How to buy solid wood snare drums
Until the 1920s, most wood drums were made from a single plank, usually steam-bent into a circle and held in the round by internal reinforcing rings. Plywood was hailed as a godsend in the ‘30s - easier to work with, more stable and stronger.
Nowadays, single-ply shells are once again considered the ultimate by many. They do not have multiple layers of glue and cross-grains of timber to dampen the natural resonance of the wood, so you get the full timbre. A solid-shell drum pings and has a truer tone, its own special flavour.
The ultimate drum
Alternatives to ply include staves, like barrels, or stacked-up concentric segments, like sliced pineapple in a tin. Perhaps the ultimate drum is a solid shell carved out of a single massive block.
Although there’s still the fear that a stave shell might collapse and that single-ply shells may go out of round, such disasters are rare with the quality products produced these days.
Inevitably, non-ply Specialist drums are largely handmade and, therefore, expensive. The upside is that there is no limitation on the type of wood used - every exotic species you can think of has been tried at some time.
Next page: 5 best solid wood snare drums
Pacific SXE (Solid) Exotic
Surely the cheapest steam-bent solid maple shell snare available by a mile. The shell is 8mm thick and, unusually, there are no reinforcing rings. But the penetrating sound and the exotic finishes - tobacco burst over Birdseye maple, or charcoal fade over Kurillian birch - are dazzling.
Craviotto Ltd Edition Custom Solid Maple
In his youth Johnny Craviotto played drums for Ry Cooder, Captain Beefheart, Randy Newman and Neil Young before developing a passion for old drums. Over the past 20 years he’s become one of the world’s top specialist drum makers, supplying solid shells to DW and, now, his own company. Simply superb.
Noble And Cooley SS Maple
Back in the 1980s N&C championed the idea of making single-ply rock maple drums in America. The drums were a sensation, and still are. Solid brass tube lugs and throw-offs, patented nodal lug mounting, and now available in oak or cherry.
Brady Sheoak Block
The Australian Chris Brady uses indigenous Western desert hardwoods for his drums. Played by a who’s who of international drummers, his block shells are offered in 10 sizes and the Sheoak combines warmth with plenty of volume.
Noonan Solid Seamless Shell
Our top pick! Gary Noonan is a perfectionist who makes fabulous single-ply, solid and block drums. This beauty is carved from a single, solid lump of mahogany – it’s as pure as a drum shell gets, with incredible projection. Perfectly round, precise bearing edges, wide choice of hardware and plating.
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