Solid shell snare?

lalle81

Member
I have a -69 acrolite now but looking for a solid wood snare for jazz, acoustic with a woody tone..

Reading a lot of threads, many recommend vintage radio kings. Can you help me sort it out what to look for. Is it big differences between different years etc?

Also I've had an idea to build one from a vaughncraft shell (maple) how do you think it compare to radio kings?

3rd choice maybe a DW super solid.

I've never actually tried or heard any of these and have no chance to do so. I'm glad to hear what you guys think.
 
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paradiddle pete

Platinum Member
Maybe first of all understand the era of Jazz that you find pleasing, then investigate what type of drums were used. I'm thinking fifties so maybe Gretsch or even mid fifties Slingerland 3 ply or mid fifties Radio King would be my choice. Ludwig Jazz Festival comes to mind also. You have a great dilemma .
 

keep it simple

Platinum Member
I can't help you on specific years of Radio King production changes, etc, but I can give you some very general guidance.

1st up is to pretty much ignore the term "solid". In isolation, it's close to meaningless. There's a vast range of solid shell types with so many variables it's impossible to assign a generic "solid" sound to a drum. For example, a DW Super Solid is about as far removed from a thin shell steam bent drum as it's possible to be. Also, the fact that a drum has some form of solid shell is no guarantee it's going to be a good drum, nor does it offer a specific set of playing/sonic characteristics. There are many variables.

With respect to vintage drums, condition is pretty much everything, but even amongst drums of the same model & in the same condition, there are often considerable differences in sound, mainly due to production standards of the day.

IMHO, it's better to define the characteristics you want, then find drums that meet that criteria. For example, if you're after a very expressive drum that opens up easily and has a generally open nature, then a steam bent model with lighter hardware will most likely get you there. Wood choice should steer you on wether you're after a brighter or darker sound. A 3 ply shell is slightly less open, but still on that side of things. If you seek strong articulation & sensitivity then a vertical grain solid shell or even some ply shell models will give you what you want. With such a general question, it's difficult to be specific, but hopefully you get where I'm coming from.

Finally, the building your own option. A vaughncraft maple shell is a good foundation, but how it performs depends on a multitude of choices. Bearing edge profiles, hardware mass, etc all feed in significantly to the final result. Unless you know what you're doing, I strongly suggest consulting a trusted builder. Choosing between instruments that are already out there & well researched is the safest bet by far.
 

lalle81

Member
Thanks for your replies!
The sound I'm going for is an open organic, woody, warm type of sound.
Of course there's much to consider with snares as you say with wood, age, condition, hardware etc.. I really feel I would like to try at least one Radio King, but how do I know what it's worth?! I've seen some go for just $400 and some for $1000+, whats the difference, condition only?

Whats does "vertical grain solid shell" means?

If I would try the Vaughncraft route and try to copy the radio king sound, what bearing edges etc should I go for?
 

mandrew

Gold Member
Andy is right on with his advice, and I would add this: Old or vintage is also no guarantee of a good drum either. A vintage drum may be good, depending on how it has been stored, and treated in general. There have been a lot of improvements to drums, as far as constructions since the 50's, 60's etc. Is the shell still round? Are the ply's intact? any cracks or separations? You get the idea. A well babied drum may be an outstanding bargain, and a deserted drum may be firewood. Also consider that if the drum needs a bit of work, can you get parts without breaking the bank. Things to consider.
 

Jeremy Bender

Platinum Member
listen to some Youtube videos (or better yet try them out in person) of some Noble and Cooley Classic SS maple snare drums. Also some of the Longo snare drum are pretty nice as well. Both use a single steam bent piece of wood and have low mass hardware. To me those are the modern day equivalent to the Old Radio King snares of the Big Band days, with the newer drums having a sharper bearing edge giving them a more focused yet still open sound.

Best of luck in finding the drum that you hear in your mind and keep us posted as to what you get!
 

paradiddle pete

Platinum Member
Jazz is a very short word that covers a fairly long history now. Considering the very early days of Jazz the instruments used were left over from the Civil War so in view of the improvised nature of instrument choice i wouldn't get too caught up in what's the right or wrong choice, if you can Jazz on it it's the right choice. Capturing a specific sound then becomes an interesting prospect. I would go by ERA if going for a sound.So if any specific sound pops out at you get as much info about it as you can. I disagree that the term Solid is meaningless as i have a Solid Mahogany Ludwig Pioneer that was used at the Rice Hotel as a house drum.. If you can find a good vintage drum go for it , chances are it will be more Authentic than a modern one. Also a 20's Luddie Super with original snare wires, these little details on a drum make a difference .
 
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Vintage Old School

Gold Member
Lots of options for wood snare drums, but going to throw out a different option if you wanted to have a single snare drum that could cover a lot of ground for you: a Ludwig 5 X 14" smooth bronze. Projection of a metal drum except with woody tones.
 

porter

Platinum Member
I disagree that the term Solid is meaningless as i have a Solid Mahogany Ludwig Pioneer that was used at the Rice Hotel as a house drum.
Uh...
Anyways, Andy is saying that the term "solid" is so broad a term that it's not very helpful, especially when discussing specific sound characteristics as we are here.

I'm assuming "vertical grain solid shell" means a stave drum, or a segmented drum with vertical grain.
 

keep it simple

Platinum Member
I disagree that the term Solid is meaningless as i have a Solid Mahogany Ludwig Pioneer that was used at the Rice Hotel as a house drum..
I think you've taken my statement out of context. "Solid", as regarded by the OP, is a very broad church. It covers everything from hollow log through to thin shell steam bent, from segmented through to engineered stock as used in DW's Super Solid. Really, they couldn't be more different in their delivery & overall characteristics. Much bigger differences than exist at the extremes of ply shell constructions. That's what I meant by stating that the term solid, in itself, is meaningless.

I'll single out the DW Super Solid here as being an example of a drum that is the polar opposite of the vibe the OP is probably seeking. Nothing wrong with it, it's a totally valid construction, but warm, resonant, & open it most certainly is not.

What I'm not saying, & I assume (please correct me if I'm wrong) you took as my inference, was that a solid shell is without value. Quite to the contrary, solid shells have great value, & that manifests itself especially in shells that carry the benefit of age, if other aspects of their condition/design/crafting quality are up to standard. To say I'm a fan of solid shells is an understatement. One only needs to look at the drums I design to come to that conclusion, but a solid shell is way away from guaranteeing a good instrument. I see poor instrument performance more frequently in solid shell drums than I do in ply shell drums. That often has a lot to do with lack of understanding in the design, or just simply poor choices/execution. Especially poor are many of the major ply manufacturer's "bandwagon" attempts at soaking up market coverage. Buy in a shell, slap your standard Asian hardware on it, machine a double 45, liberally apply lashings of marketing soup, et voila!
 

paradiddle pete

Platinum Member
Andy, Sorry if you feel that, not what i meant. I think the 2 mahogany drums are good examples of what a good solid shell drum for Jazz is. Open, Warm, Woody and Organic. I feel also that too much emphasis is put on the shell type with vintage drums as some will know different eras had different types of snare wires. For example the famous pre serial Ludwig COB originally sported thinner wires and smaller strand count which counted a lot for it's legendary sound but can we easily source these wires ? to keep the legend alive or just chuck on some pure sounds and think it's all good but it is really far from what was originally intended . MAYBE you could explain to the doubters out there what is involved in building steam bent solid shell drums from start to finish so that they could try to appreciate what they really are. I think i'm a little touchy from some of the haters comments on my enthusiasm for my own solid shell drums. I can hear and feel the difference but apparently i am deluded.
 

tamadrm

Platinum Member
I have a 47 Super Gene Krupa model Radio King,7x14 in WMP.The all maple shell is in round,and the bearing edges are near flawless,but not all RK's are equal.As stated,production standards and QC weren't always the best years ago,so I had to as the saying goes,"kiss a few frogs before finding my princess".I had and sold a few RK's,before accidently finding this one at of all places,a yard sale.

I have natural calf heads and Aquarian American Vintage head that I use with it,and it sounds great.It just ....honks.Beautiful natural woody tone,and it tunes up easily,and stays there.I took the original beavertail lugs off,to preserve them,and use the reproduction ones.If you get a later 50's RK with soundking lugs,that won't be a problem,as soundkings are sturdy.

There's no simple answer.Some RK's are worth more because of production year and finish,and condition.The drums with the three point strainers are considered more desireable,than drums with the clamshell strainer/butt,but I don't have any problem with mine at all.It just has to be set up properly..similar to the ludwig p-70 supersensitive strainer.

Going to a reputable vintage drum shop like Steve Maxwells,will get you a nice drum,but it will cost you.Don't rule out solid shell Ludwigs and Leedy mahogany and walnut shelled drums.Both ,to my ears,are a bit warmer than maple.It's a journey,so take your time if vintage is what you want.But as KISS said,modern Vauncraft steam bent shells are also a good way to go.

Steve B
 
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keep it simple

Platinum Member
MAYBE you could explain to the doubters out there what is involved in building steam bent solid shell drums from start to finish so that they could try to appreciate what they really are. I think i'm a little touchy from some of the haters comments on my enthusiasm for my own solid shell drums. I can hear and feel the difference but apparently i am deluded.
Pete, you are anything but deluded. You have good ears, let your haters cope with that! One thing I find that links most haters together, they either have little hands on experience, or they believe one steam bent drum represents all steam bent drums.

As I pointed out earlier, just because a drum has a certain specification, brand, etc, doesn't guarantee it's a good instrument. Of more relevance, it doesn't guarantee you'll like it, no matter how good it is. That's the beauty of drums.

As for the work involved in steam bent drums, let me leave you with one statistic. You can count the number of true steam bent builders globally on one hand. There's a reason for that - it's f8&%g difficult to get right. Sure, there's many offering them, but they're buying in the shells. Nothing wrong with that.

We've worked very hard to develop a segmented shell system that does almost everything that a steam bent shell will achieve, plus a bit more besides. I think we've achieved that aim, but the work necessary to get there is punishing, time consuming, frustrating, & expensive. We're taking the next generation of steam bending a further step too. I can't begin to tell you how much more difficult that is than layering up a new ply shell. Of course, absolutely non of that matters to the drummer unless you can hear the difference, & it has real world value.

You're not mad Pete, but I may well be :)
 

Red Menace

Platinum Member
I just want go back to the OP's idea and address the DW Supersolid. It is an expensive piece of junk. You could get the same tone, sharp attack with little to no body, with a muffled 13" steel snare and save a whole bunch of money.

If you live that tone of a think ply shell with re-rings then get out there and try some drums. Try as many drums as you can and you'll start to get a good idea for what you like. I tried out a Supersolid at a local GC and I hated it. I was glad that I did though because now I have a better idea of what my fancies are when it comes to snares.
 

lalle81

Member
Great thread, thanks for the input!

I'm just curious with vintage snares, is it a good idea to let a proffesional cut new bearing edges if they are not in the best condition, or does it damage the shell?

I hope I got an oppertunity later to try out vintage ones, than just hearing soundfiles.
 

tamadrm

Platinum Member
Great thread, thanks for the input!

I'm just curious with vintage snares, is it a good idea to let a proffesional cut new bearing edges if they are not in the best condition, or does it damage the shell?

I hope I got an oppertunity later to try out vintage ones, than just hearing soundfiles.
That depends on if it's a collectable drum,and if not,who's doing the work.If you desire the original bearing edge profile,then the drum shop who will cut the new edges,is critical,and not all drum shops are created equal.A place like Precision Drum in NY excells in this area of cutting edges to original specs.Bear in mind also,that once you alter a collectable drum,like a vintage RK,you'll DECREASE it's value by at least 35-50%.You also woun't get that vintage sound if you alter the bearing edge profile.

If you want to cut the edges to a modern spec....then why use a vintage,possibly collectable instrument.Buy a modern steam bent shell,and have the edges cut to modern specs.,and leave the vintage stuff,which is getting rarer, in original condition....to those to appreciate it.

If sound and function is all you're after,and you want trick strainers and modern lugs ect.,then a modern vauncraft shell,done by a competant drum smith is the way to go.

Steve B
 

lalle81

Member
I assumed it would lower the amount pretty much. I really enjoy vintage stuff, furnitures as well, but for now maybe the vaughncraft route is the way to go for me to be more certain to get a nice shell.

Can we talk little about those VC shells. Whats your opinion about them? Different wood, sizes? Light mass hardware, what would that be for example?
Bearing edges and so on, if I would try to replica the sound of a Radio King?
 

steadypocket

Gold Member
I just want go back to the OP's idea and address the DW Supersolid. It is an expensive piece of junk. You could get the same tone, sharp attack with little to no body, with a muffled 13" steel snare and save a whole bunch of money.

If you live that tone of a think ply shell with re-rings then get out there and try some drums. Try as many drums as you can and you'll start to get a good idea for what you like. I tried out a Supersolid at a local GC and I hated it. I was glad that I did though because now I have a better idea of what my fancies are when it comes to snares.
Not to bash DW, I just picked up a new Collector's Series kit that sounds fantastic, but that SuperSolid is indeed an expensive piece of junk. I ordered a SuperSolid Edge (maple/walnut) a few years ago that sounded like a brick. I ordered the middle of three thickness options. Choked at any tuning regardless of head choice. No warmth whatsoever. Just dead sounding. The drum was well made and aesthetically pleasing but that shell.... I was happy to find a buyer and received about 75% of what I spent on it.
 

tamadrm

Platinum Member
I assumed it would lower the amount pretty much. I really enjoy vintage stuff, furnitures as well, but for now maybe the vaughncraft route is the way to go for me to be more certain to get a nice shell.

Can we talk little about those VC shells. Whats your opinion about them? Different wood, sizes? Light mass hardware, what would that be for example?
Bearing edges and so on, if I would try to replica the sound of a Radio King?
If that's what you really want,then vintage RK's used a 1/4" steambent maple shell,with maple rerings,45 degree bearing edge with an outside roundover.Precision Drum Company carries Vaughncraft steam bent shells in maple,mahogany and walnut.They are on the expensive side(220-290 each,depending in wood species).It dosn't state as to weither the shells have re rings,or if they will have to add them,but vintage RK's all had them.

You can go low mass hardware or vintage reproduction,(beavertail,soundking or streamline lugs)modern or reproduction 3 point strainer(which work quite well) for that vintage look,and good functionality.If your chasing that vintage RK sound,then the repro hardware,with give you the look and close to the sound of the vintage RK.Finish is a whole other animal as they were wrapped,lacquered or duco finished.

If you can find a late 50's RK with a 3 point strainer with soundking lugs,it would make a great giging snare.Probabley the most bullet proof of all the vintage RK's,and still sound great.....OR some Artist models also had steam bent shells,soundking lugs and a zoomatic strainer,depending on year of manufacture(used by Neil Peart for years).Confused yet?...it only gets worse,as there are different Radio King models also ,but the're all Radio Kings .Just ask questions,and take pics.

I would call Precision Drum,who has all the stuff you need,including great drum building expertise,and talk it over with them if you decide VC is the way to go.

Steve B
 

Filacterua

Senior Member
I have a friend selling a beautiful Vaughncraft with premium hardware for $300 and shipping.

I can send you pics should you care to check it out...
 
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