2012 Lawton Drum Company

Placement of air vent hole

Q: How important is the placement of the air vent hole on a wood drum? I've seen them on older snares in the middle of the shell. By moving the hole up or down toward the bearing edge, will this change the sound, sensitivity or attack of the snare? Also, what effect does not having a vent hole have on a drum?

A: The air vent, or percussion hole, has been a standard feature on most snare drums for hundreds of years. The main function of the vent hole is to simply provide a passageway for air to escape while the drum is being played. As the batter head is struck, the head surface depresses slightly, which sets the air inside the drum in motion. Since it is a downward motion, you might think that the vent would be more effective near the bottom of the shell. However, the air will escape regardless of the vent location. Many manufacturers placed the vent in the center of the shell because they wanted the badge and grommet to be centered in the drum. The location of the vent hole won't have a significant effect on the sound, sensitivity, or attack of the drum. More importantly are the sound waves that are generated by an impact on the batter head, which cause the heads to vibrate, the shell to resonate, and the snares to respond to the vibration of the bottom head. The type of heads, type and thickness of shell, and quality of snare wires are going to determine the drum's sound, sensitivity and attack.
As far as the effect of having no vent hole, I plugged the vents of several wood shell snare drums, using a tapered wooden dowel. I thought they might sound stuffy or be less responsive, but there was no real noticeable difference.