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I thought I'd start a thread on snare drums that sit well in recordings. I'd like comment on:
1. Brands, shell materials, sizes.
2. Heads
3. Tuning tips and preferences
4. Snares / other adjustments.
Please indicate the type of music you play when posting.

Anyway for me - I'm not a drummer. I'm a drum owner. Actually my wife (longtime hand drum player) has been playing set for while now, so I can buy her drum stuff for her birthday and seem generous while I satisfy my gear addiction.

Our set gets used for jazz, folk, blues, roots rock,

1. We have two snares - A 14X6 Mapex poplar shell and a 13X6 Phattie maple shell. (Stauffer was a local Blacksburg kid and there are lots of his drums floating around town.) The slightly lower toned mapex seems to get used more. Maybe just cause we like the finish more? Tehy aren't really that different.

2. Mapex -Coated Ambassador on top, Clear Mapex branded head on bottom. Phattie - CS -Dot on top, Ambassador clear snare on bottom.

3. I've tried a lot of things. Now they are both tuned to a substantially higher tension than the toms bottom lower than the top, but not a full third lower (tried that didn't like it).

4. No real clue here on the snares. Tighten them, loosen them. It's all pretty good.

Basically, things sound good. The biggest defect is probably that I'm putting them in a little room. But I'm interested in hearing any tips.


anonymous Sat, 04/04/2009 - 17:12

Brand: doesn't really matter.
Heads: anything double ply and not wet.

What is really important when it comes to snare drums is: width and depth, snare wire adjustment/size, and head tuning.

Wider drums = bigger sound.
Deeper drums = fatter/longer sound. Are you confused yet?

The underwire obviously puts the crack in the snare, so adjusting it properly will make sure you don't have too much crack, too sloppy of a sound, too tight of a sound, the list goes on... Wires with more strands obviously provide more crack, but the crack tends to overpower the tone of the snare. Less wires is more toneful, but not a great idea if you need to really cut through a mix. Tuning the underwire tightly provides a more staccato crack, while tuning them loosely provides more of a thud/smack.

Tuning is what is really going to make or break the sound of a drum. Different woods like different head tensions. Mahogany is really strange, as it tends to "open up" when the bottom head tuning is dropped. Maple tends to be more normal and likes somewhat tight tensions (don't go too high or you'll choke, unless you want to choke, which some styles actually use a lot). And then there's just the sonic effect different head tensions have. I like tuning my bottom heads higher because they give the snare and toms a bouncier, ringier sound. Some people are intent on removing all life and vibrancy (ringing and buzzing) from a drum, but I don't recommend that. Once a ringing, abrasive snare gets in a mix, it sounds a lot better than it does by itself.

And last but not least: stop playing like a little girl. If you want TOOOONE, you've gotta beat the living crap out of the drums. I don't really recommend that for people who don't have strong wrists. I've seen people break their wrists trying to beat the crap out of drums like I would. I'm sure I'll get tendonitis one of these days, but such is the price of tone. 8)

Oh, yes, I forgot to list the style of music I play. I play what all the best drummers play: speed punk! :D

Tom Fodor Mon, 03/05/2012 - 15:07

I think it pays to have a little variety with snares. You want to have a real rocky deep thunder snare 14x6, a tighter funk style snare 14x4, a shallower pingier latin / reggae-ish snare 13x3.5, something heavy on the sizzle for jazz and brush work 14x4 with wider snare and variations in between. You will have to experiment with heads and dampening depending on what your tastes dictate. I tend to have several rings (cut from iron on felt stiffening) with different thicknesses for each drum. It lets me fine tune dampening without choking off the tone. If you go to one of the big fabric stores you can can get the stuff real cheap and experiment with the ring widths to get the dampening just right. Remember to iron two sheets together back to back and then cut them out using your hoops to mark the outer diameter. Start with a 1 1/2 - 2 inch wide ring and trim in from the middle to adjust the amount of dampening you want. They don't buzz like the plastic ones either and you can do the same for toms.

Davedog Mon, 03/05/2012 - 16:41

I think thats a great idea.

I have several snares here at the old studio. Right now theres a 10 lug Gretsch Birch 6 1/2 X14.... a 14 X 4 1/2 steel old Premier...a 6 X 14 steel Tama....and an old steel 5 X14 with no manufacturer tag but its a 10 lug drum and is soon due to be studioized. I use the moogel and the plastic rings but I also use a wallet and this idea of the felt rings seems so easy and sound.

Off to the sewing store!

BTW....Also, Not A Drummer, but I play one on TV. Ya know, a homeless man role.......

MadMax Wed, 03/07/2012 - 19:35


For the kind of work you do... the best I can suggest is thinner shells... both in ply count (for wooden snares) and shell depth.

Ambassador tops with Aquarian jazz bottoms, is generally what I like for a nice tight snap on light grace notes.

Piccalo's are not my 2nd choice, but my 1st choice. In larger rooms, it's got snap, without all the boom, of say... a Black Beauty.

Tuning a snare correctly for a gig is a lot quicker with solid rims... and maybe not so obviously, more lugs.

Assuming all your bearing edges are clean and smooth, I start with the bottom head first. Hand tighten the lugs with your fingers until the lug is snug all the way around the rim... alternating in either a cw or ccw method of alternating the tensioning across the drum until the bottom head FIRST resonates. Note that tone.

Continue tensioning, typically 1/4 turn, until you find the next resonant tone... listening to the drum as you would tuning a guitar - listening to the harmonics until they're a close to one tone, and as you can get each lug to match - as you move across, and around the drum.

Once you've reached this second resonant tuning... GENTLY, put the snares back on, and turn the drum over and put on the batter head in the same fashion as the bottom head. And, as with the bottom head, tune to the 1st, and 2nd resonant points. (Fine tune the actual tone with the snares ON!)

For traditional jazz, you can leave the tuning right where it is, and put a couple of blops of moon gel, a light wallet, or a wash cloth over the edge to get what you want.

For most anything else... I simply reach underneath the snare and tighten no more than 2 lugs... something less than 1/4 turn. This naturally deadens the snare ring, and add some zip to the meat of the snare sound.

I find I use less top head damping material, and that in turn, gives me a more accurate snare sound.

Snares themselves have evolved into almost their own science... (oogity-boogity)

Personally, I tighten whatever snares I have, until I get what I like... so, unless you really wanna learn the insanity associated with some of the mechanisms, traditional strain relief has worked fine this long...

PLUS... MANY, MANY, MANY, drummers, cannot tune a kit to much more than the key of H-Blunt... so putting one of these rocket engines in their hands is a mistake.

As far as shells... Yamaha makes a fine brass piccolo, as do several other manufactures. There is a Black Beauty piccolo, but never having heard one... I would think it should be a good sounding snare. In traditional sizes, if you look for older Slingerland, Rogers and Ludwig snare drums, you should be ok. If nothing else, you can get a replacement cast rim for any rim problem you might find.

(If nothing else Bob, you and I know oogity-boogity!)

Davedog Wed, 03/07/2012 - 19:53

For the record.....I have recorded a maple piccolo snare that had been fitted with hard maple hoops and it was fairly sublime. Custom made of course. Allegra. I also have a friend who cut down an old 3 ply Slingerland to a piccolo. Offset the lugs and put on forged hoops. Its a damn quick thing with a lot more body than you'd think.

Finally. Only one out of four drummers can even get close to properly tuning a kit especially for recording purposes.

If you're a drummer and you're reading this and it offends you, then learn to tune your kit properly or come on over , play my kit and then I'll show you.