Full sound snares off, thin sound snares on

rkingston

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Hey all, I just finished this beauty built on a Nordic cherry shell, loosely inspired by the 1930s mahogany Ludwig & Ludwig “Super Ludwig”. Anyway, I’ll get straight to my problem:

Roundovers with re-rings, shallow beds that taper off at the first lug either side of the wires. Tuned up, it sounds magnificently full and stunning with the snares disengaged. When the snares are on though, it sounds papery. It completely loses its otherwise glorious body. I’ve tried different tensions on the wires, etc.

This is the fourth drum I’ve built; second snare. I have and play about a dozen snare drums, and this phenomenon doesn’t happen on other drums of mine. That is to say, I know how to tune drums and tension snare wires.

Some additional potentially relevant specs, if this info would help to diagnose:
  • 16-strand steel wires with bronze clips
  • Wires are evenly tensioned
  • Wires are centered appropriately (both ways)
  • Batter head is single ply coated
  • Snare side head is 2mil. That’s pretty thin as snare-sides go (standard is 3mil). If the drum didn’t sound so full when the snares are off, I’d think this might be the problem.
I’ve been playing 35 years, but building for only about two. Is this one of those “known symptoms” amongst builders? “Thin sounding only when the snares are on? Meh, that just means ya gotta _____ the _____.”

Thanks in advance!
 

Latdrummer

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I know you mentioned already adjusting the wires to different tensions, but IME a snare drum can sound “choked” if the snares are tighter than just necessary (I’ve found a snare drum sounds best when the wires are loose enough that they can be excited just by speaking). Another thing could be the beds aren’t deep enough for the snares to make good contact with the drumhead unless tightened past certain amount.
 

Tama CW

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I've run into a "similar" problem with Ludwig Supra's and old Slingerland Radio Kings. Going to a thicker batter head helped on both (Emperor or Fiberskyn). They had less "body" with ambassadors.
The 2mm reso head could be contributing too. I'd try a regular 3 mm for comparison. I found with my Radio Kings that they came more alive and woody on the thicker heads.... basically getting closer to how they were
born with calf skin batter and gut snare side heads. I've rarely had the wires make any difference other than if they were too tight and choking the reso head. Though on my current Supra I do go a bit "choked" on the snare wires
and I prefer that sound (more body, less overtones, more articulation).
 

davezedlee

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you could also try a 12-mil batter head, which adds a bit of low end

OR, just let it sit for a week, and try it again... sometimes heads "settle down" once they have had a chance to conform to their new shape
 

Seb77

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Have you used this setup (snare side head and wires) before? I would try a standard setup with a 3mil snare side head, and genric wires I know the behaviour of.
With shallow beds you might have to tension the wires too much for a clean sound at low volume, and then louder hits sound choked. If you don't already, I would use some wires with angled end plates (pitch) and snare cord to tighten them. This pulls the wires more into the head instead of just horizontally, and you can reduce the tension a bit without losing articulation.
 

James Walker

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One thought, although I can't say whether it applies here: I've built ("assembled," whatever) a few dozen snare drums, and I've noticed on just a few, that sometimes they need to sit for a while after completion before they start sounding their best. Sometimes it's a matter of them getting played-in, other times it's simply a matter of the passage of time. One drum of mine in particular, after a month or so it "opened up" noticeably.

If you have the luxury of time, I'd let the drum sit for a few weeks before doing any irreversible alterations (beds, edges, etc.).

Of course, changes in snare wires, heads, etc., don't fall under the "irreversible alterations" category.
 

JazzDrumGuy

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I have a 1920s solid shell mahogany Ludwig snare with 8 lugs. I use a vintage Ambassador on top and it sounds amazing. You can try swapping the rims out for Diecast or triple flange which may tighten down a little more then clipped hoops. I aged some single flange hoops from DFD to make them look like nickel and put them on so they match the nickel hardware.
 
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jptrickster

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In addition to the head swap I might toss a set of 12 strand Ludwig wires on it for a little more drum a little less snare.
 


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