In a follow-up to February, Fox Music House comes through again with a client referral. This time, using the client's acquired shell and doing a custom ground-up build. The client had a firm budget and a desire to replicate the famous Ludwig Black Beauty snare drum. Working musicians often are on a budget. So this was an adventure to "try" to create the look and sound of a historic masterpiece, like the Ludwig Black Beauty, but do so for about half the price. Challenge accepted.
I started with the client-supplied Peace nickel-over-brass snare drum shell. It came to me in ok condition ... it was missing six of the 10 lug casings, had no rims, no heads, no throwoff, no butt end, no snare. Basically, it was a used blank slate.
The first thing I noticed, and a major difference between the Peace shell and the Ludwig Black Beauty shell, is a seam. The Peace shell clearly showed a seam. I know most of you know the Ludwig Black Beauty shell is seamless brass.
I had a lot fun with this project, balancing the client's desire for a show piece with the ability to produce a finished snare drum that could attempt to hold its own, on its own. The biggest concession I had to make on this drum was the throwoff. In a strangely odd series of several attempts, the only throwoff that would wok on this drum was a simple Pearl snare strainer. I was disappointed and my client understood.
I tried everything from a Ludwig P-88 to a Dunnet R4L, to a Trick, to a DW to some generic Gibraltar strainers ... in the end, without having to drill new holes in the snare, the Pearl was the only option outside custom crafting and elevating the cost beyond budget. So we went with it.
The build added 10 lug casings in an industrial tube lug style, die cast rims top and bottom, die cast butt plate, Aquarian Hi Velocity snare batter head and Aquarian snare side head, along with a Puresound CPB1420 snare.
The end result is a nickel-over-brass snare that sounds as good as it looks. If I was to do a side-by-side comparison, however ... I'd choose the Ludwig Black Beauty over this custom build. But for half the price of a Black Beauty!? C'mon, this Peace nickel-over-brass snare drum is a strong, professional quality drum with the right custom touches to make it stand out! It's tough to be honest on occasion. But, for obvious reasons, the real culprit here is the seamed brass shell, which is also thinner than the Ludwig seamless shell. It produces some overtones that are never present in the Ludwig and need to be tamed. I was able to tame these overtones using some moon gel though and adjusting the tuning tension across the batter and reso heads.
The takeaway is clear ... a budget of $350 will get you a nice, truly custom drum that resembles a Black Beauty. The custom snare can be tuned and tricked to produce a great-quality tone. A tone that is superior to many Asian made drums (and this is an Asian-made shell). However, it won't rise to the near-one-thousand-dollar snare drum that is a Ludwig Black Beauty. Pound for pound, in the $350 range, this is hands down a great drum. For a beautiful snare drum, better quality than most, the client was thrilled. And he has a near pro-level snare drum that will last him for as long as he needs...or until his budget can accommodate a higher end drum.
Take a look at the build.
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