HV Drums causing a
racket in the parish
By Chad Ruiz
St. Tammany News
“…and the beat goes on,” at least
it does in the HV Drums’ garage.
There are boat enthusiasts and car
enthusiasts, there are people who collect items like Coca-Cola products
and Pez dispensers, and then there’s Val Schaff IV, an Abita Springs
resident with an ear for acoustic quality.
Schaff, a high school algebra
teacher of 16 years with degrees in mathematics and industrial
technology, developed his obsession with drums during his high school
years at Brother Martin in New Orleans while under world-renowned band
director Marty Hurley.
“The coach at Brother Martin cut
me from the basketball team, so I joined the band,” Schaff said, adding,
ironically, his current principle at Fontainebleau High School in
Mandeville was the head coach who cut him from the team.
After joining the band, he
immediately fell in love with the percussions of the drum, particularly,
the snare drum.
While attending the school, Hurley
created a new type of drum by cutting the middle section out which
ultimately enhanced the sound quality of the drum.
Many years later in 2000, while
volunteering his time to tutor the drum line at Fontainebleau, Schaff
decided to perfect his mentor’s percussion-enhancing drum and create
something of his own on a more current model of drum.
He first experimented on his own
by cutting out sections of the middle instead of the entire middle, like
Hurley did. After trial and error, Schaff completed his design making
the first High Volume Drum.
HV Drums was born.
Basically, Schaff explained, it’s
like standing outside a car with the windows and doors shut while trying
to have a conversation with a friend inside the vehicle.
“By cutting a series of squares
out of the drum, I’m simply opening the windows of the car, which makes
the voice much clearer and slightly louder,” he said. “To me, a drum has
a voice, and this lets the drum breath so you can hear the snares.”
Schaff’s own teacher fell in love
with the HV drums.
“He loved it and wanted me to make
one for him,” Schaff said.
The word quickly spread, and his
unique device became sought after commodity by band directors and drum
players alike. His largest order came recently when Schaff introduced
his new and improved instrument to the University of Southern
Mississippi’s percussion director and Professor of Music Dr. John Wooton.
After hearing then playing his own
drum modified by Schaff, Wooton was so awestruck by its clarity and
pitch, he requested 13 more to be made for his entire drum line,
including snare, tenor and base drums.
It was a daunting task and by far
the largest single order HV Drums received, and Schaff completed the set
several days ago, but not before “losing about 20 pounds from sweating.”
Each drum, Schaff said, takes
roughly 20 hours over three days to modify because there’s more to it
than cutting squares in wood.
“There’s a lot of physics behind
it,” he said.
Schaff single-handedly carves each
square with exact precision. Although he refused to disclose his method
of cutting, he did say the notches were grooved with a slight slope to
After her makes his cuts, he
pieces the drum back together and hand delivers it to its new owner.
Schaff said he’s basically got the process down pat with the only
improvements needed in the expediting process.
With the newest order to southern
Mississippi, business has picked up. Schaff is entertaining queries from
other big-name universities he declined to disclose. But even with the
big business possibility, Schaff was reluctant to say he would leave
teaching, another passion of his, to expand HV Drums.
For more information on HV Drums,
visit the Web site at