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  • Writer's pictureNathan Coles

Celebrating 20 Years with the Multisonic

20 Years ago, Black Swamp debuted the Multisonic Snare System - a game changer for the orchestral snare drum.


The Multisonic Strainer System is a strainer system that allows you to add and subtract different types of cables and wires from your snare drum to achieve different sound timbres from a single drum



 

History & Design

Stroll down memory lane with Eric Sooy, BSP founder and Multisonic designer. Learn about Eric's inspiration and creativity which led to the development of this World Class snare system.

Early Inspiration:



The Multisonic strainer system was developed over years of trial, error, and innovation. The first instance of inspiration can be traced to Eric's first ever snare drum; the Ludwig super sensitive. This particular drum had a parallel system where each individual strand had its own separate tension adjustment. Lots to fiddle with!


Another drum that was a point of inspiration was the Ludwig Twin Parallel. This strainer system had two throw-off levers each with with its own snare system under the head. This allowed the player to engage these snare units independent of one another. This shows the inventive engineering that put Ludwig ahead of their time.




Clevelander Drum Company came out with a drum that featured a system developed by Tom Freer (Cleveland Orchestra assistant timpanist and percussionist) featuring three different types of snare wire that were all connected to one single throw-off unit. All 3 units would engage and disengage with the throw of the system but there was little ability to fine tune these cable units individually. Later iterations of this drum allowed for easier tension adjustment of these separate cables. The benefit of which would allow specific cable materials to respond best at their dynamic range where they're active. For instance; curly wire needs to be looser than any coated cable unit to increase your dynamic range. Allowing each separately tensioned cable to activate at their appropriate dynamic level.


With this rich history of unique concert snare drums, Eric started thinking about independent snare systems that featured different snare units: thick cable, thin cable, curly wire, guitar strand, and others. The possibilities were truly endless. But the time had finally come for Eric and Black Swamp Percussion to start making concert snare drums. And with that came Black Swamp's first multi-timbral snare system: The SoundArt Trio Strainer.


The SoundArt Trio Strainer


The intent behind the SoundArt System was to blend simplicity with versatility. The simplicity was found in the single throw-off at the top of the system. All cables would engage and disengage with the throw-off the lever. The versatility lies with each snare unit having their own tension adjustment knob. This mechanic would allow players to fine tune each cable to their liking and broaden the dynamic range of the instrument.

"I'm always very specific in that I didn't come up with a lot of these ideas of multiple systems or individual adjustment or things like that. I just put my own spin on them, re-realized them in a different form factor." - Eric Sooy

As the popularity of the SoundArt snare drums began to increase, so did the demand for even more flexibility and customization of the snare system. Could individual cables be disengaged? Not on these system. But that got Eric thinking..."how would that work?"

The interest in adding and subtracting cables from the resonant head would provide a diverse palette of sounds and timbres if properly executed. However, if you want to subtract something you got to add something. Having too few cables on the resonant side of the drum would leave the instrument sounding thin or hollow. But in turn, having too many snare wire units on the resonant head would choke out the sound. This is where the inspiration of five separate snare systems came to be.


Making the Multisonic


The idea of a 5 units snare system started a good two years before the actual first solid prototype was made. The system was more of a pet project to Eric than an actual product in its early iterations. Black Swamp was growing as a business; tambourines, timpani mallets, and snare drums were the bread and butter of the company at this time and developing this complex 5 unit snare system was a slow burning project.

"I hear people talk about market saturation; 'there's no more ideas, everything's been thought of'. I don't buy into that, at all. I think there's always room for improvement [and] there's always going to be something that comes out that's going to meet someone's need or it's going to meet a new need that hasn't been there before. Someone's going to find that, design it, create it, and people are going to respond to it. But of course... that's that's the hard thing." - Eric Sooy

Creating such a strainer would require a large amount of creative engineering to fit such a complex system onto the shell of a snare drum. The first of these hurtles to jump was the issue of width. If this snare strainer system were to feature not three, but five, individual snare units, it would need to be housed in something slim and narrow. Getting each strainer unit moving independently (and silently!) of one another in a very constrained space was a huge challenge and required a lot of time and thought to shrink down a system that resembled the previous SoundArt Trio Strainer but expanded on it in new ways.


The Multisonic Strainer System never had any plastic or wooden prototypes made before the final product. During the time of its conception, Eric was not versed in CAD or computer-aided design. Every part of the Multisonic design was hand drawn on graph paper. These sketches were the only vision of this invention before it was arranged to be machined.


Now 20 years later (as of 2022) the Multisonic remains one of the flagship snare drums manufactured by Black Swamp Percussion.


 

Multisonic Commission Project


In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Multisonic snare system. we commissioned several Black Swamp artists to compose snare drum solos that featured and highlighted the versatility and sonic possibilities of the Multisonic snare system.

Gerardo Capaldo, Andrea Venet, and Adam Hopper wrote three fantastic snare drum solos that showcase the Multisonic system.




"The title is a latin pronunciation of my homeland name, which inspired me to draw the entire piece up. I’d like to preface that my configuration changes are neither mandatory nor the only way to achieve the best execution of this solo. So, my advice is: have fun experimenting all the possible combinations and find your favorites."


This solo features the 5" x 14" Ply-Maple Multisonic snare drum in a concert black gloss finish. You can find more info on the drum here.

 



Kamelion opens with a lyrical theme (inspired by a melodic melody) which is the basis for variations, and is transformed continually into different musical colors. Each variation is highlighted by distinct timbral configurations generated by different snare combinations.






This solo features a 6.5" x 14" Ply-Maple Multisonic snare drum. You can find more info on the snare drum, here.

 


Borrow or Rob is a piece for solo snare and electronics. The soundscape created on the electronic platform begins with an off kilter ostinato pattern that allows the performer to play within the space. As the piece progresses, the snare performer is called upon to provide different sounds and tonal options. There are multiple times that the different snare options are utilized.





This solo features a 5" x 14" Unibody Birdseye Maple Multisonic snare drum. You can find more information on this drum, here.

 

Educational Resources


Black Swamp has curated a plethora of educational and performance content around the Multisonic strainer system. Below you find additional resources to help you expand your understanding of this instrument.





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