Back in August, my amazing local drum shop posted this photo with this description:
Rare pre Maple Custom Yamaha drum set. 22/10/12/14/16 all toms are suspended. Includes matching 6×14 snare. Gold maple custom lugs.
I was immediately intrigued – it seemed like a great deal for what looked like a Maple Custom kit. So I headed down the next morning to check them out in person. They were a bit dirty, had a few nicks and scrapes here and there, and I was confused by the badges. Instead of a YMC badge, they read “Yamaha Custom Drums. Maple Shell. Made in Japan”.
Unsure of what they actually were, I decided to pass. Every once in a while, though, I’d think about the mystery Yamahas and wonder how they sounded, what they’d look like after a little bit of TLC, and I returned to Dave’s website every few weeks to see if they were still available. And six months later, they still stood stacked in a corner of the store.
Of course, you know how this story ends. That little voice in my head kept whispering “You should give those poor lonely drums a nice home”, and so after Christmas, I was back to look them over one last time. And the next day, I returned to load them into the back of my car.
Once home, I removed the rims and some of the hardware and spent a few days cleaning and polishing the shells and parts. The rims are Yamaha’s triple-flanged Dynahoops, and the gold Maple Custom lugs are the improved second-generation version. They are beautifully made drums, with gorgeous interiors, smooth bearing edges, and an exquisite blue lacquer finish that shows the maple grain when viewed up close.
I’ve been able to find very little information about Yamaha Custom drums online. It’s a bit tricky as Yamaha obviously has several lines that use the word Custom (Maple Custom, Recording Custom, Tour Custom, etc.), so searching for “Yamaha Custom” brings up lots of dead ends and false leads.
The Yamaha Wiki contains the briefest description under Discontinued Products:
Yamaha Custom – A custom series of drum kits featuring either 100% Maple or Birch wood, a variety of colors and finishes, and the “Yamaha Enhanced Sustain System” (YESS)
The drum forums were a bit more helpful. A post on the Drummerworld site from 2010 prompted a couple of interesting responses:
“Those were Yamaha’s attempt at the first custom tailored series, I am almost positive. That is the badge I remember, and you could choose the RC or MC shell, choice of lug, finish. I am almost totally sure this is what these are.”
“I talked to Jim Haler at YAMAHA about why they ditched the ‘custom’ effort, he said it just got too crazy when someone ordered Maple Customs with RC lugs.”
I posted a similar question and photos on the Drum Forum site, and got some help from the resident experts:
“Yamaha had a short-lived series called the Custom series. The buyer could specify wood type, finish hardware colour and type choices. It was very quickly discontinued. I recall this being around the mid 90’s. The finishes available were very extensive and many non-standard colours were available. They had fades and burst, Black, chrome and gold hardware. You could get Maple Custom lugs ; RC style lugs etc. Various hoop thicknesses (1.6 mm; 2.3 mm or diecast). I recall these being very expensive at the time, far above a standard Maple Custom or Recording Custom at the time.”
Back at the drum shop, Dave said he talked to the Yamaha rep about them, and apparently Yamaha had a cool catalogue at the time where you could overlay transparencies of various finishes on the drums so you could see what they would look like.
This all confirmed my thinking, based on the drums’ features and the serial numbers, which seem to indicate the drums were made in 1996. I’m still curious about the model number on each drum – they follow the usual Yamaha pattern where MTT010 = Maple tom tom 10 inch. However, each of these drums ends with the initials PGD, which I’m guessing are the initials of the person who originally placed the custom order. [edit: after some discussion, I think P=power size, G=gold lugs, D=Dynahoops]
In the end, I think they’re really just Maple Customs with a blue maple finish that wasn’t available at the time (after several Google image searches, I haven’t found any Yamaha drums with this exact finish). And that’s totally fine with me, as MCs were Yamaha’s flagship line for many years. I’m still tinkering with drum placement and head choice, but I’m looking forward to many years of fun with these.
I still find it incredible that these fantastic drums went unsold for six months, priced just a bit higher than I’ve seen the snare drum alone sell for. I probably won’t get this lucky again, but I suppose the search for bargains is partly what drives every collector.
Got another interesting post from Toady on the Drum Forum site:
On your website, you mentioned the cool catalog that Yamaha had…
Timing is everything! I was visiting a high school buddy last weekend, and he’s a huge Yamaha collector. We got to talking about NAMM, and Pearl’s Music City Custom line, and I asked if he remembered Yamaha’s Custom series from the mid-90s. He pulled this catalog out of a bin.
I’d say you’ve got quite a treasure there. Yamaha only had that line for a few years, and yours is the first one I’ve seen “in the wild.”
Congrats. Super envious of your find!