Friday, December 18, 2009

More about the Barry Snare Drum

A member who goes by the screen name of 1967flyer on Drum Forum informed me that the snare drum model I have is called the Companion Drum. Here is the message, which is interesting in that his daughter - a percussionist - has the same model plus an impressive collection of Barry drums she uses.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Thoughts about snare wires

Many of my snare drums have Puresound Custom 16-strand wires, while some have Puresound 12-strand wires. I rarely go over 16 strands because I prefer the sound. These days when I need 16-strand wires I have started using the Worldmax German Steel model, which I think is the equal of Puresounds at a fraction of the price. My source is Best Drum Deals.

I have also used Grover wires (and like them for some applications), but keep coming back to Puresounds when I need a special wire like their 12- and 8-strand models. Both are excellent for snare drums with narrow and shallow snare beds, such as many Ludwig drums both vintage and modern. You may think that 8 strands is not enough, so maybe this review of Puresound's model 221 wires will be informative.

When it comes to vintage snare drums, such as Radio Kings, older Ludwig Supersensitives (and even modern ones), Dynasonics, etc., I first look to Puresound - here is their vintage snare wire page with the older 1920-1968 Supersensitive selected. Use the pulldown to see other models.

Since I am fairly set in my ways, and there are a lot of quality wires out there, I suggest that you pay a visit to James Walker's snare wire comparison page and check out his research.

If you have questions regarding selecting the right wires don't hesitate to contact me. If I don't have the answer I can point you in the right direction.

Update: 1920's Barry Drum Manufacturing Co. Arrived

The Barry snare drum I cited in my 8 December post arrived today. This is a fairly rare snare drum that is historical for a number of reasons. First is in In The great American drums and the companies that made them, 1920-1969 By Harry Cangany Harry states that he had only seen three Barry snare drums. Second, this snare drum is all original and in pristine condition. It also came with a canvas bag that doesn't look a day over one year old like the snare drum itself.

The dimensions are an interesting 2.5" deep (shell) x 13" diameter. I tried a brand new 13" Remo Coated Ambassador head on the batter side and it was a perfect fit. A drum key will not fit the tension rods - this is a function of how close the rod caps are to the hoop (see last photo). Modern drum keys are too thick to fit between the gap.

I prefer playing snare drums I collect, but given the rarity of this one and the pristine condition I am going to relegate it to display only. It is far too nice a specimen to expose to the wear and tear of even casual drum playing.

The rest of the story in pictures:

Shot showing badge



Original head!



Unique Throw-off



Butt Assembly



Bottom View - those gut snares look brand new



Tension rod detail


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Update: Ludwig Pioneer snare drum has arrived!

In my 7 December post I was elated about getting two vintage Ludwigs. The Pioneer arrived yesterday.

It is a 4x14 vs. the 5x14 that the seller claimed, and it is the lighter shell, not the heavy two-piece. I very carefully tensioned it up last night to try her out without putting a stick through 80+ year old calf heads and was surprised by how soft she sounded. Most of my modern 4x14s are LOUD. Not so this one.

I tried a modern head and it was a perfect fit, but I am going to follow nittanyperc's excellent advice to condition the heads and keep them intact. (I will also quote it below in case you cannot get to the site.) I am also going to keep the gut snares, but need to do some better tensioning and straightening the strands out. The throw was a surprise - it actually functions perfectly (a rare thing!)

The drum has black over brass with brass showing through, which means that it could be one of the enamel 1930s models. I am pretty pleased and will use it when I need to play at PP or PPP or do killer press rolls (which it does well.) Not something one would drag to any gig requiring a modern sound or projection, but it will get played.





nittanyperc's excellent advice The single best thing from them would be plain old water. If the heads are on wooded flesh hoops the hoops can warp from being subjected to the water after a time from being so dry. The key is regaining the "collar" on the head.

My advice would be to use an old plastic head, several sizes larger than the calf heads. Put some warm water into the old head (head is upside down) and place the calf head in it to soak up the water. Let the head slowly dry in a dark place and repeat as necessary. If you wet it enough, you can remove the head from the flesh hoop and re-tuck it. If you don't want to do that, make sure if you want to use the heads, to make sure that the tucked part of the head gets some hydration. I would start with just enough water to cover the plastic head, and gradually add water per a cycle or wetting the head and letting it dry. I'd leave the calf head in the water for like an hour or so before removing it to dry. Doing this a couple of times slowly should hopefully restore the pliability in the head.

As for the pinhole, you can probably ignore it, or I would use a small circle of moleskin (no larger than a dime) on the underside of the head. I'd perhaps use a concert tom or something to bring the head to just above finger tight before adding the moleskin, this way, the moleskin can move with the head as it is tensioned and released.

I know of some orchestral musicians, who will take a freshly tucked head, and install it on the drum they intend on using it on (still wet) and tension the head a little bit so the collar of the head forms to the bearing edge of the drum. Not sure if you need to do that, but it has worked for others.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

1920's Barry Drum Manufacturing Co.

This Barry snare drum popped up with a $99.00 Buy It Now and I reacted quickly. No real specifics yet, but when it arrives I'll update this post.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Two new vintage Ludwigs

I managed to snag these two off eBay at a reasonable price, so links to the auctions will have to suffice until they arrive and I can take proper photos and give my thoughts about each:

Ludwig & Ludwig 4x14

Ludwig Pioneer 5x14

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Wood Supersensitive?

One thought that has resurfaced is to find a trashed Ludwig Supersensitive with an intact strainer mechanism and transfer the parts to a wood shell.

I have been casually browsing eBay for an SS with an ugly, flaking Ludalloy shell (usually not hard to find) that I can cannibalize. I am pretty sure a 5- or 6-ply Keller maple shell would be a good host for the parts.

This goes on the back burner for now, but it's an idea that keeps coming up.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Are you really an addict?

... if so, join in at the Snare Drum Addict forum. Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving. Seriously, I alluded to creating the forum in my last post, and since I had some time on my hands I threw it together this morning.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Are there any other snare drum addicts out there?

If so, I would gladly put up a forum to discuss our "disease", trade info, etc.

Snare drum of my dreams

In my last post I mentioned one of the remaining snare drums I wanted was a 1920s Ludwig Black Beauty (or 1920s Ludwig snare drum that used the same shell.) There is one modern snare drum that would satisfy that itch: Ludwig's 100th Anniversary Gold Triumphal.



Here is the story: Ludwig's Description, and how it was made. See also the main site.

It's the stuff of which dreams are made. I have a feeling all I can do about it is dream.

Gaps & Loose Ends

I left out a builder in my last post, which is Epiarch Drums. Jesse Lizer did a fantastic job on the snare drum, and was very patient with the backorder of the P86 I wanted to use. Great service and first class craftsmanship.

Having 48 snare drums begs to round up the number to 50. So, I have been pondering which two would complete me. There was a time when my dream snare drum was the Ludwig 95th Anniversary model, shown below:

However, I have since had snare drums built that eclipse that one in my opinion.

My current dream is a 1920s Ludwig Black Beauty or a 1920s Ludwig made with the heavy, two-piece shell that was used on the Black Beauty. Of course, when I manage to acquire one, a calf skin batter head is going to be mounted on it. I believe using a mylar head, even a Fiberskyn or Skyntone, would just not do it justice.

So, number 49 has been identified. How about number 50? I am waiting for the next Vaughncraft overstock sale to see if there is anything on the list that I would want. Candidates include purpleheart (an amazing tonewood), a deeper rosewood shell (I have 4.5 and 5.5 rosewood snare drums and love the sound of rosewood), or, perhaps walnut. At this point I am not sure. I will definitely have Kevin Smee of Bowie Custom Drum build it. Kevin has built two snare drums for me already and impressed me with the quality of his work, speed, and pricing - the adage, "Quality, Price, Speed: Pick Two" does not apply to Kevin. You get all three. Picking hardware will be another matter. I have time for that.

On hardware, I will be focusing on lugs, throw offs and the like in my next post.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Suppliers, Services and More Builders

Continuing from my last post, here is a list of other suppliers, service providers and builders I have used and with whom I am extremely happy based on the excellent services and products I have received.

Dana Bentley, from whom I have purchased countless Leedy three point strainers and Leedy extended butts (among other products.) Dana's prices are more than reasonable, and he ships quickly.

Joseph at Best Drum Deals. Over the years I have purchased lugs, single-flange hoops and clips, and assorted parts from him and they quickly arrive. He epitomizes the meaning of customer service.

The Precision Drum Company Team. I have had shells wrapped, edges and snare beds done, and other services from the team at Precision Drum Company and marvel at the speedy turnaround and amazing workmanship each time. These folks are fast and do it right!

Eric Sooy and Team at Drum Foundry do more than merely sell parts. Eric is a sponsor of the Ghostnote Drum Lab,as well as a percussionist in his own right. Whenever possible I buy from Drum Foundry to repay all he has done for the community.

John Rose and Team at Vaughncraft Percussion have made possible many of my snare drums through the numerous overstock sales they post on Ghostnote and via email. It would be an understatement to say I love Vaughncraft steambent shells!

Fran├žois Filiatrault of Unix Drums. Frankie is a master craftsman whose stave shells are a work of art (to say the least). I had one of his shells in solid bubinga that was a marvel of both construction and sound.

Builders I Recommend

The following list of builders is based on firsthand experience - each of them have built snare drums or kits for me, and I higly recommend their work:

Dan von Gartzen of Raven Drums, Oviedo, FL. Dan built my first custom snare drum, the 6x14 maple shell with curly maple and walnut veneer, and went on to build my bubinga jazz and bop kit. His work is excellent, especially his artistry in veneers. He has apparently scaled back on building, but is gauging interest in a Bonham style/sized kit.

Tim McKenzie of McKenzie Drums out of Charlotte. Tim built the following drums and kits for me: Vaughncraft 4.5x14 Maple, Vaughncraft 5.5x14 Mahogany (with hoops by Stellar), Vaughncraft 4.5x14 Rosewood, Vaughncraft 6x14 Myrtle (originally built for Rob Richards, but I managed to acquire it), Vaughncraft 6x14 Magnesium Radio King Clone, and a Vaughncraft 6.5x14 Leedy clone in Vaughncraft Mahogany. Tim also built my Keller Vintage Mahogany Slingerland Clone Kit.

Kevin Smee of Bowie Custom Drum built my Rosewood and Olive Ash snare drums using Vaughncraft shells. Kevin gets the fastest turnaround award. He is quick (amazingly so), and his prices are, perhaps, too low. His workmanship is top notch.

In my next post I'll cover a few more builders from whom I've gotten single snare drums, my sources for parts like the new Leedy three-point throws, and where I occasionally have wraps, bearing edges and snare beds done when my primary builders are busy.

Monday, November 23, 2009

1961 Slingerland Jet kit (Slingerland catalog #20N)

12x20 bass drum, 8x12 rack tom (someone added a 12x15 stage model floor tom at some point). Shown with a Ludwig & Ludwig "tribute" in BDP made from a 5.5x14 Keller Vintage Maple shell.

Shown withh the following cymbals: 14" A. Zildjian & Cie "Vintage" hats and a circa late 50s/early 60s 22" Avedis ride.

Bird's Eye View:



Three Other Views:




With My Early 70s Set-O-Matic Kit

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Some Quick Q&A

I've posted the fact that I've updated this blog on a few forums, and have gotten a few questions that I'll answer here:

Q. What? No Acrolites?
A. Shhhh! Acrolites are the best kept secret among drummers who know great sounding snare drums. The truth is I have had four in the past two years and wound up selling them. Why? First, I have a gaggle of Ludwig Supraphonics that render them redundant. Second, I have way too many metal snare drums as it is, and wood snare drums are my favorite.

Q. Do you actually play them?
A. With the exception of the Pearl 50th Anniversary model, all of them get played. They go into a rotation. Some stay in rotation longer than others, but all get played. The Pearl I mentioned has special heads that I want to keep as pristine as possible. I could change the head to something like a coated Ambassador, but there is also the issue of the 24K gold plated hardware that would probably wear quickly if handled.

Q. Why don't you have [fill in your favorite brand] snare drums.
A. My two favorite modern brands are Ludwig and Pearl. I've tried most other modern brands (but not every model) and they just don't seem to have the same mojo. Also, I prefer either vintage or custom made snare drums - amply represented in my collection - and see no real reason to acquire everything. These days I am more focused on custom made snare drums from steam bent shells.

Q. Most of your custom made snare drums have only 8 lugs. Why?
A. As far as I am concerned all a snare drum needs is 8 lugs. Also, I like the ease of tuning and the more open sound I get from an 8 lug snare drum compared to 10 lugs.

Q. What is with all of the old fashioned hoops?
A. I like open sounding snare drums and those hoops give me the sound I want.

Q. Are any for sale?
A. The only sacred snare snare drum is the Leedy & Ludwig I named "La Fica".

Slingerland Early 70s BDP kit

Slingerland early 70s SoM kit. 14x20, 8x12, 14x14 with a 6.5x14 "tribute" snare. Currently mounted: 20" K Custom Session Ride and 14" K Custom Session hats.



Bubinga Veneer kit by Raven Drums

Dan von Gartzen of Raven Drums in Oviedo, Florida built this kit for me from Keller maple VSS 8-ply shells. He did an amazing job with the bubinga veneer (one of his specialties is veneering).

Specs: 8-ply Keller maple shells with bubinga veneer
Bass drums (I have the option of bop or jazz sizes) 14x18 and 12x20 (the shallower 12x20 is very boomy!)
Toms: standard 8x12 and 14x14
Snare drum [not shown] I had a solid, stave shell bubinga snare drum made in by Unix Canada for this kit: 6.5x14. I have since sold the snare drum, using whatever strikes my fancy when I set up the kit these days (it's not like I don't have a few from which to choose!)

I opted for Champagne lugs and wanted wood hoops, and also used the Dunnett Rail Mount as the tom mounting system. That mount is pretty versatile, and can also be used to transform a floor tom into a small bass drum.

With the 12x120 bass drum:


Another view:


Close up of the grain on the bubinga:

Gretsch Catalina Club Jazz Kit

I traded some cymbals for this kit with the intent of selling it. The wrap is called Rustic Pearl, which has a nice merlot color. For the time being I am using it on occasion, and have grown to like it a lot. The weak link in these kits is supposed to be the snare drum. The one that came with it is not as horrible as I thought it would be. Not great by any stretch of the imagination, but usable.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Vaughncraft 4.5x14 maple

Ludwig & Ludwig "tribute" snare drum by Tim McKenzie - the brass single-flange hoops were the only hoops I had laying around at the time.

Vaughncraft 5.5x14 mahogany

Built by by Tim McKenzie with shaped maple hoops by Stellar.

Craviotto 5.5x14 Unlimited

Steambent maple. Amazing snare drum that has Johnny Craviotto's personal touch:

Pearl 50th Anniversary 5.5x14

Steambent shell, gold plated fittings, etc. a beautiful snare drum. It came with a velvet bag, gold plated drum key and letter of authenticity.

Slingerland "Frankendrum""

Slingerland SBP Top Hat & Cane wrap 7x14 This is a frankendrum. I am not sure who made the shell, but the throw and butt are later Slingerland, and it has a Radio King muffler. It sounds damn nice, which is why I've hung on to it.

A few pearls

DW Classic 5.5x14 solid shell (I am guessing Johnny Craviotto supplied it), with COB stickchoppers that came standard - it's from the Buddy Rich kit.


Nashville Snare Drum Company 5x14 10-ply Keller Maple shell with Legend lugs, generic throw, etc.


Tama Stagestar 5x13(came with my Stagestar FX kit.)


Gretsch Catalina 5x14 in Rustic Pearl that came with my Gretsch Catalina Club Jazz kit


No Name Japanese Slingerland Clone 5x14in BDP - the seller threw this in with my 1961 Slingerland Jet Kit. Free, so cannot complain. OK sounding at best.

6.5x14 Slingerland Copper

6.5x14 Pearl Brass Sensitone, Special 2004 NAMM Edition

5.5x14 Leedy Shelly Manne COB

Rogers Dynasonic

5.5x14 Rogers Dynasonic

More Metal Snare Drums

While I prefer wood snare drums, I have somehow managed to acquire a lot of metal ones too:

4x14 Worldmax Pup


5x14 Worldmax Dawg


6.5x14 Pork Pie BoB

Some Ludwig Metal

6.5x14 Hammered Bronze Supra


5x14 1966 Supersensitive


5x14 Brass Edition


5x14 Hammered Ludalloy Supra

Rhythm King 6x14 Walnut & Zebrawood segment shell

Slingerland clone lugs and a Gladstone-style throw. Nice snare drum, but gets little use these days.