Friday, March 12, 2010

Storing and Protecting Supersensitive Snare Drums

A frequent question is, which cases are available for Ludwig Super Sensitive snare drums?. Sadly, Ludwig does not sell one (or one that I know of anyway.) I've tried the Ludwig "UFO" case, and it does not work. One that does work well for the 5x14" model is the SKB 5 X 15 Square Snare Case with Padded Interior.

A few things to note: the 15" sides are needed because the snare guards on the Super Sensitive protrude, and the drum needs to be placed in the case with the guards facing the corners. Also, it is imperative that the case have padding. Super Sensitives are, well, super sensitive and the slightest jarring will knock them out of adjustment. Ideally the case should be 5.5" tall for Super Sensitives made from 1969 on because the snare guards on those models extend downward, increasing the height of the snare drum. However, the SKB 5 X 15 Square Snare Case has sufficient depth in the top half of the case where it will still secure the snare drum without needing to be fully seated.

Also note that on the product page I linked the photo of the case is incorrect. A round case is depicted - the actual case looks like this:

The case will fit both the pre-1969 Super Sensitives and the ones made from 1969 on. It is a bit pricey, but well worth it in my opinion because it will protect your investment.

If you have a Super Sensitive and are having problems adjusting it check out my entry about Adjusting Ludwig Supersensitive Snare Drums.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Gut snares & calf heads in modern music?

I was reading Recording the Snare: Getting a killer snare sound by Alex Case, and pondered the difficulties recording engineers face with the snare drum. My thoughts immediately went to a recent practice session I had with a friend who is a virtual Johnny Cash clone and some of the snare drums I pulled out that particular day.

One, which both impressed my friend in sound quality and age, is my Ludwig & Ludwig Nickel Over Brass circa 1920s model. This snare drum is configured with calf heads and original gut snares. Since the practice session was low volume and I used brushes as often as sticks, the sound I was able to get from that old snare drum was spot on for what we were doing. I don't record, but my friend is something of a recording and studio wizard and he thought the sound was perfect.

I have to admit, I had full control over the dynamic range needed for what we were playing, and often that is difficult with a 4x14 inch snare drum because the shallow ones tend towards the loud side. Of course, the calf heads provided a little attenuation, but it was the shell construction - thin wall with the two pieces fitting together at the bead - that was a contributing factor too. For more about that see Anatomy of a Two Piece Shell. And the gut snares added the right amount of dryness that made things perfect. Here are a few pictures of the snare drum I used:

Note the gut snares and the moleskin patches on the old heads

While it is expensive tracking down 90-100 year old snare drums, many modern ones come with cable snares; a good example is the Pearl Symphonic Snare Drum with, say, a Remo Skyntone batter head. That could get you in the ball park of the sound I am describing. Granted, this configuration may not sound that great on stage in a large venue, but in a small recording studio it would give the engineer a more controlled sound, and in a small, intimate venue where low volume playing is required I can assure you that it works.

Gut and cable configurations are two that I will be experimenting with in the near future, and I will definitely be outfitting a few of my snare drums with newer calf heads. As I progress and verify what works I'll post the results here.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Flat base snare drum stands and other hardware

Flat base stands have made something of a comeback, especially for those of us who prefer lightweight, compact hardware. A frequent question that is asked on various drum forums is which is better - the DW or the Gibraltar flat base stands?. I have a complete set of both, and with regard to the cymbal stands I would say they are about equal. Where the DW cymbal stands have extra memory locks and the quick lock adjustment handle, the Gibraltar cymbal stands have a slightly smaller footprint, and the feet are designed in such a way that you can place one stand's flat legs over the top of another stand, making for easily positioning them exactly where you want them.

Note that I typically use a single ride cymbal and hi-hats, so cymbal stands are the least of my worries: I have most of by bass drums equipped with shell-mounted cymbal hoolders, rendering cymbal stand selection moot (for me).

The high-hat stands are a wash, in my opinion, since I like the feel of each. Of course, the DW 6500 stand has more features in the way of memory locks, a nicer clutch and the DW name - at a higher price - than the Gibraltar 8607 stand.

Where I am less ambivalent is when the comparison is between the snare drum stands from each company: the Drum Workshop 6300 and the Gibraltar 8606. They both weigh about the same: approximately 2.5 kilograms, and folded the DW is 18" long and the Gibraltar is 16". Hands down I prefer the Gibraltar and here are the reasons:

  • Will adjust lower
  • Folds more compactly
  • Smaller footprint and has the raised feet that I mentioned above on the cymbal stands
On height, here is a side-by-side shot of the two stands, each of which are holding a 6.5x14 snare drum:

The top rim of the snare drum in the DW stand on the left, at its lowest possible position, is 26.5 inches high, whereas the top rim of the snare drum on the right sitting in the Gibraltar stand is 23.5 inches high. While three inches may not seem to be much, the photo tells the story.

A few close-up shots of the construction of the snare drum stands show that Drum Workshop's engineering is impeccable, albeit over engineered in my opinion.

Drum Workshop 6300

Gibraltar 8606

Regardless of which you choose - DW or Gibraltar flat stands - and even if you use three of four cymbals in addition to hi-hats, either family of flat base stands will nicely fit into a 36" Beato hardware bag. I have managed to cram everything, including a bass drum pedal and throne into one of these compact bags, and recommend them for the lighter weight, flat base stands discussed above.

If you use one-up/one down kits, and are considering having a custom kit built, you may want to consider using the tried and true rail mount for your rack tom. In the past you had limited choices: the Drum Workshop or Gibraltar rail (both are atrocious in my opinion for a number of reasons, not the least of which neither hold the tom in position without slipping), the RCI rail, which is no longer being made, or salvaging a vintage rail and using it. There are too many compromises among those choices - and I should know because I suffered through each of them. My rail mount of choice these days is the Steve Maxwell Reproduction Rail Consolette. One thing I love about this rail is it can be retrofitted to vintage drums that used the two-hole Walburg & Auge rail that was used on Gretsch, Slingerland and other models (but not Ludwig, which used a 4-hole pattern), and it can also replace the modern DW and Gibraltar rails with no additional drilling. Most people balk at the $140.00 price, but few know that you are paying for items you may not need, such as the diamond plate and two types of spades that fit those plates. If you want only the rail assembly and 9.5 mm L-arm, Steve sells them for $85.00 (see the link above and go exploring.)

Another option, and one I took advantage of when I had my bubinga kit by Raven built is the Dunnett rail kit. I think the design is ingenuous, and like the fact that it can also be used to transform a floor tom into a bass drum.

I have aggregated all of the stands I discussed in this page for reference. If you have specific questions, please contact me and I will do my best to answer them.