continued from Selecting A Snare Drum: Part One
Is the shell round?
To check for roundness measure the diameter across from each of the lugs, avoiding any shell that has a differential of 1/16-inch or more. If it is out of round before mounting heads, it is going to be worse afterwards! Also, tighter head tunings will usually exacerbate this problem.Does the shell lay “flat?”You should be able to lay any shell on a truly flat surface and notice if the drum lays “flat” (with the exception of the snare bed). Without a large piece of machinist granite, the next best choice is usually a good flat counter top. Put a flashlight inside the shell and notice any unevenness around the circumference on either side of the drum. If the shell is otherwise round and rigid, any unevenness with the bearing edges can typically be corrected by a process called “contouring.” It is usually not an expensive process and it is well worth the investment. Be sure to select someone who is qualified to do this.Bearing edgesThe bearing edge is the highest point of the shell where the head crosses before it meets the rim. Where and how the edge is cut affects the overall brightness or warmth of the drum’s sound. For maximum ring with highest overtones, that point will be the extreme outer part of the shell with an inward slope of about 45 degrees. This tends to produce a sharper “attack” to the sound. For a slightly warmer sound, that point will be moved in slightly from the outer shell wall. This is referred to as a “back cut” or “counter cut.” Rounding off the top edge will further warm up the drum’s sound. I find that a rounded edge on the batter side works best when using thicker batter heads. Depending on your requirements, you could conceivably use different bearing edges between the batter side and the snare side. In any case, make sure the edge is cut with precision. SnaresPlayers today can choose between gut, wire, and cable snares. Gut was used regularly in the “old days,” but was especially sensitive to humidity and the elements. As an organic substance, gut would eventually deteriorate. Wires offer a brightness and “wetness” to the sound that many drumset players prefer. Cables, especially the ones that extend past the bearing edge, now offer some options that players of all styles of music are beginning to notice. Wire coils only produce sound where the coils actually contact the head, leaving the rest of the coiled space “soundless.” If you go to the trouble of calculating all of the exact points of contact on a typical set of wires, that represents only 3-4 inches of total head contact! Cables span the entire surface of the bottom head and provide between 14-23 feet for continuous head coverage depending on the number of strands. Wires are also especially sensitive to the sympathetic “buzz” vibrations caused by amps, horns, and bass frequencies. It is not uncommon for the drum to be “buzzing” more loudly from other instruments than from the actual soft passage you are performing. Cables that extend past the bearing edge have the ability to reduce sympathetic snare buzz by about 80 to 90%. This is especially important for drummers who want to play “clean” solos around the set without the snares buzzing loudly every time the toms or bass drum are played. Of course, there is the frustrating experience every drummer has trying to sort out dynamic nuances with wire snares. Typically, as you adjust the drum to play softly you will get a noticeable “slap” if you venture into the forte range, or you can adjust the drum for “forte” only to find the snares are too tight to get any response at ppp. Until the advent of cable snares, players typically relied on masking tape to control wire snare slap! Assuming you have the right snare bed, the cables offer a tremendously expanded dynamic range for any particular strainer setting with only minor adjustments. You can check out a list of players who use these plus pictures of some various model snare units at www.pattersonsnares.comThe snare bedThe best bed for cable snares is one cut 1/8-inch deep and 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches wide. Usually a slope of
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