n00b snare questions: sound, tone

First-time poster, so thanks in advance for reading or contributing, and apologies if I'm posting incorrectly.

I'm an amateur and just came into possession of a used Gretsch Catalina Maple kit. The guy I got it from played jazz (classic/bebop style) on it, but I'm playing garage-rock or garage-punk type of stuff. I'm generally satisfied with the kit, but I'm still working on the snare sound and I'm reaching the limit of my knowledge on snares.

First, the snare specs: it's 6"x14" with an Evans Genera Dry 360 head.

My issue is that the snare has a real 'rat-tat-tat' marching-band type sound, but that's not the way I want it to sound. I don't know the right terminology for what I want. I want more of a crack or pop? As a 90s comparison, I want it to sound less like Jimmy Chamberlain and more like John Stanier (ok, maybe not as tight and high-pitched as him, but more in that direction).

I've tried various tunings - cranking the beater and resonant heads up and down - but that doesn't exactly seem to get me where I want, but maybe I'm not doing it right/doing it enough.

My questions:
  1. What words would you use to describe the sound I'm getting and the sound that I actually want?
  2. Can I get this snare to sound the way I want? If so, how? Tuning? New/different head(s)?
  3. If I can't, what should I look for in a new snare?
Thanks so much for reading this far - really appreciate it.
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
yeah...i was thinking heads, or maybe where you were doing rim shots on the stick if you use them...

in my situation, if I don't want that dryer, crisp sound, I loosen the top head a bit...like, I get it to where I normally like it, and then back it down about an 1/8th of a crank on each lug

but I play 5x14 metal snares and like the Stewart Copland-esque high crack, and I think your snare is a 6x14 wood correct?
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
Yeah, it's the snare that's part of the kit - so it's Maple wood and 6x14 dimensions - would thinner or wider make any difference in this respect?
a feel that a thinner snare - or less deep - projects naturally at a higher pitch, and metal is going to have a higher effect than wood. Though wood can produce a nice fat crack for a rim shot, while metal will always be more bright or "pingy"

also shell ply thickness is going to have an effect. To my ears, the thicker the ply's, the more crack you get as well...

I think head texture and thickness honestly has more to do with it, as well as stick diameter, and where you hit on the stick. I hit right in the middle of the stick, so my rim shots are pretty "solid" feeling. I use Remo Ambassador Coated on all of my batter sides...it is the "Standard" for a reason...it is so easy to manipulate. I have also used Evans Genera Dry 1's in the past, and Remo Clear CS Black Dots in the distant past. The CS's gave an over all "warmer" sound, but are not as versatile.

I use Vic Firth 3A sticks, so mid weight sticks...

now playing: Insomnium - Winters Gate
 

roncadillac

Member
I'm going to suggest some things I usually would not simply because I was in a similar boat when I first started a long time ago, in addition to some things I'll always suggest. A few things may seem intensive but even as a beginner they are easy and will help you in the long run:

Try a 2 ply coated batter head (g2, uv2, emperor for example). With the music you are playing and being new to playing and tuning in general this will be a bit more forgiving in terms of overtones and durability.

Replace the reso head, 3mil clear is the standard.

While you have the hoops off: tighten the lug screws inside the shell with a screw driver, check all the bearing edges for dents/chips/etc, set the hoops on a flat surface to make sure they are level, and make sure the snare wires aren't noticably bent/frayed/jacked up and replace them if they are (I'm a fan of puresound blasters but cheap wires will serve you fine for now).

As far as the tuning goes, this is an easy starting point for you: you'll want to go decently tight on your reso head as this will bring your pitch and articulation up, finger tighten all lugs then try going about 1.5-2 turns (in 1/2 turn increments) with your drum key on each lug in a star pattern and tap near each lug to make sure they all are similar pitch (you don't have to go nuts here). You'll want to go slightly lower then this on the batter so repeat the above but only to about 1-1.5 total turns up here. If you want it a bit tighter then take it up a notch. This is a starting point that you can easy dial in from here but a key for this is to keep your reso a touch higher then the batter so if you end up taking your batter up much higher your reso should suit. Don't bottom out either head/rim.

A relatively cheap upgrade to any snare (that doesn't have them) that greatly helps is a set of 2.3mm triple flanged hoops. Only set you back about $30 tops.
 

justadrummer

Junior Member
It's funny, I've tried most of those heads over the years. I played this video on my computer through headphones without watching. The one that I really liked was the Remo Vintage Ambassador that is 4:14 into the video. It happens to also be what I have fitted currently to most of my snare drums.
 

Winston_Wolf

Platinum Member
You might want to take a look at this video. Might help you narrow some head choices.
I respect the time and effort they put into creating that video, but I can't help but question their methodology. It's exceedingly clear that Remo, Evans, and Aquarian heads produce drastically different pitches when tensioned to the same level, which makes all of the Evans heads sound cranked, all of the Aquarian heads sound ridiculously flabby, and Remo right in the middle.

Once they realized they were getting such different results from brand to brand I think the more reasonable approach would have been to tune all heads to the same pitch.
 

opentune

Platinum Member
Once they realized they were getting such different results from brand to brand I think the more reasonable approach would have been to tune all heads to the same pitch.
I thought they tuned to the same tension. That should come in the same ballpark for pitch, on the same snare drum.
That it doesn't must mean the mylar being used is that drastically different. Or perhaps the collar of Evans is having an effect. Evans definitely sound the most tame and muted.
 

Old Dog new Cans

Senior Member
I respect the time and effort they put into creating that video, but I can't help but question their methodology. It's exceedingly clear that Remo, Evans, and Aquarian heads produce drastically different pitches when tensioned to the same level, which makes all of the Evans heads sound cranked, all of the Aquarian heads sound ridiculously flabby, and Remo right in the middle.

Once they realized they were getting such different results from brand to brand I think the more reasonable approach would have been to tune all heads to the same pitch.
I agree. Tuning the head the best way each head should be tuned in order to produce a most pleasing sound, would make more sense. But I've seen slightly similar results with heads I've purchased this year. I've tried heads from all 3 companies, after being out of drumming for 15 years, I wasn't going to confine myself to Remo. BUT, I still like their heads the best. The Evans G2s have really impressed me on my PDP M5s.

It's definitely subjective.
 

markdrumz

Junior Member
From another angle that hasn’t been mentioned yet—trying to get a particular sound that is on a recording can be a real challenge. Major label recordings are done in very controlled surroundings, using mics that often color the sound. Add on compression, gating, spatial effects and lots of equalization and what you hear isn’t what the drum would sound like sitting behind it using just your ears. So many variables.... my approach has always been to let the drum ring a bit more than I’d like from behind the kit, and to tune up the drum until the pitch seems a bit too high—that will crack and carry over the band. Wear some earplugs and if the rest of the band seems to flinch every time you hit that rim shot backbeat, maybe back off a little.
 

Winston_Wolf

Platinum Member
I thought they tuned to the same tension. That should come in the same ballpark for pitch, on the same snare drum.
That it doesn't must mean the mylar being used is that drastically different. Or perhaps the collar of Evans is having an effect. Evans definitely sound the most tame and muted.
I would have thought identical tension would have gotten each head into the same ballpark too, but it really wasn't the case on the video. It's well known that Evans uses a different film from Remo, though I'm not sure about what Aquarian uses. I think the difference in sound is mostly from the collar design and depth, which is quite different from brand to brand.
 
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