August 4, 2013

My wife thinks I have too many snare drums

By Darin Soll

For some reason, drummers have a tendency to accumulate snare drums.  To be sure, differences in drum diameter, depth, shell materials, and even hoops will result in differences in tone.  But when my wife asked me the other day how many snare drums I owned, I quickly responded, "six--wait, seven--no, actually nine.  But one's for sale!!"

Eight snare drums, not counting the one for sale?  How did THAT happen?  Well, actually, there is a perfectly good explanation...at least from the perspective of a drummer...

The first two snare drums were included with with my PDP kits--a 5x14 thin-shelled maple in the same red-to-black sparkle burst lacquer as my PDP X7 kit, and a 5.5x14 thin-shelled birch that matches my natural-to-charcoal fade PDP FS kit.  These snare drums when equipped with quality heads actually tune up fairly well and would work well in a pinch.  But neither is able to produce the kind of tone that makes you smile as you play.  I'm keeping these two drums mainly so that I have complete PDP kits if I ever decide to sell them--I mean, how can you sell an X7 kit with only six drums?!

Okay, two down, six to go...

The first snares I purchased to upgrade my PDP kit snares are my beloved Slingerland 6.5x14 chrome-over-brass units that I picked up on eBay.  One dates back to approximately 1975 and includes the less-desirable Zoomatic throwoff, and the other is a 1979 model with three vent holes and the smooth and reliable TDR throwoff.  As readers of this blog know, I learned to play drums on Slingerlands, and I think Slingerland's brass snare holds its own against the legendary Ludwig Supraphonic.  When you consider that you can pick up a Slingerland 6.5x14 chrome-over-brass snare on eBay for about half the price of a Supraphonic, the Slingerland is clearly an excellent value.  The one drawback of the Slingerland is that its shell is not as rigid as the beaded Ludwigs, so it is prone to what I call "lug denting"--setting the drum down edgewise can cause the lugs to press into and dent the shell.  Most of the used Slingerland brass snares I have seen have at least some lug denting, so examine the photos carefully before you buy.  While minor dents can be carefully hammered out with a rounded block of wood, that process can cause the gray coating inside the shell to flake off--better to find a relatively dent-free drum.

But this blog post is about snare drum acquisition rather than restoration, so let's move on...four snares to go...

I mentioned my next two snare drum acquisitions in previous blog posts--first, a new PDP 6.5x14 20-ply snare with a maple/bubinga shell.  Like most PDP offerings, this is a very reasonably priced drum and it provides all the projection and crack you would expect from a thick-shelled wood snare.  The included DW mag throw off is a great design, and, if you are in the market for a throwoff upgrade, very reasonably priced at about $30.  I love the tone of this drum for modern pop/rock songs, and the stained and lacquered bubinga outer ply makes it easy on the eyes as well.  The second snare I covered in a previous blog post is my used Rocket Shells 8x13 carbon fiber snare, a drum that surprised me with its awesome tone and looks.  This drum is proof that there are excellent deals to be had on eBay!

Ludwig Acrolite Classic 6.5x14 reissue
In addition to the Slingerlands, I learned to play drums on one other classic model--the aluminum-shelled Ludwig Acrolite.  For 2012-2013, Ludwig is manufacturing "reissued" Acrolite models, and I recently picked up a 6.5x14 "Classic" (chrome hardware instead of the "Limited Edition" brushed hardware) on eBay at a good price.  The Acrolite is essentially the same drum as the aluminum Ludwig Supraphonic without the chrome plating--and without the pitting and peeling that plague used Supras (chrome doesn't bond as well to aluminum as it does to brass).  Typically priced lower than the Supra, the Acrolite is great addition to any drummer's arsenal.

So, why does a drummer with two brass-shelled snares need an aluminum-shelled snare?  My wife asked me that same question...

Different metals have different tonal characteristics.  The differences are less subtle than you might think.  For example, in my experience, steel shells produce the most ring, brass shells produce moderate ring, and aluminum shells produce less ring, what some drummers describe as a "drier" sound.  By "ring," I'm not talking about undesired overtones, I'm talking about the way the metal shell resonates near the sweet spot of its tuning range.  Steel shells ring, and sometimes that's what you want!  But aluminum is on the other end of the spectrum, offering the power of a metal shell with a drier tone, somewhere between brass and the brighter wood shells.

So, once I decided I needed an aluminum shell in my arsenal, I had a number of solid choices to consider:  (1) Ludwig's Acrolite in 6.5x14, which many drummers consider to be the standard, (2) Pearl's Sensitone Elite Aluminum, which for some reason is no longer offered in 6.5x14, so the deeper shell is hard to find, (3) DrumCraft's Series 8 6.5x14 cast aluminum (5mm thick!) model that I saw at Sam Ash for $325 a number of months ago not realizing it normally sells for $500-$600, (4) Pearl's second generation Free Floating in 6.5x14, another expensive model that always has me wondering whether I would ever actually go to the trouble of swapping out the shell, and (5) Crush Drum's 6.5x14 aluminum snare.  I concluded that picking up any of these aluminum snares at a good price would be money well spent, so I jumped on a reasonably-priced Acrolite re-issue in excellent condition after missing out on the $325 DrumCraft deal.  I forgot how much I hate Ludwig's P85 throwoff, but there are a few upgrade options that don't require drilling extra holes...

That leaves one drum left to cover in my snare collection...my Mapex 3.5x13 steel piccolo.  This model usually runs about $70 new, but you can find deals on this drum as low as $49.  A steel piccolo tuned up high has a great crack and just the right amount of ring.  The throwoff on this drum is not very smooth, but it gets the job done.

So, that's the rundown of my snare drum arsenal.  Hopefully my wife will read this, although I'm not sure it will help.  Oh well...what snares are the favorites in your collection?

--Darin

No comments:

Post a Comment