Guru Drumworks Walnut Kit With Oak Snares review

A Guru Drumworks kit is as close to a fitted suit as a set of drums can get

  • £3900
Walnut shells are steam-bent with ash reinforcement rings.

MusicRadar Verdict

Genuinely personal, bespoke drums made with love to truly brilliant standards. What Guru offers is real individual custom-drum building - with a price to match.


  • +

    Great sounds. Undeniable quality and sheer craftsmanship.


  • -

    As custom drums, these are very personal and won't suit every player - true high-end drums tailored to a specific drummer.

MusicRadar's got your back Our team of expert musicians and producers spends hours testing products to help you choose the best music-making gear for you. Find out more about how we test.

Based in Stockton-on-Tees, Guru Drumworks is a run by carpenter and drummer, Dean Price. Dean builds highly individual one-off kits and snares to order, with this stunning kit being commissioned by teenage drumming prodigy Jake Brown.

"The quality of the drums and the obvious love that's gone into creating them is undeniable - the level of craftsmanship is as good as it gets."


At the tender age of 14, Jake has already played some of the grandest concert halls in the country and has made clinic appearances on the same bill as Steve White, Chad Smith and Benny Grey.

Jake first encountered Guru drums at a Jobeky UK drum festival. "They were gorgeous," he explains. "Having always loved Brady and Craviotto drums I felt that Guru Drumworks was like both of these in one. I got chatting to Dean and we arranged to go and see him at his workshop."

Dean consults extensively with each customer, ensuring he can match their requirements with appropriate drums. In Jake's case, he was after "a kit that was good for soloing - as I play lots of different sounds and styles - but also something I could really groove and rock out on".

Dean and Jake settled on steam-bent walnut shells with ash reinforcement rings. The kit features a 22x22-inch bass drum, 10x8-inch and 12x9-inch rack toms and 14x14-inch and 16x16-inch floor toms.

Whilst at Dean's workshop, Jake spotted an Oak stave snare and ordered a pair (14x6½-inch and 12x7-inch) to complete his kit.

Amongst his many talents, Jake clearly has a discerning eye as the kit is an utterly breathtaking vision. The warm tobacco hues of the walnut - the wood has not been stained, but simply sealed with hardened oil - are interrupted only by Guru's own-design low mass lugs.

Dean happily describes himself as near-obsessive when it comes to wood and it's not unusual for him to spend a whole day at a timber yard selecting wood for a project. Such care shows as the individual drums have total continuity with each other.

Steam bending is an art which requires weeks of preparation for a window of around 20 seconds to accomplish the bending of a flat sheet of wood into a cylinder. The resulting single ply drums are bonded permanently with scarf joints.

With the heads removed you get more of an idea of the laws of physics that Dean has had to negotiate in order to create the drums. The shell thickness varies, starting at 7mm for the two rack toms and the smaller floor tom, proceeding to 8mm for the 16-inch floor tom and 10mm for the bass drum.

Similarly steam-bent and scarf-joined are the ash reinforcement rings, which are 10mm thick and 23mm deep.

Hands On

The pair of oak snare drums are constructed from vertical staves without reinforcement rings. This technique produces solid ½-inch-thick shells, with the joins being hard to spot amongst the vertical flow of grain.

By carefully taking a sandblaster to the outside of the snares' shells, Dean has produced an original rippled finish called Driftwood.

All of the drums' bearing edges are cut by hand to 45°, but with a varying amount of rounding-over according to the diameter; the larger the drum, the greater the amount of rounding over.

Walnut tends to produce dark-sounding drums and the bass drum exudes more darkness than Darth Vader after a night on the Guinness. Whichever direction the tension rods are turned, the drum's note remains low - tuning it up just makes it sound tauter.

Amidst the abundant bottom-end there is a noticeable focus to the sound, with the centimetre-thick shell no doubt contributing. Much like the bass drum, the toms combine the warmth of the walnut with the single-ply shell construction, making for quite dense but powerful tones.

The clear Emperor batters accentuate the attack on offer while also ensuring fully-saturated notes. Swapping them for coated Ambassadors brought out a lighter, more ringing side to the toms.

Oak has its own characteristics and the two snare drums are a delight to play. They are both incredibly punchy, full-sounding drums, pleasantly dry in the middle and more biting towards the edges. Of the two, the 14-inch is more versatile but either of them would make fine additions to any kit.

This kit is custom-made in the truest sense: it has been tailored to an individual drummer's needs. As such, there are bound to be elements of it that are not going to appeal universally to all drummers. But that is the point of custom design; it is just for you.

What's undeniable is the quality of the drums and the obvious love that has gone into creating them - the level of craftsmanship is as good as it gets. The personal nature of the project cannot be overstated. How many custom drum-makers can offer such a truly bespoke service?