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.

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