High tension marching snare to standard or low tension?

rickprins92

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Hello - I'm a newb here! I've got a line on a cheap older Pearl high tension marching snare, but the group I play with doesn't want high tension snares. Can I simply replace the top head with a standard marching snare head and achieve that more traditional sound? Or do I need to replace snares and resonant head as well?
 

bpaluzzi

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Yup, you can tune a high-tension drum down. I'd go mylar top and bottom. Snares should be the same -- synthetic gut snares have been the norm on marching drums long before the change to high-tension was made in the 80s.
 

1988fxlr

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No problem tuning down and switching to regular heads. If its a pearl from before they went to free floating take a close look at the lugs for cracking. They didn’t hold up well to cranked kevlar heads. If they’re good now, they’ll be good for your intended use.

if it is free floating it will be fine with whatever tuning you prefer
 

Pat A Flafla

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Even if it's free floating, you can still do that. You might try a silver dot.
 

varatrodder

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No problem tuning down and switching to regular heads. If its a pearl from before they went to free floating take a close look at the lugs for cracking. They didn’t hold up well to cranked kevlar heads. If they’re good now, they’ll be good for your intended use.

if it is free floating it will be fine with whatever tuning you prefer
I was in high school marching band when kevlar heads became popular, and we still had the regular Pearl snares. Not only did the lugs crack, but the swivel nuts would pop out of the lug, and shells would cave in on themselves. We had to put those removable reinforcing rings in all the snares until we switched to free floating.
 

1988fxlr

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I was in high school marching band when kevlar heads became popular, and we still had the regular Pearl snares. Not only did the lugs crack, but the swivel nuts would pop out of the lug, and shells would cave in on themselves. We had to put those removable reinforcing rings in all the snares until we switched to free floating.
2b’s on remo falams cranked was like playing on a formica table top too. Had that fad passed?
 

swarfrat

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Apparently it's still the norm. I don't think it's going away any time soon either. IMO Marching percussion is more sport than music, and a lot of that has to do with the school program thing. Moving packs of kids with varying levels of motivation through the program.. the tabletop thing is about articulation and judging technique.
 

bpaluzzi

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The second generation aramid fibers (Remo Black Max / White Max, the various Evans "hybrid" heads) are significantly softer on the hands than the 1st generation (Remo Falam / Premier Tendura). When the free-floaters first came out, a lot of DCI lines were trying to get the sound of the bagpipe bands that they inherited the high-tension tech from, without realizing that the pipe bands were 1) using steel "snappy" snares, not the synthetic gut snares from American rudimental drums, and 2) were using dual snares, with snare wires under the bottom AND top heads. Those two things combined to make the pipe band sound MUCH higher in pitch, even though the heads weren't quite as reefed as the corps drums were going.

Moving more consistently to fiber on the bottom AND top helped bring the top tension down as well -- much like drumset snares, bringing the bottom head up can increase snare sensitivity + raise pitch independently from the top head.

To top it all off, tuning in DCI / WGI has come down a bit in the last decade or so -- for a while you had lines really pushing everything up into the stratosphere. 16" top bass drums were all over the place (and even 14" indoors), quads were using dual 6" spocks and CRANKING the right hand drum. Now we've seen a return to 18" / 20" as the top bass (and the reintroduction of 28-32" bottom drums), and the standard 6-8-10-12-13-14 quad set has helped bring the tenor voice down as well. Tuning and taping advancements have helped keep the articulation that they liked from the cranked Falams, without the actual dog-whistle pitch.

So that's a long way of saying that no, the drums aren't as tabletop tight as they were in the late 80s early 90s. :)
 

Pat A Flafla

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The second generation aramid fibers (Remo Black Max / White Max, the various Evans "hybrid" heads) are significantly softer on the hands than the 1st generation (Remo Falam / Premier Tendura). When the free-floaters first came out, a lot of DCI lines were trying to get the sound of the bagpipe bands that they inherited the high-tension tech from, without realizing that the pipe bands were 1) using steel "snappy" snares, not the synthetic gut snares from American rudimental drums, and 2) were using dual snares, with snare wires under the bottom AND top heads. Those two things combined to make the pipe band sound MUCH higher in pitch, even though the heads weren't quite as reefed as the corps drums were going.

Moving more consistently to fiber on the bottom AND top helped bring the top tension down as well -- much like drumset snares, bringing the bottom head up can increase snare sensitivity + raise pitch independently from the top head.

To top it all off, tuning in DCI / WGI has come down a bit in the last decade or so -- for a while you had lines really pushing everything up into the stratosphere. 16" top bass drums were all over the place (and even 14" indoors), quads were using dual 6" spocks and CRANKING the right hand drum. Now we've seen a return to 18" / 20" as the top bass (and the reintroduction of 28-32" bottom drums), and the standard 6-8-10-12-13-14 quad set has helped bring the tenor voice down as well. Tuning and taping advancements have helped keep the articulation that they liked from the cranked Falams, without the actual dog-whistle pitch.

So that's a long way of saying that no, the drums aren't as tabletop tight as they were in the late 80s early 90s. :)
But to reinforce what Swarfrat mentioned, the pitches go up as the DCI season progresses and they clean up. In that world, what's the point of being cleaner than the other line if you can't show it off and get points? Late season pitches have actually come back up a bit from the earlier 2000s. Lately it seems they start very low to hide dirt (and I prefer early season recordings for this reason) and keep cranking and cranking every week. I mean, not like Cadets 91 or anything, but higher than I'd like to hear.
 

bpaluzzi

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But to reinforce what Swarfrat mentioned, the pitches go up as the DCI season progresses and they clean up. In that world, what's the point of being cleaner than the other line if you can't show it off and get points? Late season pitches have actually come back up a bit from the earlier 2000s. Lately it seems they start very low to hide dirt (and I prefer early season recordings for this reason) and keep cranking and cranking every week. I mean, not like Cadets 91 or anything, but higher than I'd like to hear.
Hrmm... I haven't heard any lines that are as reefed as those early 90s lines (especially some of them on the Premier HTS drums with Tenduras). Here's BD in the lot at semis, and these drums are pretty representative of what I'd consider a modern tuning:

Compare that to 92 Crossmen:

92 Cavaliers:

93 Blue Knights

94 BD:

Pitch wise, I'd put the modern lines more in the range of 92 Star: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KM4R-hxq_kk
Star that year was on HTS, but using mylar heads (the Premier Marathon, which is my all-time favorite mylar marching snare head), so they're QUITE wet.
The modern lines are (to my ears) pitched in that range, but with the staccato attack of a fiber head + taped guts.

I've only seen the past few years of DCI on recordings though, and snares (especially) are notoriously hard to capture on recordings (having seen a lot of those 90s lines in person, I can attest that up close they were even higher than what is captured on the video), so I can definitely accept that I may be missing out on the return to higher pitches.
 

Pat A Flafla

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Hrmm... I haven't heard any lines that are as reefed as those early 90s lines (especially some of them on the Premier HTS drums with Tenduras). Here's BD in the lot at semis, and these drums are pretty representative of what I'd consider a modern tuning:

Compare that to 92 Crossmen:

92 Cavaliers:

93 Blue Knights

94 BD:

Pitch wise, I'd put the modern lines more in the range of 92 Star: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KM4R-hxq_kk
Star that year was on HTS, but using mylar heads (the Premier Marathon, which is my all-time favorite mylar marching snare head), so they're QUITE wet.
The modern lines are (to my ears) pitched in that range, but with the staccato attack of a fiber head + taped guts.

I've only seen the past few years of DCI on recordings though, and snares (especially) are notoriously hard to capture on recordings (having seen a lot of those 90s lines in person, I can attest that up close they were even higher than what is captured on the video), so I can definitely accept that I may be missing out on the return to higher pitches.
The drums now (especially Pearl) are way more resonant and responsive. (They look almost exactly the same, but a late model FFX sounds way better than mine from the early 90s.) The snare lines are also larger on average and can pull that off. So even if they were to crank as high as the early falams/tendura lines it wouldn't really sound "tabletop," but much of the time I still find that the early season shows have better total ensemble blend than later when they raise the pitch. Sometimes a high pitch sounds great, sometimes it stinks for a given show. Ferrone and Sexton would both sound ridiculous in their respective gigs if they had traded snare drums, but in DCI right now (well two years ago) it's as if there's only one single acceptable snare tone. The point I'm making is that they clearly don't tune for ideal ensemble sound--it's for points, like an arms race, and that takes a bit away for me. I forget which year, but a few years ago I streamed that first show and loved BD's tuning, fat and guts, filling a wide space but blending while still sounding crisp, and then later it was thin and obtrusively pokey. Well, how are you going to get the absurd 40% of the percussion points the snare line usually earns (or loses) if you don't ram them up the judge's snoot? Tenors meanwhile are just hoping their drumline buddies back home can even hear all the notes they're playing.

TL;DR:
1) I'm not saying it's tabletop, but it's also not tuned purely for ideal ensemble tone.
2) The kids are amazing but the creative aspect has been eclipsed by the competitive aspect.
3) Quads be like: Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!
 
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