Snare drums that "can't be played softly"???

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Post Mon Dec 04, 2006 11:14 am

Recently I've seen several references to snare drums that "can't" be played softly. Frankly, I'm perplexed.

I've yet to find a snare drum that couldn't be played quietly, including many drums that are stereotypically thought of as "loud" snare drums: acrylics and Musashis, the Pearl Ultracast, and a couple of very thick-shelled (1", and 3/4") snares I have played. Hit 'em hard, they're loud. Hit 'em softly, they're not. Granted, some snare drums seem to make it easier to produce higher dynamic levels, but that doesn't mean they're incapable of producing lower dynamic levels. I obviously don't claim to have played all snare drums, but I haven't ever found one of these "can't be quiet" snare drums - not yet, at least.

Is there something about certain snare drums that is coercing drummers to hit with great force? Some sort of minimum velocity requirement? If you hit them softly, do they not make any sound at all, or is the resulting sound somehow useless?

I'm not just posing these as rhetorical questions. I honestly, sincerely want to know what it is that I'm failing to understand.

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Post Tue Dec 05, 2006 7:41 am

I think a good deal of this is a result of (bad) tuning. I've seen many instances of people using strange head combinations, worn-out snare wires, over-tightened strainers (the main culprit), over-tightened batter heads, excessive muffling...
In an effort to "make their drum sound just like the recording" or prevent the snare wires from buzzing sympathetically when toms are hit, so many people crank the bejeezus out of their snare wires, effectively choking the drum. In this way, you've got to smack the heck out of the drum, just to get the wires to activate. Attempts to play softer, the snare just sounds like an expensive practice pad.
Any snare can be played dynamically -- as long as it is tuned to support dynamics.
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Post Mon Dec 11, 2006 3:43 pm

i agree with everything he said. the only snares i havent been able to play soft have been equipped with old heads and wires or poorly tuned. there are though some snares that take more accuracy and control to play soft than others. but since i like cranked heads, ive yet to have a problem with that =p
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Post Thu Dec 28, 2006 4:39 am

My Premier royal ace 14x3 is very difficult to play softly. I play a range of styles with my band and friends and my snare is always the loudest.
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Post Thu Dec 28, 2006 9:29 am

I don't think such a thing exists as a drum of any kind that cannot be played softly. If anything, it's probably just advertising propaganda aimed at guys who play heavy metal or other high volume styles.

If a drummer wants to play softly and cannot, it's just a matter of working on dynamics. Practice in general should always be performed at varying dynamic levels anyway.
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Post Thu Dec 28, 2006 10:04 am

Dale wrote:If anything, it's probably just advertising propaganda aimed at guys who play heavy metal or other high volume styles.

It's just like the Aquarian Tap Test! It's bullsh*t propeganda!! :lol:
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Post Thu Dec 28, 2006 10:18 am

Dale wrote:I don't think such a thing exists as a drum of any kind that cannot be played softly.

I'm going to have to agree with Dale on this one...

Over the years I've played a wide variety of styles from BeBop and Combo Jazz to Horn Funk Bands and VERY loud Rock Bands and occasionally I have had some degree of difficulty changing gears from being able to gig at FULL VOLUME one night, then play with subtle sensitivty the next afternoon at a jazz combo gig, but I've never had a situation where the "drums" wouldn't play quietly. The drums simply responded to my input, which in some cases lacked finesse after a night of all-out POUNDING.

I have a Drum made by Donaho Drums with a REALLY thin maple shell that has about a 1 1/5" vent hole directly above the snare butt. It's an 8"x14" and it is INSANELY loud with very little effort. It's easilly the loudest drum I have ever owned or played, but when tuned correctly and adjusted properly it will absolutely sing at lower volumes. The fellow I bought it from sold it because he played in a church group and "it wouldn't play at low volumes". Because it will so efforlessly play REALLY loud, this drum has a really wide dynamic range and it's quite useful and musical.

The inverse is likely more true... While I've never played a drum that cannot play quiet, I have owned and played drums that simply do not play LOUD. Hitting them harder just makes them choke and the dynamic range was quite narrow. I had a very dissapointing DW kit once that exhibited this unfortunate set of properties.
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Post Sat Dec 30, 2006 12:07 am

The whole thing with snares being diffucult to play softly is the tuning. I have two snares that I use right now and one is a 13'' brass masters piccolo by mapex. Its tuned really tight and ringy. Its hard to get any kind of decent sound unless hit harder or a rim shot. My main snare that I use is a Mapex Saturn 14''x5.5''. This snare is Tuned lower to activate the walnut and get the lower tones to project. This snare is easy to get a great sound out of when played low or loud. Its all in the tuning and the drum. If you have a metal, piccolo, it might be harder to play low. Most wood snares tuned to some med or lower tuning with the snares tight enough to activate when hit low will sound great.
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Post Sat Dec 30, 2006 4:36 pm

I remember a teacher that I had a long time ago that used the old philosophy "if you can't play well, play loud" which was used more as an insult to those beating the crap out of the drum than a teaching method... I ultimately disagree with this as there are MANY great drummers who pummel the drums into submission, but I understand the comment that a certain drum is just louder than another. Wall thickness and/or material has much to do with the overall volume of the drum as well as tuning, stick size, player technique ect. I have an old Slingerland 6.5 x 14" that is brass and has 12 lugs. This drum can be played quietly, but it's overall sound is more brash than say a 5" version of the drum with 10 lugs. My 6.5 x 14 maple Ludwig from the mid 70's with cast 10-lug rims is atomic and cracks like a 9mm even when hit softly. But again, the tuning has much to do with it. If I play standard Emperor heads, I can tune it anywhere from medium to super-tight and get a good quiet tone. If I pop a K-Falam on there and crank it down to the tension of a wood table, then playing it lightly doesn't bring out the snares and thus I must crush it to make it sound "good."

So, sure, there probably are some drums louder than others by design, but a talented drummer should be able to tune and play the drum to bring out its best sound both softly AND loudly.

The fact that I play with very large sticks and hit very hard in my hardcore/punk band means my snare is going to be very loud and soundmen around the world um, hate me. But, that's not the drums' fault, it's performing exactly the way I'm telling it to....
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Post Sat Dec 30, 2006 5:14 pm

There are those drummers, like my brother in particular, who love playing loudly. Most annoyying thing in the world.
I've learned as a drummer, that dynamics can set you apart from others. Thrashers may be good at what they do, but its so one dimensional, no culture in the music just heavy hands.
I agree one of the hardest things to figure out on each set is the tuning that makes the kit sound like a beautiful singer than some screamocore garage band.

not that i'm against it, but seriously though...
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Post Mon Feb 26, 2007 9:34 am

:) I have a Yamaha power hoop brass 14x6.5 and it is a very loud drum every time I play my snare is to loud (comments like, all you can hear is the snare!)
When I play,I like to drive the band along and I get into a kind of shuffle which makes me hit the drum quite hard but not excessive. It’s the kind of style I like to play. Can any of you suggest a snare which would work for me, so my kit could sound a bit more balanced, but still sound great when recording maybe something with a softer tone? :?