The Art of snare drum building is thriving. There were 22 drum badges from the largest manufacturers, established independent builders, and the builders new to the scene. The art and science of custom drum building has become big business over the past few years so there was some stiff competition.
The History The SDO started in 1998 and was fast becoming an institution in the industry with drum companies featuring their awards prominently in their advertising, but the event stopped in 2003 when NSMD publisher John Aldridge postponed the contest indefinitely due to his move to Oklahoma. I revived it in 2009 at the Southern Drum Show – now known as the Nashville Drum Show. It has grown to the point that a separate website was needed.
The Judging The drums are judged by comparing similar shell material and shell construction types- metal, plywood, single ply steam bent wood, segmented wood (block, stave, etc.), synthetic, and combination of materials shells.
We requested that the manufacturers tune their drums. Head and snare wires selection were also left entirely up to the manufacturers though we did recommend using a medium weight single ply coated head. Drums will detune in transit so all the drums were checked for detuning just before the judging. The rule of thumb was to tighten any heads that seemed too loose due to shipping but we did not loosen any heads, deferring to the manufacturer’s sense of what each drum’s best pitch should be. We also stopped during the blind judging if we felt that a drum was not in tune, tweaked it, then started the audition over.
In the objective blind judging the drums were played behind the judge’s backs for two to three minutes each, using the same series of rudiments, patterns and beats on each drum as the judges voted from 1 to 10 on five criteria; sensitivity, tone quality, dynamic range, rim sounds, and blend of the drum with the drum kit. The judge had no idea of the manufacturer or model of the drum and could not see it. They were told the sequence number of the drum, and what the shell construction was. Otherwise the only thing they had to go on was their ears. A perfect score of 50 from each judge would equal a total score of 250.
The subjective judging was the “hands on” part of the process where each judge saw, touched and played each drum, judging on the five criteria of appearance, tone quality, response, desirability and overall impression. The judges took a lot of time with each drum and had very animated and in depth discussions about each drum’s attributes. Though some of these judges have endorsements from major drum companies they were very impartial in their judging. Again, a perfect score of 50 from each judge would equal a total score of 250.
The cumulative score is the total of the subject and blind scores with the highest possible cumulative score being 500. The cumulative score is the score printed on the certificate of award given to the companies for each drum submitted.
The public judging took place during the two days of the Nashville Drum Show before the blind and subjective judging. All the drums were displayed and any one at the show could play the drums and choose their three top favorites. The public judging was sponsored by Innovation Percussion who supplied drum sticks for the event. Also thanks to Pearl Drums for supplying the snare drum stands.
The results; There is an inherent problem in holding a “contest” to compare musical instruments. Just as music is not a contest, the sound of an instrument is such a personal, subjective thing that no criteria for judging could ever be considered accurate. If you think that an instrument should be judged on sound alone then the blind judging results will mean more to you. But one must admit that drummers on the whole are very hung up on the visual aspect and the tactile element of their instruments, so the subjective rankings of the expert judges and the man on the street public judging will speak to this part of what makes the “best” snare drum among these particular drums. The cumulative score of the blind and subjective event will of course be the best of both rankings and can be considered a complete assessment of how each drum was judged. If you think the results are superfluous and trust only your ears, please go to the website or direct to our YouTube channel where a video and audio of each drum being played for the blind judging is at your disposal. We agree that no one can empirically claim to have the best snare drum, but these awards have affected sales and advertising in the past - and we are proud of that. We have tried to be fair. As John Aldridge stated in the first snare drum olympics, the main reason for this event is to bring the newest crème de la crème of snare drums together – a bunch of really cool drums all in one room – and what I came away with from this whole event was that nothing can make drummers act like kids on Christmas morning than 28 brand new snare drums to play with!
Thank you to our 2014 participants:
David Lee Drums Chicago Drum Infinity Drumworks DTS Custom Snare Drums Taye Drums Hayward Custom Drums Hogchain Custom Drums Klemm Drums Rasch Drums Guru Drums Holloman Custom Drums Artisan Drum Works Swindoll Custom Drums Goodman Drum Company Castle Drum Company Laudo Drums Outlaw Drums Gretsch Drums Pearl Drums Eccentric Systems Drums Bello Drums Furcinitti Custom Drums RotodruM