Every drummer knows that picking the right snare for the job can be a confusing and often times, time-consuming task. To the contrary, a seasoned drum tech knows exactly what works in every situation. In this instalment of tech tips, veteran crewmember to the stars, Yard explains what it takes to make that all-important selection, then make it sing.
EDGE: Metal or wood?
Yard: It’s not my call unless I am asked. In most cases, the producer/engineer and drummer will usually decide on this in advance. Ultimately my job is to realise the sound that’s in their heads.
I’ll even play the kit for the engineer until the sound is achieved, so the drummer is still fresh for the track.
EDGE: What’s the best way to decide on the right head combination?
Yard: For most drummers, this tends to be all trial and error. From a very early age, drummers discover a combination of sounds that they mimic from their favorite records and from their favorite drummers. For that reason, every drummer wants to hear something different. I like to show up at a session with a 40-foot trailer full of snares and hand pick the right sound for the room. Now, to answer the question at hand, for most 5×14” snares, a combination of Remo Coated Powerstroke3 or Ambassador batter on top and a Diplomat snare bottom will suffice for studios. That’s Steve Gadd’s favorite choice.
On Vintage kits we use Aquarian American Vintage top & bottom or Remo Coated Ambassadors.
For live work, I steal all the great work Mick Hinton did for John Bonham. That’s a CS Smooth White Reverse Dot with 40 strand wires — you’ll never ever beat that sound.
EDGE: Is a drop-style throw-off or side-to-side better?
Yard: It depends upon the drum, but I do like the drop-style for most applications.
EDGE: How about miking?
Yard: I am the village idiot when it comes to technology, so I leave it to the sound crew to decide. After all those years of reading manuals on the bus, they need an outlet to relieve the pressure on their brains. Generally, I try not to meddle too much in other people’s specialties.
EDGE: How often do you use vintage snares?
Yard: We use vintage snares for all of our studio work. We’ve found that they’re easy to tune and are pretty consistent in recreating the sound required for any session.
We have a huge selection of snares, but our standard studio selection is a mix of both metal and wood standards from some of the better-known American drum companies of the day. Tuned high or low, they all sound great.
EDGE: How much does size matter?
Yard: In the studio, a 5.5×14” should suffice with a piccolo for the odd whack!
EDGE: What’s your take on bearing edges and snare beds?
Yard: Now this is the most important area of any drum because if these are badly machined, you may as well record the box that your take-out came in! We strip and overhaul all of our snares and check them for “true” on our cast iron saw bed in our very own woodshop. This ensures that the snare is flat and that the bearing edges are true. Also, we don’t want any flat spots prior to re-heading and tuning. That would be a terrible waste of time. As for bearing edges, I prefer a 35-degree cut for a drier sound. The snare bed should suit the snares that you are using, or you will choke the drum.
If you prefer, use a metal drum for more ring.
EDGE: What do you think of flanged hoops vs. die-cast?
Yard: Flanged hoops for me!
Yard Gavrilovic is the owner of The Vintage DrumYard (www.vintagedrumyard.co.uk) in the United Kingdom, and along with his five sons has been a regular crew member for Eric Clapton, The Who, Cream, Annie Lennox, Eurythmics, Paul Simon, George Michael, Natalie Imbruglia and has also maintained a long association with drummers, such as Zak Starkey, Steve Gadd, Ginger Baker, Jim Keltner, Henry Spinetti, Steve Barney, Steve Ferrone, Paulinho da Costa, Ricky Lawson, Jodie Linscott, Danny Cummings, Carlos Hercules, Jerry Brown, Thomas Dyani and many more. His family are currently covering tours with The Who, George Michael and Orson.
Reprinted by kind permission from The Edge Magazine.