Beier steel snare drum

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Beier 15″ Steel Snare Drums

Vibrant and versatile with supreme clarity and a full range of tones.

by Michael Dawson

There’s been a bit of buzz building around the snares coming from Jim Beier’s shop in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. Blue Öyster Cult’s Jules Radino, Olivia Newton-John’s Mark Beckett, and Charlie Daniels’ Pat McDonald have been using them live, and Nashville session ace Tommy Harden has been singing Beier’s praises in the studio. (I first became aware of Beier’s handiwork from following Harden’s posts on Instagram.)

The premise behind Beier drums, according to Jim, is to provide “a traditional, classic-looking line of drums that are a go-to workhorse for players.” The focus is on the sound first, and Beier goes to great lengths to ensure that every drum in a particular size sounds identical. Jim manually rolls and welds the shells, and he cuts the snare beds himself. The final finishing process is outsourced, but everything else is done in-house, including the engraving on the company’s bridge-style lugs. “I’m a one-man show, and I even haul my own steel,” says Jim. “I wanted to do this old-school with a bunch of hand tools, and it’s the only way I’ll ever do it.”

While Beier offers snares in several different sizes, it’s the 15″ versions that are capturing the most inquiries and praise. Jim started making 15″ snares in 2010, based on his infatuation with vintage American-made drums of that size. “The 15″ was always a standout for me,” he says. We were sent two 15″ Beier drums to review, one that’s 4″ deep and one that’s 5.5″. Let’s check them out!

Beier steel snare drum black

4×15
The 4×15 Beier snare was conceptualized by touring/session drummer Mark Beckett. The drum features a 1.5mm rolled-steel shell, eight tube lugs, a gloss-white finish, and a Gibraltar piccolo throw-off. There’s something pretty magical about this drum. It sounds fatter and fuller than a typical 4×14 piccolo, yet it retains the immediate response and sensitivity you’d expect from such a shallow shell. The overtones are plentiful but musical, and they’re easily controlled via tuning or applying minor amounts of muffling.

Medium tuning produced an incredible singing tone that worked great for an all-purpose sound, especially in the recording studio. Tighter tunings brought out more snap without choking the body of the tone. Lower tunings sounded extra-fat and fluffy, but the drum remained crisp and articulate throughout. No wonder this model is showing up in Nashville studios; it’s a true workhorse.

5.5×15
The 5.5×15 Beier is also rolled from 1.5mm steel, but it features a textured black finish, hand-engraved bridge-style lugs, and a Dunnet R7 three-point throw-off. From a strictly sonic perspective, this version was my favorite of the two. The extra depth made it sound a bit fatter, and it had a bigger and more powerful tone that I could feel throughout my body as I hit it.

The overtones are a bit brighter and more prominent on the 5.5×15 version, especially at higher tunings, which is advantageous when trying to cut through loud but unmiked gigs. A touch of muffling might be required when using this drum with close mics in the studio. But the overtones it produced were very pure, and they didn’t ring out for too long. If you’re careful with the tuning you could take advantage of the overtones to make the snare sit perfectly within the mix.

I loved how balanced and full this snare sounded when tuned to a medium tension. That would be my starting point for any backbeat-oriented gig. It also excelled at low tunings for smacking classic-rock sounds, and its super-low voice is so fat it’s ridiculous.

It’s a good thing these snares are reasonably priced; you’re probably going to want them both.

Tech Specs
Shells: 1.5mm steel
Sizes: 4×15 and 5.5×15
Lugs: tube and etched bridge-style
Hoops: 2.3mm triple-flange steel
Wires: 20-strand snappy
Finishes: gloss white and textured black
Drumheads: Remo Coated CS batters and Hazy Ambassador bottoms
Prices: $535 (4×15) and $495 (5.5×15)