I want to attempt an informal survey of the orchestral percussion community regarding the use of small (3.5 inches or shallower) snare drums that has become so prevalent in the past five or so years, especially in auditions. For even the softest repertoire, the “frisbee” drums like this I see and hear people playing in auditions I would never use in an orchestra unless a piccolo snare were specifically called for. Yes, they are sensitive. Yes, they are clear. Yes, they are soft – We’re always striving to play more clearly and more softly than the next person. The problem I have is that they also sound small – they are small – and for most of the standard snare drum repertoire I can think of, that doesn't strike me as the most musically appropriate sound.
So ... To all of you out there reading this, I want to hear from you! I have specific questions for different groups of people, but any and all comments are welcome. Please comment in the comment thread and tell us a little about yourself or, if you prefer, you can contact me privately via email. THANK YOU!
ORCHESTRAL PERCUSSIONISTS WHO HAVE WON JOBS: What was the smallest snare drum that you used in your audition? Did you use a smaller drum in your audition for repertoire that you would normally perform on a larger drum? Have you performed some of that repertoire since? What changes did you make, if any and what were the results? Do you currently use a small drum in performance of standard repertoire? Has it ever drawn criticism from the podium? Have you ever moved to a smaller drum from a larger drum solely to satisfy the dynamic demands of a conductor?
ANY MUSICIAN (INCLUDING CONDUCTORS) WHO HAS EVER SAT ON A PERCUSSION AUDITION PANEL: Have you ever felt that a candidate played snare drum too softly for the softest repertoire? (Bolero, Scheherazade Mvt. III, Schuman Symphony No. 3, etc.) Have you ever felt that a candidate played with the wrong sound for a piece even though it was impressively soft? If so, did that work against the candidate? Does the dynamic consideration trump all other factors (i.e. timbre, phrasing choices, etc.) for you? How much do you notice variations in sound, color, etc. on snare drum and how much does it affect your opinion of the player?
CONDUCTORS: Have you ever been in a rehearsal or performance situation where you felt that the snare drum sound in the softest repertoire was too small or didn’t have the right timbre to your ears even though it was the right dynamic? Did you ask the player to change? Or is the problem always that it’s too loud?
ORCHESTRAL PERCUSSIONISTS CURRENTLY MAKING THEIR WAY THROUGH THE AUDITION WORLD: Do you use a small drum? If so, why? Is it because that’s what everybody else uses? Is it because it’s easier to play softly? Does it produce the sound you believe to be appropriate for the softest repertoire?