Vistalites and Acrolites

Every once in a while I get the chance to sit in and jam with my friends from The Drowning. Based in Pittsburgh, the band includes members who I played with back in high school. We had a few gigs and a battle of the bands. Other members went off to form their own bands and all of them have recorded CDs.

Beyond the sheer pleasure of playing with those guys I also love the fact that I get to play an original set of blue Ludwig Vistalites and an Acrolite snare drum. Introduced in 1972 this style of acrylic drums were produced by the Ludwig Drum Company. Vistalites were developed to be a synthetic alternative to wood shells. You may recall that John Bonham popularized them in “The Song Remains the Same.”

Vistalites were available in clear, green, red, amber, and yellow as well as the blue one I play. Blue and clear were the largest sellers. Beyond Bonham, the drums were popularized by other note-worthy drummers that played them. This included Karen Carpenter, Keith Moon, Nick Mason, Ron Bushy, Barriemore Barlow, Jay Osmond and Billy Cobham.

In addition to revealing the drummer playing behind the kit Vistalites also reflected the lights that shined upon them. The sound of the drums was also different. Many kits came with concert toms (toms without lug holes or a rim on the bottom of the shell) that provided a projected sound similar to Phil Collin’s signature sound.

According to Ludwig “While some acrylic shells have been criticized for their dry, dull tone, others have been raved about for years, such as the shells used by John Bonham. Many drummers, and musicians/recording engineers in general, have a preferred drum sound that they strive to attain when playing and recording, and while some wooden drums have seemed to dominate this recording field throughout recent decades, acrylic shells have still played a keystone role in numerous sought after recordings.”

As one who has played these drums I can account for their unique and powerful tone. They respond well and offer a sound different from any wood shelled kit that I’ve ever played. The Acrolite snare I play with it is also one-of-a-kind. Introduced in the 1960’s as a student model the drum caught the attention of professionals for its distinct and dry tone. It is capable of expressing the subtlety of ghost notes as well as the high-volume crack to hold its own in any setting. I personally like the attack of the drum.

If you ever have the opportunity to play a Vistalite kit or an Acrolite snare drum do it. It will be a unique experience and who knows? You may find yourself purchasing one of the re-issued ones.

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