Can changing snare heads make THIS big a difference?

FreDrummer

Silver Member
Last fall, I found a set of 1976 Vistalites that has become my primary gig kit. A few weeks after buying the shellpack, I found the matching 14x5 snare to go with it, so it has become my primary gig snare. I immediately swapped out the reso head with an Evans 300 snareside head, but left the existing Evans G1 coated on the drum because it appeared to be in good shape. I played 4-5 gigs on that head.

After finding a great deal on some G1 coateds before Christmas, I decided to to swap out a new G1 for the slightly used one. When I took the "old" head off, I was almost a little embarrassed because it looked lightly used -- nothing like some of the well-used heads we've all seen. Fast-forward to sound check on New Year's Eve... our sound guy stopped us mid-tune, saying the lead guitar (big surprise!) and snare drum were just way to loud and dominating to the point of distraction. I was using my normal sticks (Vater Pro Rock) and playing my usual way. Our solution was to pull out my Steve Gadd sig sticks (shorter, thinner, lighter) and try to tone it down a little, so that's how I played the gig.

So, changing out a snare head with the same type head... Has anyone else experienced this? It should be noted the snare sounded good with the old head. I tuned the new head to the same pitch as the old head. Discussing it after sound check with our sound guy (who is a "10" on the 1-10 scale of sound guys), we could not come up with a good explanantion. He used the word "perfect" to describe the old head (from a sitting-in-the-mix standpoint). I know acrylic drums tend to project more than other shell types. The drum with the new head sounds awesome, but was just WAY too much for the room (we had played there previously with the vistalites).
 

beyondbetrayal

Platinum Member
Was your snare mic'd? could the gain have been changed or the volume adjusted?

If the head was dead it could make a bit of difference... or tuned differently.

You were the one to tune the new head.. If you tuned to the same note it obviously didn't sound all that different to you.

Something sounds weird with this, but I don't think it would be that drastic of a change
 

EvansSpecialist

Silver Member
Changing heads always makes a difference, though the amount of noticeable difference depends on how much stretching the old head has gone through. A fresh head will always be a bit brighter and can cut through a mix a bit more as well. This situation sounds like more of an instance where the acoustics of the space may have altered the sound.
 

FreDrummer

Silver Member
I'd say the sound man is crazy, safe bet.
Uh, no. He is HIGHLY experienced. Degree in sound engineering, 20 years in the US Air Force where his job description was "Sound Engineer" with the USAF Academy band (everything from concert band to rock band to country band, vocal groups, etc) working everything from club-sized rooms to festivals to stadiums. He lives, eats, and sleeps this stuff -- it is not a side-line for him. We trust him as one of the band.

He uses a 32-channel digital board in which he can save room settings at the gig. Since we had played this place twice previously, he had a preset for the room to use as a starting point, only needing to tweak things slightly. Yes, the snare was mic'd, but it was on the previous gigs, too.

The thing is, the "old" head really did not look that "used" when I removed it. It had very little dishing. In fact, when I did a simple tap-test (holding the head loosely by the collar with one hand and tapping a finger of my free hand on the head), the old and new head sounded virtually identical. Really, the only reason I decided to change heads was:
1. Old head was on drum when I bought it, so I had no idea how old it was (it is a Level 360 head)
2. The new head only cost $8, so what the heck?

It just seemed like such a radical difference that it caught my attention...
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
Uh, no. He is HIGHLY experienced. Degree in sound engineering, 20 years in the US Air Force where his job description was "Sound Engineer" with the USAF Academy band (everything from concert band to rock band to country band, vocal groups, etc) working everything from club-sized rooms to festivals to stadiums. He lives, eats, and sleeps this stuff -- it is not a side-line for him. We trust him as one of the band.

He uses a 32-channel digital board in which he can save room settings at the gig. Since we had played this place twice previously, he had a preset for the room to use as a starting point, only needing to tweak things slightly. Yes, the snare was mic'd, but it was on the previous gigs, too.

The thing is, the "old" head really did not look that "used" when I removed it. It had very little dishing. In fact, when I did a simple tap-test (holding the head loosely by the collar with one hand and tapping a finger of my free hand on the head), the old and new head sounded virtually identical. Really, the only reason I decided to change heads was:
1. Old head was on drum when I bought it, so I had no idea how old it was (it is a Level 360 head)
2. The new head only cost $8, so what the heck?

It just seemed like such a radical difference that it caught my attention...
It could be so many things:

Could be the mic. Even if he used, for example, an SM57 both times, two identical SM57s can have different output strengths. Could be this AND the effect of the new head combined.

You also may have been playing a bit louder that day, for whatever reason (well-rested, had a cup of coffee, etc.).

It could also be the "scene" that was saved on the mixer. If the settings were saved during a soft ballad, and you sound-checked with loud, uptempo tune, then this could make a difference. Also, not all digital mixers will save the input gain on each channel as part of the "scene" to be recalled, meaning that it has to be adjusted manually on each gig.

There are just too many variables to say for sure. But a fresh drum head, replacing one that was in decent shape, while noticeable by itself, shouldn't create a situation like this.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
Yes a new drum head can make a big difference. Even replacing the same kind of head. You said you don't know how old the old head was.

Although I think the room environment was more of a factor.

Usually drummers are happy about how new drum heads make their snare drums project better.
I would have used some sort of dampening so that I could have played with the same sticks and with the same technique I usually play.


.
 

FreDrummer

Silver Member
Well, I use my own mics, and my Audix i5 (I only own one of these) always goes on the snare using the same rim-clamp and clip (I only have one of this style -- an Audix D-Vice -- and it always goes on the snare for consistent positioning). We mic up my entire kit (bass, subkick, snare, 3 toms, and 2 overheads). Typically, the bass and snare are used in the mains. The tom mics are there "just in case" they're needed (if toms project enough, they'll be off in the mains but available for my in-ear monitor mix. If needed, they are blended into the mains). The overheads typically are used only for my monitor mix, but also can be blended into the mains (rarely).

The night in question, the sound guy turned my snare OFF early on in the sound check tune because it was too much, and even with it eliminated from the mains the ambient sound was still too much. That's the thing...virtually everything was kept constant EXCEPT the presence of the new head, but there was still a DRAMATIC difference in snare volume and projection.
 

Stroman

Platinum Member
You've got a room full of people, including a manufacturer's rep, basically saying that drastic a difference is pretty unlikely. Yet you are saying it happened. Not sure where the discussion should go from here. Personally, I think you were fired up and hitting harder than usual. :) That, combined with a somewhat brighter head, resulted in what you experienced.
 

Ron_M

Senior Member
If it was that loud without being mic'd, it must have been a room mode. Were you set up in a different spot? Maybe the furniture config was different. Not much the sound guy can do, in that case. If moving the drums isn't an option, try a different tuning and/or muffling. I don't think this was just because of a new head, although that may have been a contributor.
 

Winegums

Silver Member
Maybe it's possible there was something seriously muting your old head and you're just now seeing the true character of your snare?

I've had the same issue with the snare being too loud at mic'd gig. The only thing the sound man and I could do to bring down the volume was to bring up everyone slightly and play lighter.
 

FreDrummer

Silver Member
Thanks for the replies.

The "room node" theory is interesting (I assume you meant "node" rather than "mode."). It was probably not the cause on this night, because I set up in the same spot of this stage all the time -- the snare was probably within 6" of previous nights-- but the concept is something to keep in mind going forward.

I don't think there was anything seriously dampening the old head. But, here is a question for discussion (it just occurred to me; I can't believe I did not recall this sooner in the discussion)...When I changed heads, i decided to remove the internal dampener. I was not using it at all with the old head, but, yes, the mechanism and felt were inside the drum. Do you think removing this hardware from inside the shell could account for such a dramatic difference?
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
Do you think removing this hardware from inside the shell could account for such a dramatic difference?
It if wasn't engaged before? Nope.

Not that the horse isn't mostly dead, but there could have been a guitar amp or bass amp or vocal monitor that was quieter than normal, resulting in the perception of a louder drum. Your snare popped out in the mix because something else was quieter.

Did you have some tea or coffee right before soundcheck that day?
 

FreDrummer

Silver Member
Reinstall the dampener. Put the old head back on.
Your question will be answered.
.
Yeah, I guess so. The result could be so subjective, though, I'd need to mic it up to check levels and use a dB meter as well. If I hit the drum a number of times, then take 15-20 minutes to change heads and tune it up the same way, think of the "selective bias" involved. Most any fallible human being is only going to hear what they want to hear.

It if wasn't engaged before? Nope.

Did you have some tea or coffee right before soundcheck that day?
Yeah, the horse is breathing his last breaths. No coffee, tea, cafffeine, or anything else exciting. Frankly, I am never amped-up for soundcheck. For consistency, we always use the Journey tune "Lights." It has some good dynamics, 3-part harmonies, a guitar solo...and decidedly NOT a go-crazy drum part. The thing is, everyone here thinks the snare was just "louder." No, it was FRIGGIN' louder to the point of distraction - dominating the whole mix (in a bad way). If it were only a little louder, the sound guy would have let it go and told me after soundcheck that the snare was too loud and I needed to tone it down. It was a DRAMATIC difference, perhaps more than one would expect making a wholesale head-choice change (i.e. heavy double-ply dampened head to a single ply G1), much less putting on the same type of head.
 

WallyY

Platinum Member
The previous owner probably bent the muffler so it would touch the head flat when it was engaged, but bent it too much so the muffler was always touching.

Because that's what I did.
 

Ron_M

Senior Member
Thanks for the replies.

The "room node" theory is interesting (I assume you meant "node" rather than "mode."). It was probably not the cause on this night, because I set up in the same spot of this stage all the time -- the snare was probably within 6" of previous nights-- but the concept is something to keep in mind going forward.
Ah, probably not that then. I did mean Room Mode.
 
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