Everyone knows Gretsch drums. If you don’t, you probably should. Combing a rich history with that ‘Gretsch Sound’ they’re still one of the leading forces in drum manufacturing. When I got thrown a snare drum to try I was naturally already interested, but when I took a frankly monstrous looking 14x8” beast out of the box, I was a little taken aback. It’s called the Gretsch Swamp Dawg and it’s a bit of a character.
The Swamp Dawg is a new addition to the Gretsch line of gold series drums. You’re looking at a 14-inch diameter drum with a massive 8-inch depth. It’s the depth that first catches your eye and if you’ve never had a crack at an 8-inch deep drum, you’re missing out - if it sits low enough on your snare stand that is. Features on this drum include a 6-Ply mahogany shell with 30-degree bearing edges - slightly rounder than your standard 45-degree. Hardware includes 2.3mm triple-flanged hoops, eight chrome tube lugs and a fully adjustable throw off with a fixed buttplate. The fun doesn’t end there. This particular drum has a Remo Coated Emperor fitted and the kicker is the massive 42-strand snare wires underneath. And of course, you get eight inches depth. Did I mention this already? The Mahogany shell is wonderfully simple in its appearance with a natural dark wood grain look complemented by the slim tube style lugs and a great, inoffensive, gold Gretsch badge. Lovely.
You would be thinking that this drum can produce fat tones and you’d be right. Tuned lower - as is realistically intended - the Swamp Dawg gets down and dirty. You can get a real thud out of it but the 8-lug set up does mean you need to be a little careful with the tuning as one lug makes a big difference. However, with or without a little dampening, there’s a very desirable sound available. Joe Mazza from Gretsch states that this snare can give a, “throaty, low-fi timbre, reminiscent of historic recordings from the seventies…” I would agree with him here. There’s an instant desire to tune lower with this drum and go for that fat, open and ‘slushy’ vibe. And it’ll happily accommodate.
Having said this, the drum responds really well across the whole tuning range providing a good blend of depth and cut at mid-range tunings and more of crack when up high. Crucially though, the presence of depth is always there. As mentioned, I just had to be mindful of the tuning to get the best out of it and whilst a tight resonant head is the go, going slightly looser was often good too. Another noticeable feature is the level of sensitivity from this snare. The massive 42-strand wires add to the crisp/cut available and also keep things in check when down low, but they do provide response at softer volumes and velocities. It’s a welcome feature.
Overall, the Swamp Dawg is a lovely thing and it’s a unique prospective for any drummer to have in their arsenal. There’s no doubt this drum would record well and on a live gig, there’s options to be had due to the tuning range. If you had mics, really low, wide and “swampy” (pun intended) would be awesome and it would make for an exceptional secondary snare drum in this manner. Un-mic’d, you could tune a little higher to get some more cut and use it as your primary snare. You could also experiment with levels of dampening, but wide open with some degree of overtones is still a great sound and it yields more volume this way so less dampening is probably a good thing. This depends on your taste of course.
There’s a high level of craftsmanship and quality to the drum overall and as mentioned, an enticement to want to play it as soon as you see it. It’s not a really heavy drum, so living with it on a daily basis would be fine. You’d need to make sure your snare stand could cater/go low enough for the extra depth. It won’t suit every single situation but I can think of many applications for a snare like this. Check out the Swamp Dawg. It’s a ripper.
Hits and Misses
Great craftsmanship with quality fittings and a simplistic, natural but elegant look
Wide tuning range
Sensitivity from larger snare wires
Eight lug set up means you need to be a little more careful with the tuning overall
Some players might need a lower snare stand