Saturday, March 20, 2010

Adjusting Ludwig Supersensitive Snare Drums

The question, How do I adjust my Super Sensitive snare drum? comes up from time to time. Here is how I approach adjusting mine.

Note that I am using a pre-1969 model as an example, but the same principle applies to the 1969 and later models because, although the mechanism has changed, the basic parts are still present in an updated form. Remember, this mechanism has been used in some form since the 1920s, so it has withstood the test of time. The first mechanism was basically unchanged from 1920 until 1968 (the example I am using).

Before proceeding, and to eliminate confusion, here is what a modern (1969 and later) mechanism looks like:


The following series of photos will show the nomenclature of my 1966 Super Sensitive, and the parts of which you need to be aware to change wires and/or adjustment the snare tension for optimum performance.

Note the differences between the older models and the modern ones. The adjustment knob on the pre-1969 models are smaller and placed unobtrusively, and the snare guards are quite different. Also note that the basic adjustment and wire end plate slots are similar enough that changing wires and adjusting either model will work per my advice. Here is a photo of the butt side of the drum:

You have a clear view of the wire end plate and how it fits into the slot. The 1969-present models are similar, with the differences noted above. These two photos show how the wire end plates fit into the slots:


Changing wires is relatively simple. You back off the tension adjustment knobs equally (turn them simultaneously for best results) until there is enough slack to remove the end plates from the slots. Don't attempt to remove both end plates at the same time - remove one without stretching the wire, then the other. If you are removing the wires to change heads, mark which end plate goes into the strainer side to make sure it goes back the same way. While either way will fit, I like to be extra cautious and make sure that parts that are under tension are always reassembled exactly the way they were disassembled.

If you are replacing the wires, make sure you purchase the correct wire for the model year you own. Puresound makes wire sets for the 1920-1968 Super Sensitives, and a slightly different set for the 1969-present models. Aside from the end plate tabs that fit into the slots, there are other differences between the two models, both of which are designed for optimal performance for the Super Sensitive snare drums for which they are made: the pre-1969 wires are 15" long with 12 strands, and the 1969-present wires are 16 7/8" long with 16 strand wires.

When installing the wires, use the tension adjustment knob to make sure the inward part of the snare wire end plates are equally spaced relative to the bearing edge of the snare drum shell. This photo shows properly installed wires:


Notice that in the example above the end plates extend exactly 0.25 inches beyond the bearing edges on each end. Also note that the wire tension is only tight enough to prevent sagging (you will need to check this with the snare drum in the normal playing position on a stand.)

Tune your heads to your personal taste before fine tuning the wire tension. After you have your heads tuned, adjust the snare wire tension by turning the tension adjustment knobs simultaneously. I have found that the lightest tension - just beyond the wires sagging in the center - will provide the most sensitivity. The tighter you tension after that point, the drier the sound becomes (which may be desirable for concert and symphony work.) Do not over tension the wires! If you over tension you run the risk of stretching the wires, which will shorten their life at best, and ruin them at worst.

If you don't have a hard shell, foam lined case for your Supersensitive see Storing and protecting Supersensitive Snare Drums for a case I recommend.

If you have further questions don't hesitate to contact me.

18 comments:

Hank said...

Hi Mike; great info. I am considering buying a supersensitive 5x14 shell,70s vintage,no hardware. It is in really good condition--how much do you think it might be worth?

thanks; Hank

Mike Tarrani said...

The shell alone? Maybe $100, considering that it is going to be expensive to add the throw off mechanism, Imperial lugs (although Worldmax TU-100 tube lugs will also fit), the muffler, hoops, etc. You may be better off checking eBay for a complete one in good condition since they go for $250 or less.

Stevan said...

Hey Mike, it's always nice to find good articles on Supersensitive, and yours one is definitely great.Here's a few issues I have with my 70's 6,5" deep Super, and I can't find any decent info on them:
- What does snarebeds look like on Supersensitive if there are any? When my snare drum arrived, and when I laid bottom side to flat surface, I realized that it's not flat but more like a banana shape, meaning that when you look at it that way the strainers are on the far left and right, the center of the bottom line is touching the surface but after that, line curves to each side ending about 1mm above the given surface. Is that actually snarebed or is my shell dented?

-Other issue is that when I'm putting the bottom hoop back on the shell, I must slightly squeeze it in order to pass the lowest part of the strainer mechanism. Is this normal? I'm having difficulties tuning the resonant head and I'm worried that this is the cause. Is the Supersensitive original bottom hoop's thickness the same all the way around or is it supposed to be thinner on the points where it should fit between the shell and strainer?

Thanks in advance if you have answer to any of these questions.

Best regards,
Stevan

Stevan said...

Hey Mike, it's always nice to find good articles on Supersensitive, and yours one is definitely great. Here's a few issues I have with my 70's 6,5" deep Super, and I can't find any decent info on them:
- What does snarebeds look like on Supersensitive if there are any? When my snare drum arrived, and when I laid bottom side to flat surface, I realized that it's not flat but more like a banana shape, meaning that when you look at it that way the strainers are on the far left and right, the center of the bottom line is touching the surface but after that, line curves to each side ending about 1mm above the given surface. Is that actually snarebed or is my shell dented?

-Other issue is that when I'm putting the bottom hoop back on the shell, I must slightly squeeze it in order to pass the lowest part of the strainer mechanism. Is this normal? I'm having difficulties tuning the resonant head and I'm worried that this is the cause. Is the Supersensitive original bottom hoop's thickness the same all the way around or is it supposed to be thinner on the points where it should fit between the shell and strainer?

Thanks in advance if you have answer to any of these questions.

Best regards,
Stevan

Estel Dillon said...

My 70's era super sensitive that I recently bought on Ebay has never sounded as good as the one that I actually used back in the '70's...it's not crisp, not as responsive and doesn't have the "crack" that my original drum had. The only thing different about this drum is that the snares are made by Cannon (I think) as opposed to Ludwig. Would aftermarket snares be the cause of the lackluster sound? What else could be the problem? I've tried any number of head combinations and tunings but nothing has worked. I've just ordered "PureSound" super sensitive snares. Do you recommend those?
Thanks,
Estel Dillon

Estel Dillon said...

My 70's era super sensitive that I recently bought on Ebay has never sounded as good as the one that I actually used back in the '70's...it's not crisp, not as responsive and doesn't have the "crack" that my original drum had. The only thing different about this drum is that the snares are made by Cannon (I think) as opposed to Ludwig. Would aftermarket snares be the cause of the lackluster sound? What else could be the problem? I've tried any number of head combinations and tunings but nothing has worked. I've just ordered "PureSound" super sensitive snares. Do you recommend those?
Thanks,
Estel Dillon

Mike Tarrani said...

Thanks all for your comments. Estel, those PureSound wires for the SS will e just the thing to bring the snare drum back to life!

jorge alberto said...

hi, im george and i have a snare drum that has the same mechanism but i`ts broken, i live in mexico and it`s imposible to find it here so i dont know if you can give me some information where can i find it. here`s my e-mail keuleka@hotmail.com

György Csintalan said...

Hello! Thank you for the article! I would like to ask a question. I have a ludwig super sensitive snare drum from the 1970s. It happens relatively often that the stainer switches off while playing the drum. How could I solve this problem? The drum is in a very good condition. I have "normal" snare wires (not those longer ones wich are designed to this type of snare drums) attached with wires to the snare slot. Can this cause the problem? Thank you!

Mike Tarrani said...

György, the proper snares will provide the friction too keep the snares from dropping.

drummer said...

Hey Mike, I have just read your article on Supersensitive. And I must say I am amazed, you definitely have all the exact facts in this respect. I bought my 6,5 x 14 supersensitive in 1995 with my Ludwig Stainless Steel. I am very fond of the entire kit, and it has fully satisfied my needs over the years. Even today I deny to part from my favourite drums that I am still playing although I am 63 years. We are a bunch of senior musicians having a serious gig with a great female singer and a younger keyboard player.

stan t said...

Hi Mike,
I have a 70's vintage super sensitive 5 x 14. I need new snares. The dimensions I see advertised for replacements seem a bit different than what i have. Mine are 15 7/8" of exposed snare wires (not counting where the wires attach to the mounting) and the overall length of the snare unit is just under 18". I also had 18 snares wires. Appreciate your opinion so i can get the right replacements...love that snare. thx
stan

Mike Tarrani said...

Stan, this is the model you need (and even though it says 14", that is for the shell diameter, not the overall length of the set, which is longer): PureSound Vintage Series Ludwig Super Sensitive Snare Wire (1969-Now), 16 Strand, 14 Inch

Greg Windust said...

Hello, I am the original owner of a early to mid 70's 6.5 X 14 Ludwig Super Sensitive Black Beauty Snare Drum. I am having trouble locating the correct bottom hoop, I know they are propriatory to this model, I am looking for help on any information to where I can purchase the correct hoop, Thank you

Mike Tarrani said...

Greg, any authorized Ludwig dealer can order that hoop for you because it's identical to the one that is on brand new Super Sensitive drums.

Greg Windust said...

Thanks Mike, what I ended up doing for now is I took the current wrong hoop off and cut out the thin chrome part of the opening where the snares normally go through so the snares would lower correctly without touching the chrome, filed and cleaned up the edges and it looks good and works great! Also the mechanics for the snares got so loose over the years that it would fall in the middle of playing due to loose pop rivets, being savvy with mechanics my whole life I removed the mechanics and used a good old hammer and punch and tightened up the pop rivets, My Ludwig Super Sensitive Black Beauty functions like new again! Life is good! Thanks again Mike, happy drumming!

rat mann said...

Hello,
I just bought a 1970's Ludwig S-Senstitive snare drum. It appears that It's missing the snare guard. Once I order a new one can you tell me what holds it in place? All I see are two holes and that's it.
Thanks,
New to Ludwig S-Sensitives
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Mike Tarrani said...

The guard threaded ends are U shaped and will fit the holes you mentioned. Simple install.