Snare woods comparing

AtlantaDrumGuy

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Something I’ve been curious about. Let’s take a drum with a maple shell and another with birch or cherry or ...

Given similar size, specs, tuning, and heads, how much difference are we taking? Say a Crav Johnny C vs a Cherry snare with the same edges. How much difference are we talking here? My hunch is that it would be subtle at best.
 
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bongomania

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Yeah it’s been an endless debate. Some people are convinced they can hear it, some are convinced it’s too subtle to matter. Then you have Rogers where everyone has a different belief about what woods they even used; and the somewhat recent revelation that Gretch shells may be more gum than maple.
 

JDA

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There's a difference but the drummer makes the difference final arbitriore'

Think of Fibes in the early 70s coming out with the fiberglass drums. Huge difference compared with wood.
And then some materials may just sound too weird to cover up with EQ or roomful of bodies (etc)
So gotta strike (pun) a good balance with the drummer playing at least 50% in the final equation.

Plus there's 120 years of prior standard using 5 or 6 materials once you start getting 12 and 13 different materials may stick out like a sore thumb.

thinking of things in nature.
Has the 'sound' of Lightning (booms) changed..
Has the sound of a piano being dropped out of a 54th floor window when it crashes on the side walk changed..
Has the sound of a baby's cry changed
Has a boulder thrown into a lake on a still moonlit night changed sound.

there's a lot of universal sounds. (ha!
It's up to us to make the (snare) sound universally acceptable. (or to those 80 people in a banquet Hall)..
Sure there's different sounds (in materials of drums) Everything from a Samson suitcase to a Concrete block snare, but it's up to us to make them palatable. (big word.

wait a second. You know all this.
 
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pwc1141

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My very personal experience has been with Philippine "Mahogany", Basswood, Birch, Paduak, Sheoak, Maple, Mahogany/Walnut drums and my conclusions are that number of plies, depth of shell, tuning, hoop type, block vs ply shell, type of stick and playing technique can each - or in any combination - make an expensive wood sound bad and lesser wood sound good so I have tended not to worry too much about the various charts I have seen that give characteristics about various woods and treat each drum or set of drums on their merits as I hear them eg. can I tune it or them to suit my ears.
 

Drum Gear Review

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In most cases, I don't think so. There are obviously a ton of factors that go into a how a drum sounds - player, tuning, heads, room, blah, blah. We know all that, but there are other factors as well. Not all maple is the same maple, for example.

But even if you were to somehow eliminate all of those factors, snare drums, in my experience, get tricky because they have smaller resonating chambers, resonant heads are so thin, and head tensions are usually so high. With wood species that are relatively close in density, I think you'd have a better shot identifying the differences in toms or bass drums.

I think there are some exceptions, for sure. Extremes like mahogany or bubinga usually have a more clearly identifiable thing. Cherry is another one that usually sticks out to me. It's got a kind of softened fluffiness to it that usually feels and sounds different than maple or birch to me.

To speak to your example specifically: I checked out a bunch of solid shell drums last year that were fairly close in build style. To me, the differences between those were less significant that what I've heard in ply shells. Steam-bent cherry doesn't have quite the same fluffy thing that I hear in ply-shell cherry drums, but it still has what sounds and feels like a warmer, fatter middle. That said, I found steam-bent cherry to be much closer to steam-bent maple than I've heard in similar ply shell comparisons.

So despite all that, I think if someone sat you down in front of like three different 14" x 5.5" drums with 6-ply shells cut to the same thickness, 45-degree interior edges, roundover outside cuts, coated Ambassadors over a clear snare sides with 20-strand steel wires, and asked you pick which was which between maple, birch, and walnut, I doubt any of us would be able to call it right away. There would be some minor differences for sure, and maybe you could really deeply listen and dig into those based on what you know of how each wood "sounds", but I don't think it would be easy.

Again, something like bubinga or rosewood might stick out. I think those ultra-dense species usually have a bit of a laser beam thing in the upper registers that I don't hear in softer species. At the other end, ply-mahogany has a dark, dry response that sounds different than something like maple to me.

I could be way out of bounds here though. i'm talking strictly from my experience comparing a whole bunch of snare drums, especially over the last couple of years. But those were mostly comparisons of different drums with different edges, hoops, heads, and all that. There could be folks with much better ears than mine who will disagree with me completely.

A year or so ago, Mike Dawson at Modern Drummer did a really great comparison of ply shells built to the same specs but made with different species. I can't find the article right now, but he put together a video comparison to go a long with it. The differences were there, but mostly very subtle. Very cool piece that I'd recommend checking out if you can find it. It might be behind a subscription wall though.
 

Ptrick

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Here’s some info from PDF I saved years ago. Info was originally from Greg Gaylord’s ‘Drum Solo’ site for his custom snares. (Greg now works for Craviotto). It’s kind of like describing wine at a certain point, but I do have experience with a lot of these woods that do share a lot of the similarities mentioned.

 

Seb77

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I'd look into Pearl or Yamaha snares with the smae specs other than wood speicies. It's the same difference as with toms, subtle but it's there.
You need to use an open sounding head and tune well in order to hear the differences best.
In the end, all snares with the same heads will sound similar to a degree, since it's mostly the heads and wires creating the sound.
 

CherryClassic

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I'm no expert but I can say there can also be difference in how old the drum head is. Then the differences in humidity and temperature also has an effect even with my 6.5x14 Supra.

I think the only way for sure would be to setup a row of snares of different wood types, all from the same factory and new from the factory, all with the same measurements with the same type drum heads and tuned by electronic means to the same frequency. And even the snare stands would have to be the same and left with a loose fitting. Then go back two days later and re-tune them, then listen.

If that could ever happen (probably not) then one could have a good idea of the differences in the tone qualities of each type wood. Then you and only you would know what type of wood you like the best.

The only comparison I have with wood types is a kit of Ludwig late 80's that are maple/poplar/maple. A kit I purchased in 1994 and still have. I've loved those drums for years; last year I purchased a new Ludwig Classic Maple drum set, it's all maple except for the outer layer of a exotic wood. The difference of those two shell types are almost like night and day, both are very nice but the resonance from the all maple is much longer and more robust, mellow and musical than the older set. Have no comparison of snare drums because I'm using the same Ludwig Supra snare with the new kit.

sherm
 

AtlantaDrumGuy

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In my case, I have some maple snares in a few different sizes. One solid shell and the others are ply. I don’t really feel too much need to venture beyond maple in the wood department, unless it’s a vintage snare (have a couple). Just don’t see the big deal to go beyond a well made maple snare. Otherwise, metals are a different story...
 

drummerjohn333

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Some may look down on this, but I don't care.
I have a First Act bass drum.....I use it as a rag bucket. I measured it tonight. 14 inches. The wood is the typical lighter (looking and weighing) wood.
I am going to try to build a snare out of it - and see if it can sound good. I mean....it's based on the theory that the edges, bed, heads, wires, and tuning - is what makes a huge difference. Of course it will sound different than a COB or 100% maple or steel......but the thing that is getting me lately: I have been experiencing some MIJ snares that sound GREAT sometimes. Yes, those cheap 60-70s ones. One has die-cast hoops (probably where the credit is deserved) and another is the thicker shells. Alot of it has to do with edges and fresh consumables.
 

Tornado

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Especially if you are a habitual rim shotter like me. I bet you that eliminates much difference between woods used.

I don’t even like the way snares sound without the rim shot.
I think the rim shot gives a better representation of the shell, personally. Or maybe it shows which shells choke up and which don't when you lay into them.
 

Tornado

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.....but the thing that is getting me lately: I have been experiencing some MIJ snares that sound GREAT sometimes. Yes, those cheap 60-70s ones. One has die-cast hoops (probably where the credit is deserved) and another is the thicker shells. Alot of it has to do with edges and fresh consumables.
I think the age of the wood in those old MIJ drums may have a lot to do with it too.
 

bellbrass

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In a club, hearing an un-amplified and un-EQ'd snare from 100 feet, you won't hear much difference, if using the same tuning and drum size. That's a big IF: most of the "direct" comparison videos I've seen on YouTube in fact have slightly different tunings between the drums.
In a studio, to the trained ear - you bet there's a difference.
 

AtlantaDrumGuy

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Especially if you are a habitual rim shotter like me. I bet you that eliminates much difference between woods used.

I don’t even like the way snares sound without the rim shot.
Do you use die cast or flanged? I have a couple with die cast, most are triple flanged. Seems like the die cast may provide a bit more power to the rim shots.
In a club, hearing an un-amplified and un-EQ'd snare from 100 feet, you won't hear much difference, if using the same tuning and drum size. That's a big IF: most of the "direct" comparison videos I've seen on YouTube in fact have slightly different tunings between the drums.
In a studio, to the trained ear - you bet there's a difference.
I agree that in a clinical environment like the studio, the differences could be heard. But in a live setting, those subtle differences begin to diminish.
 

Markkuliini

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Especially if you are a habitual rim shotter like me. I bet you that eliminates much difference between woods used.

I don’t even like the way snares sound without the rim shot.
I think it's just the opposite. Rimshot activates the shell much more than a hit just to the head. To me snares sound much more alike when played without rimshots, and only rimshots really bring out the true character of different shell materials.
 

Iristone

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I think it may depend on the specific construction. I for sure can tell my 3-ply Ludwig from my 6-ply Gretsch, but all Ludwigs still sound more similar than different to me (even the metal ones sound like Ludwig metal snares). That said, my Ludwig Legacy is by far my favourite and most versatile snare drum, and will probably remain so - until I snatch a Supra. :wink:
 

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