Fat snare sound -> deeper shells? Andy?

Swiss Matthias

Platinum Member
Everytime the "ballad snare" or "fat snare sound" topic comes up anywhere,
most people seem to be eager to find a snare as deep as possible, 8" or, in
DW's ballad snare case, 10" even.

So what's that all about? What difference does shell depth really make? What
range is the best for what sounds?

My guess is always: There's more of a psychological reason for wanting a
deeper shell for being able to low and "fat", rather than a scientific acoustic
reason. You can get a 5" snare with appropriate shell material and thickness
to sound as deep as you want it. Am I wrong?
 

bobdadruma

Platinum Member
I am a fan of 5.5" for overall versatility.
The fat sound of a snare comes more from the heads, hoops, EQ-ing, and tuning.
A deep snare can be more limited and overpowering in all but the largest of venues.
 
G

Ghostnote

Guest
For my money I would rather increase the diameter of a drum than the depth. My 5x15 drums do deep dish better than my 8x14 drum. I built a 9x15 aluminum drum, but I plan on cutting it down to a 6.5x15 when I get around to it because I find the overly deep shell narrows the frequency band of the drum. An 8 or 9 inch deep shell probably does allow for more low frequencies to be developed, but to my ear the overall effect is a narrowing or thinning out of the sound of the drum. A 6.5" deep drum won't produce as many lows, but they sound fuller to me, so to my ear, the overall effect is they sound bigger and fatter than a deeper shelled drum.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
So what's that all about? What difference does shell depth really make? What range is the best for what sounds?
There are two different ballad sounds that come to mind. The one that I use is what I call the "Don Henley" sound. It's the simple low-pitch-via-multi-layer technique that almost everyone else uses. Example. The down side is that a lot of the tone and resonance is attenuated to the point of non-existence. If you want shell-tone, you literally have to mic the shell.

Deep snare drums allow you to achieve the same with fewer layers, and keep a bit more of the natural sound.
 

WallyY

Platinum Member
Deep snares allow more lower overtones when you hit the center of the head.

Shallow snares have a flatter sound when you hit the center of the head.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
You can get a 5" snare with appropriate shell material and thickness
to sound as deep as you want it. Am I wrong?
You're essentially correct, but let's break this down a bit so choices / options become more apparent.

First, let's clarify what's meant by "fat". As relates to a snare, I take that as being low pitch, fairly short note, & full of tone. Of course, tuning plays a big roll, as does recording processing, but I'm assuming you want to exclude those variables.

A fat sound is produced by the heads, but that can be influenced by the shell construction, or not, as is often the case. Very low tunings equate to less shell excitement, no matter what the construction, so only shells that are easily excited in the lower registers will contribute anything meaningful. That's probably only a tiny minority of snares out there, so for the vast majority, it's down to heads, tuning, diameter, & depth.

As with all drums, the deeper the drum, the more overtones it produces - both the ones you want, & the ones you don't. The more shallow the shell, the clearer the fundamental, & it's often that fundamental that delivers a more noticeable tone in the resolved sound. Lower overtones add a perception of additional "weight" to the lower frequencies, rather similar to adding slow chorus to a bass guitar, but only contribute positively if they don't overpower the fundamental, & certainly only benefit if the higher overtones are really muted.

The bottom line is this. For each construction, there's an optimum depth. Enough depth to develop some lower overtones, but not so much as to diminish the fundamental. If you're lucky, your construction may be good enough to add some shell excitement induced tone too.

The psychologically driven conclusion that a deeper drum, in itself, equals a "deeper" sound, is a nonsense.
 

Swiss Matthias

Platinum Member
Thanks guys for the quick replies!

Thanks Andy for the thorough and eloquent information (as usual)!!
That's what I more or less thought as well.

Thinking about buying a 90's Sonor Phonic D500 steel snare (5" deep),
which to my ears is a very versatile drum from quite high to very low
tuning. But a little part of me was concerned whether it's true that a
5.5 or 6.5 would be more versatile or, rather, better suited for low and
"fat" (in that sense you described) tuning. I had the chance to try out
two versions (5" and 6,5") - unfortunately not at the same time though -
and while I think the 6,5 looks more manly, I don't think it matters too
much soundwise. Maybe I was wrong, and surely the best thing would
be to test two drums against each other in many different rooms, but
I couldn't do that...
 

iwearnohats

Silver Member
While I have never seen the need for anything deeper than 7", I certainly will say without hesitation that 6.5" and 7" snare drums produce a different sound to 5" or 5.5"

While I don't care for adjectives such as "fat", the way I have always described the sounds I can get out of different snares would be as follows:

< 4": Lots of attack, very 'thin' cracking sound.
5"-5.5": Fuller overall drum sound, a bit less prominent attack than 4"
6.5"-7": The snare doesn't sound 'deeper' in tone, but produces a more rounded 'punch'.

If you are using EQ to get the sound you want out of a drum then you are using the wrong drum, the wrong heads, and/or the wrong tuning.

To my ears, there are clear fundamental differences between various sizes of drums both in depth and diameter, as well as shell construction. There is definitely no psychological factor here as I have used many different snare drum, tuning, and head combinations over the years and have never been able to duplicate the sound of a deep snare in a shallow one. It will always lack that rounded punch that is associated with a deeper drum.

Please be aware that I'm not talking about the pitch of the drum. The sound I'm talking about is easily discovered by placing drums identical in every way but depth next to each other, and playing them with the same tuning.
 

paradiddle pete

Platinum Member
I'm not going to argue theory here but there is no way those 2 snare drums can sound as " FAT " as the 15" by 12" .. just say'n..
 
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Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
All good information here. This is like attending drum school.

I'm having a little trouble understanding what "Fat" means. (Understanding and evaluating sounds is difficult on the internet.)

Swiss Matthias:
Please do something for me. I'm trying to understand what "Fat" means. Take any one of your snare drums and hit it a few times.
Now place two pieces of 8.5 inch by 11 inch printer paper on top of the drum head. Hit it again the same way. Did the paper make the drum sound fatter?

.
 

paradiddle pete

Platinum Member
Jim, My take on FAT would be something like fuller , more Robust, thicker or stronger sounding , not the dull whack of muffledom..
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
Jim, My take on FAT would be something like fuller , more Robust, thicker or stronger sounding , not the dull whack of muffledom..
Yes, I hear what you are saying. However, I used paper in the recording studio one time and I thought we got a fatter sound.
But at the time, due to the recording taking place, I did not need to play with very much volume.

I guess it was kind of a "Fake Fat" sound.


.
 

paradiddle pete

Platinum Member
Oh ! You mean skinny Fat kind of like skinny milk, I'm talking Full Cream Layered with all that Greasy Fat. Oh Yeah..I believe the proper Musical Term is Baritone..
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
there is no way those 2 snare drums can sound as " FAT " as the 15" by 12" .. just say'n..
Obviously so.

There is definitely no psychological factor here
Agreed. I should have provided greater detail to that statement. I was referring to drum depths that go beyond the optimum for a particular construction & the desired outcome.

Did the paper make the drum sound fatter?

.
It took away the higher overtones so the lower tones that were already there can dominate.

not the dull whack of muffledom..
On a personal level = agreed.
 

iwearnohats

Silver Member
Agreed. I should have provided greater detail to that statement. I was referring to drum depths that go beyond the optimum for a particular construction & the desired outcome.
Thanks for the clarification, I was a bit baffled about why you were saying that :).

I think there are practical limits to the usability of deep snares. I did a recording once and the guy who wrote the music had me use his 14"x8" snare with wooden rims. It was a beautiful sounding drum but certainly wasn't versatile - but then I guess there are reasons people tend to accumulate snare drums over time :) I personally have never had a practical use for anything deeper than 7" myself.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
Yes, I hear what you are saying. However, I used paper in the recording studio one time and I thought we got a fatter sound.
But at the time, due to the recording taking place, I did not need to play with very much volume.

I guess it was kind of a "Fake Fat" sound.


.
Well, adding a piece of paper would do three things. First, it would cut out some overtones, since the head would be muted by the paper to some degree. Second, the overall pitch would be lowered a bit, since the paper adds a bit of thickness to the head. And third, the sustain of the drum would be shortened, since the paper would lift off slightly when struck, and then settle quickly back onto the head, dampening the drum's decay.

All this can be described as adding "fatness". A similar, more severe method is to place another drum head, upside down, on top of the snare batter head.
 

DPTrainor

Senior Member
Begs the questions about what do these terms mean. Terms like "fat", "warm", etc. Are they only subjective? Generalizations? Are they specific and measurable enough to use? Does the converse of these terms;"skinny", "cold" useful? Do we really have the terms (in language) to communicate to other what we are hearing, reliably. Eskimos have 100's of terms to describe snow and sea ice characteristics. We don't have for snare drums. Should we just say "hey, strike this snare drum and listen to its sound [characteristics]. And see if you like it at this tuning". Maybe the best we can do.... Do the generalized words fall short?

Cheers, Dan
 
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