Tell me about plies

Red Menace

Platinum Member
I'm sure Andy will chime in with a more scientific response but in my experience a thicker or multi ply shell will have less tuning range and a more focused sound. Much like putting die cast hoops on a snare. They're great for what Andy calls a "Crack monster" snare. I actually have a thick birch ply snare with die cast that I break out for louder rock gigs but I just sounds like crap at lower tunings. I won't be taking it to a Jazz gig anytime soon.

EDIT: Projection and volume (or at least the impression of more volume) yes. Increased sensitivity? That's a load of crap.
 

bobdadruma

Platinum Member
There is a balance that has to be achieved Red.
There is a fine line between volume and projection.
There is also what I call, "The Soul Factor".
The snare can't be too poppy or it can't be heartfelt.
Snare drums with thinner shells allow the drummer to control the tone of the drum. Super thick shelled snare drums dictate the sound all by themselves.
 

Red Menace

Platinum Member
You're preaching to the choir with me there Bob. Everything I own is either custom or vintage. There is no shortage of "Soul" in my snare collection.

You may not have the need for a thicker ply snare but a rock drummer might. I will add though that a 40 ply snare is just silly though. You have essentially created a very heavy and expensive 13" snare. If you want a very thick snare with character, just go with a stave shell.
 

bobdadruma

Platinum Member
You're preaching to the choir with me there Bob. Everything I own is either custom or vintage. There is no shortage of "Soul" in my snare collection.

You may not have the need for a thicker ply snare but a rock drummer might. I will add though that a 40 ply snare is just silly though. You have essentially created a very heavy and expensive 13" snare. If you want a very thick snare with character, just go with a stave shell.
I agree, when I want that sound, I break out my 13" Black Panther Maple with the crack of ten whips and the fullness of a thunderclap.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
I wanted to start another thread about plies, but figure I'd better not push it. I'll just ask it here.

Given the above information about plies, why is it that it seems just the opposite applies when it comes to snares?
Multiple ply snares seem to be pretty popular.

This place: http://www.drumgearonline.com/multiply2.html

sells 20, 30 , 40, and 50 ply snare shells.

They give an explanation, but it doesn't jive with what's here.
The text says "The more the plies, the more the sound potential. 6, 8 and 10 ply shells can't offer the same high pitches and volume that 20+ multi-ply shells offer".

let's break that down. First up, define "sound potential". Could mean anything. If they're suggesting tonal range, low overtones (make your drum sound fat), etc, then that's just wrong. If by "sound potential" they mean amplitude/volume, then they're correct. In terms of their pitch statement, that's correct, given all other elements are equal, but there's many ways of adjusting pitch range. A 20 ply shell is extremely rigid, & if you just think about rigidity, their claims fall in line with my first post here, just at the extreme end of the spectrum.

Bottom line is this. A 20 + + ply shell offers a very limited sound palate. Bob said it just right, the snare dictates the sound. They're a one trick pony. That's fine if you want biting highs, a fairly limited effective tuning range (i.e. high or very high), something that chokes easily, & is typically prone to errant high overtones. Essentially a very one dimensional instrument that's focussed. The claim about increased sensitivity is also true. That's because there's no flex in the shell, & input from the batter head is more efficiently transferred to the reso head via the air column. Stave is just as sensitive, even in thick shell form, but it achieves that sensitivity more by transfer through the un-interrupted vertical grain of the shell than by only air column. In thin wall constructions, stave retains that sensitivity but delivers all the lower overtones & much stronger species fundamental than a multiple ply shell. In a 20 + ply shell, the wood species becomes close to irrelevant, outside of it's overall mass & inner surface hardness.

My personal view = they're a poor man's thick stave drum, with most of the character removed. Same with any thick "solid" drum made by compressing the wood longitudinally under high pressure so it bends readily. A rich man's stave drum with most of the character removed. I said that's my personal Andy POV, but I still expect to be flamed over it.
 

porter

Platinum Member
Stave is just as sensitive, even in thick shell form, but it achieves that sensitivity more by transfer through the un-interrupted vertical grain of the shell than by only air column. In thin wall constructions, stave retains that sensitivity but delivers all the lower overtones & much stronger species fundamental than a multiple ply shell.
Having owned a stave Padauk snare for maybe almost two years now, I'm nodding like a drinking bird over here :)
 

CraigG

Senior Member
That said, it's what the glue is used to achieve that does have a big affect. Ply shells get their strength from preventing one layer from sliding against another, hence it's origins in the construction industry. The glue bond area is massive, & thus very effective in that regard.
Andy.
^^^
This
in my humble opinion, you can borrow some info regarding acoustic guitar construction. The high end acoustic guitars (generally) use a hide glue. A lot of "modern" construction techniques today use the Titebond type glues. In a later post Andy refers to "vintage" drums and their quality sound. I believe, as in quality vintage acoustic guitars, there is a reason they sound better with age and the glue used is one reason (also quality woods)
just my 2 cents
 
T

The SunDog

Guest
Mass greatly affects the pitch of a drum (or cymbal for that matter). Increase the mass and you will raise the pitch. Thick heavy cymbals are higher and brighter than thinner lower mass cymbals which are generally darker and drums act the same way. So i would think a three ply 1/4" shell would be less dense than a six ply 1/4" shell and therefore have less mass making its fundamental lower. In the super thick snare drums the shell excites so fast and with such short frequencies that it essentially acts like a metal shell only warmer. Another aspect that affects pitch is tension, so grain orientation counts. Bend a thin piece of plywood with the grain horizontal and the tension will increase causing the pitch to rise. Bend that same ply with the grain vertical and it will be floppy with little tension and a much lower pitch. So the number of vertical plies can radically affect a drums fundamental.
 
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