Legend), Joe Morello (Dave Brubeck), Buddy Rich (Big Band Legend), Nick Mason (Pink Floyd), Ginger Baker (Cream), Clive Bunker (Jethro Tull), Dino Danelli (Young Rascals), Alex Van Halen (Van Halen), and Tre Cool (Green Day), just to name a few.

Of course Ludwig can also take credit becasue its Chicago built drums sounded and looked amazing. These classics easily equal to any modern or boutique drum set – at any price. As the owner of a 1968 "Super Classic" kit there's no doubt that it sounds incredible live and in the studio!

Some drummers contend that Vintage Ludwig drums from this era even sound better due to aged mahogany, being the dominant wood type found in many of the 60s and older sets. This is not to be confused with "Phillipine" mahogany currently offered on cheap drum sets.


1964 Ludwig Oyster Black "Ringo Starr" Set

Vintage Ludwig - A Closer Look

When considering vintage Ludwig drums, it's a good idea to know what these drums are all about. To my knowledge the late 60s and older shells had a Mahogany and possibly poplar wood combination to form the plys. My particular vintage set is three ply and fairly lightweight using the bass drum as a weight gauge.

Reinforcing hoops placed on the inside top and bottom edges help the drum shell stay round over time. Drum heads also fit very nice and loose on all the vintage Ludwig drums I've come across over the years. This can really make tuning easier assuming the bearing edges are even and the drum is in excellent shape.

Most Ludwig classic series vintage drum finishes were plastic wraps. Besides the standard sparkles, and the classic white and black marine pearls, the more unique designs like Ringo's "oyster black pearl" were offered. Natural wood maple finish was also offered and was one of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham's choices.


Ludwig Downbeat Set - Jazz Sizes - 1960s

The most common sizes measured by depth and diameter are: 5x14 snare drum, 14x22 bass drum, 9x13 mounted tom, 16x16 floor tom. The jazz sizes 14x20, 8x12, and 14x14 are much less common. There was even an 18" bass drum which are really rare. Four piece drum sets were also a lot more common than the current industry standard five piece. Ludwig did however make sets with three toms, usually an 8x12 with a double tom mount. 6.5" x 14" snares were also available.

My only complaint with these vintage Ludwig drums is the single tom mount was not strong enough. The double mount was probably better, but most kits had the single mount. The floor tom legs and bass drum spurs were fine. If you purchase a vintage Ludwig kit, I suggest Safely storing the tom mount and using a tall snare stand or drum rack.

Store the original mount safely and whatever you do - do not drill or modify the shell in any way. That really destroys the value of any vintage Ludwig drums - or vintage drums in general for that matter.

Vintage Ludwig Snare Drums

If you are not interested in a complete set, Ludwig snare drums are a safe bet. They have a stellar reputation for versatility and great sound.

Legendary Supraphonic 400 - 1960s

The Supraphonic 400 "seamless spun shell" is arguably the most recorded snare ever! Truly an industry standard. The famous "Black Beauty" is a brass shell version of the Supraphonic with a black chrome finish. Some of the earlier era Supra shells were also brass with the standard chrome finish.

Supraphonic 400 - 1960s

Many drumming superstars and studio greats have used the SUpraphonic, some even while endorsing other brands. The best rely only on the best.

Popular concensus is that the famous "Acrolite" snare drum has the identical Supraphonic 400 "seamless aluminum shell" but without the chrome finish. Eight "bowtie" lugs are used as opposed to the ten "imperial" lugs on the Supra. The Supra was offered in two sizes: 5x14 and 6.5x14. The Acrolites were 5x14. One thing certain is that both drums are world class, and probably the last metal snare drum you'll ever need!

Acrolite - 1960s

A nice benefit of the Acrolite is the finish does not get pitted or flake off like most vintage Supraphonic snare drums. They are also inexpensive on the used market and eBay considering the superb sound and quality that you get. Not to mention the "cool vintage" factor and classic good looks.

Another nice added bonus in my opinion is the P-83 snare throw-off or strainer, which is fine quality and very low profile. It gets the job done well and is very compact, unlike some of the new heavy and very bulky throw-offs.

The most prized vintage Ludwig snare is the "Black Beauty", especially the engraved versions. These brass shell snares have been made since the 1920s, although not continuously. In the modern era "reissue" production was begun in the 70s and can be identified by a large rectangular blue and olive badge around the air hole, as seen below.

Black Beauty - Late 1970s

Studying eBay auction descriptions and photos for a few weeks you can get a pretty quick education. Be careful not to believe everything you read because very few drummers are vintage Ludwig experts. I'm not an expert or a collector, just a happy user of 60s and 70s Ludwig drums.

As a final note, before buying any vintage era Ludwig drums always do your research. If purchasing on the internet absolutely talk with the seller on the phone and ask many questions regarding details on condition, modifications, year made, serial numbers, fading finish problems, bearing edges, etc. Get very clear on what you are buying. Lastly, ask about return/refund policies.

Also of much importance is how the seller plans to ship safely. If using eBay check feedback for shipping comments. Ebay sellers at times can be lousy packers and this could mess up an otherwise smooth vintage drum purchase. The two big shippers that we all know and love don't always spread the love when it comes to package handling.

If you want a great sounding, retro, and classy looking drums, consider vintage Ludwig. If the set or snare is all original and in fine shape it can only rise in value. How many expensive new "boutique" drums can say that. Ringo still plays Ludwig, and that's good enough for me.

NOTE: If you don't need an entire drum set and prefer to purchase one of the new "classic" Ludwig snare drums, you'll be happy to know that their famous sound is still going strong. Various models of the Black Beauty, Supraphonic, Acrolite and Bronze are currently available. These are modern versions of the vintage drums discussed in this article. You can enjoy the tone, sensitivity and sleek looks for a few decades until yours becomes an "original owner" vintage Ludwig collectible!

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