A great drum sound

Playing the drums is one of the things I enjoy most in my life.  But something I also really enjoy is listening to great playing and there’s no doubt that the incredible sound of a well-set up drum or drum section is one of the coolest things to listen to.  For me, there is something truly special when a pipe band drum section is well set-up and the playing is locked in: the combination of the “crack” off the snare drums combined with the “punch” off the bottom heads is truly engaging.

While the sound is awesome to listen to, it isn’t achieved without a lot of work!  There are currently four companies that manufacture pipe band-style drums: Premier Percussion, Pearl Drums, Andante Drums, and the British Drum Company.  While I have played Pearl and Premier drums before, currently I am playing Andante drums with the City of Dunedin Pipe Band.  The Andante snare drum has a free-floating shell, which allows for very high tension on the top head and aids in projection of the drum’s tone.  One of the features of this drum is that it has 20 lugs or screws on the top head rim.  The theory here is that this allows the head to be more evenly tensioned, making it easier to get a high tension, without causing too much stress on the head.  Earlier this summer, I was responsible for setting up 22 snare drums for the City of Dunedin Pipe band to get ready for travel to compete at the Chicago Highland Games–and that was a lot of time to get new top and bottom heads on all of those drums!  Typically, you can expect heads to last about a year, or so.

For the bottom head, we play a Remo Hazy Ambassador snare head, which seems to have just the right balance between being able to get a bright pitch off the drum while also being able to hold that pitch.  There are thinner heads that are able to get a higher pitch, but those heads stretch so much they struggle to maintain the tension for very long.  Thicker heads offer a bit more “punch” to the sound, but are known to break before getting to the desired pitch that is expected in a modern pipe band drum sound.  The bottom snare is an external wire snare that rests on the bottom head and can be adjusted for height and tension to ensure an ideal contact with the bottom head.

The top head used is the Andante Cor-tec Elite head, which is a wolven kevlar head with a thin white plastic covering on the top.  This covering helps protect the head from rain water and also helps add a bit of thickness to the head which gives the Andante drums a little more projection in a pipe band performance.  The drum also features an internal top snare, which is a standard with pipe band drums.  This wire snare can also be adjusted for desired height and tension to allow corps and players to create their own unique drum sound.

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