Drummers who have an ear for tone and desire multiple options when playing live or recording in the studio know that a drum’s tone is dependent not only on its material, but on how that material is made into a drum. Metal snare drums offer entirely different tonal options than wood, and builders utilize different methods of making these drums. There are three main types of metal drum shell construction: welded, hand-spun, and cast.
Rolled or welded metal shells are rolled into shape and welded together along seam inside the drum shell. This is a fairly efficient and low-intensity process, meaning that welded metal drums can be mass produced and have a relatively low cost to the end customer. The trade-off here is that the seams of these drums do disrupt some of the airflow and shell vibration inside the drum, resulting in a tone that isn’t quite as full-bodied and rich as you can find in a seamless metal drum. Still, welded drums are a fantastic option for budget-conscious drummers looking for a workhorse drum.
Seamless, hand-spun snares are a step up from their welded cousins. Sheets of metal are placed on a rotating machine which stretches and forms the metal over a mold, resulting in a solid, seamless shell. Drums that are seamless tend to have a fuller, more defined fundamental note with a wider tonal range.
Cast metal shells represent the most labor-intensive method of snare drum construction. Similar to the cymbal-making process, this process begins when factory workers pour molten metal into a drum-shape cast. Once the metal cools, a roughly drum-shaped hunk of metal is leftover. At this point, the drum is put on a lathe where a craftsman carefully shaves away layers of metal until the drum arrives at the appropriate thickness. The most popular shell thickness for cast drums is 3mm, which results in a projective, full-bodied note. Because the process of building cast metal shells is so involved, these drums typically cost upwards of $800 dollars, if not more.
Welded, hand-spun, and cast metal snare drums all provide different tonal responses for drummers shopping in different price-points. Welded and hand-spun snares are the trusty utility drums, and cast snares are for the heavy-hitter looking for plenty of body and attack. Of course, these words only hold meaning once you can get your hands on a drum and try it out, so get in touch with us to learn how you can experience the differences between these drums.