Denver's Dan Briechle Makes Some of the World's Most Unique Drums

A travel kit designed by Dan Briechle. All photos by Isa Jones
A travel kit designed by Dan Briechle. All photos by Isa Jones

Dan Briechle's first drum set is small and old. It's a shiny silver and would look more at home at a jazz club then a five-year-old's bedroom, but it worked. His father made him take it a part and clean it every month, much to Briechle's chagrin. But something in those monthly cleanings and sounds of the drum set inspired him, and by the time he was fourteen, he was buying old sets himself, restoring them and selling them to collectors on Ebay.

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A travel kit Briechle designed
A travel kit Briechle designed

When he was out of his teen years, he started taking the restoration to another level, by building drum shells himself.

"People are so big on vintage drums because they think there's nothing that can sound that way and I just didn't buy it," Briechle says.

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He developed a building technique called directional lamination, which basically means angling the inner pieces of the shells to create a wider range of tuning and allow snares and toms to be better tuned to each other. It naturally changes the pitch of the drum.

"I'm trying to push what makes drums drums," he says.

He's been restoring for years now, working with two employees, but the work isn't easy. He only makes about three full sets and half a dozen snares a year. "We match the individual plys to each other and sometimes that can take all day," he says.

A drum shell containing a print design found at FancyTiger
A drum shell containing a print design found at FancyTiger

He builds anything from travel sets to custom drums for audiophiles and recording studios. In his showroom on 13th Ave which will soon open as a shop, there's a snare he made for the Denver Symphony with eight-hundred-year old Honduron Mohogony. There's another that has the remnants of holes pecked by a now-extinct woodpecker. One has streaks from a lead bullet that went through the tree before he cut it down. Another is from outside his old Denver apartment. The snares sell for up to four-thousand dollars, and the sets are twenty-five hundred, minimum. But Brichle isn't looking for them to fly off the shelves.  

Briechle's first drum kit
Briechle's first drum kit

"I have a lot of trouble selling my drums," he says. "I want to keep them all."

When he isn't spending hours in his workshop or criss-crossing the country working with recording artists, he's in at Red Rocks Community College, where he's taught a class on drum making for the past three years. He said he hopes to be able to have his students sell their work in the shop as well. He also said, when the shop opens, he wants to work with local musicians to lease out some of the "less than perfect" drums he's built. While it's certainly an odd professional choice, making drum shells is Briechle's true passion.

"I want to see drums go a little further."

Wood that was pecked by a now-extinct woodpecker
Wood that was pecked by a now-extinct woodpecker
Snare shells Briechle built
Snare shells Briechle built
A snare with streaking created by a bullet
A snare with streaking created by a bullet

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