Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Re-visioning the Snare Drum

It's somewhat ironic that the snare drum is the centre of a drummer's universe and yet it’s not often exploited for the rich assortment of sounds it can produce. Here’s a quick guide to some of what you can find in a well-adjusted snare drum, and where to find it.

The Rule of Thirds 
Think of the playing area as a target. The bulls-eye sounds the driest is and usually the loudest. The very middle of that region -- a spot about the size of a quarter (see Fig. 1 below) -- gives the fattest, driest sound. It’s also the least interesting, but move slightly off centre (Fig. 2) and the sound begins to liven up with lots of oomph and very little ring. The middle band of the target is your sweet zone (Fig. 3). Hit anywhere in that area and it will usually sound good, with a nice balance of volume, resonance and overtones. The majority of your playing will likely be in this zone

The region near the rim (Fig. 4) is the quietest and also the ringiest. It’s where we put tape and other stuff to control the ring. But ring can be a good thing -- this area is great for Latin type sounds.

That’s four potential sounds. But wait ... there's more!

Special Effects 
Stick Shot: This is not a rim shot. It’s when you put the bead of one stick on the drum and hit it with the other stick.

Cross Stick: This is not a rim shot either. It’s when you lay your stick across the drum and click one end of it on the rim. This can yield a lot of different sounds depending on where the stick meets the head, where you hit the rim, and whether the stick is butt first or tip first.

Rim Shot: There are three types of rim shot. The basic rim shot is played by striking the rim and the head at the same time, in this case, within the sweet zone (as in Fig. 3).

Gock Shot: This requires a bigger bite with the stick. Play a rim shot, but extend the tip of your stick past the mid-point of the drum for a very fat sound (Fig. 5).

Ping Shot: This is the one you hear a lot in Latin music. It’s a rim shot played in the outer third of the drum, producing a cutting, high-pitched, timbale-like sound (Fig. 6).

There are more possibilities, but this should be enough to get you started.