Introduction: Foot Operated Snare Drum - an Adapter for Hi-hat Stand

This is a simple-to-build, inexpensive (assuming you already have a drum kit), road-tested mechanism which converts a regular hi-hat stand into an effective snare drum beater. It would be simple to adapt for cable hi-hat for more versatility.

I use it on a snare in conjunction with a kick drum - I've gigged with this setup consistently for the last 5 years, in duo
and trio situations playing electric bass (and sometimes tuba), from front bars to festivals, and it is a very reliable, musical, usable rig.

All foot-controlled snare solutions I've seen involve rigging a snare drum on it's side on the floor and playing with an adapted bass drum pedal. One thing I really like about this is that the snare is played in it's normal (horizontal) playing position - the snare wires are interacting properly with gravity, and the proper stick for the drum is hitting from the right angle to get the most out of the drum.

The dimensions of your drums and hardware may vary slightly from mine, so a couple of different measurements must be made, specific to your hardware. Additionally your hi-hat stand must be able to be adjusted so that it's top collar sits lower than the top of the snare drum.

Step 1: We're Building This

Step 2: You Will Need​

  • a hi-hat stand and a snare drum & stand
  • A drummer's multi clamp (a common piece of drum hardware). The simple, straight two-clamp variety. Around $25 from an instrument shop. Make sure it can fit on to your hi-hat stand, and that it's less than 100mm between the centre points of the double clamp (the example in pic 2 is 90mm).

  • A quality drumstick, no smaller than a 5B, which measures 0.595"x16.5". I like hickory.

  • A 200mm length of 22mm chromed steel 1mm pipe (curtain rod is what I used) or similar.

  • A steel "L" bracket. Find one from a hardware store, and cut it down if need be. A bracket 70x30x25w 4mm plate would be ideal.

  • 1 x 6mm×35mm bolt, 1 x 6mm×45mm cuphead bolt, 2 nuts, 2 Nyloc nuts, 5 washers. Needs to stay put.

  • A drill, preferably a drill press, 6mm drill bit, larger drill bit/step drill bit (depending on your clutch, around 11-12mm). A hacksaw, if needed, to cut pipe and/or bracket. A ruler. A set of calipers is a plus.
  • You will need to have a method to make parallel holes in thin cylindrical objects - I made my prototype stick with a hand drill by eye, and fluked it, but I wouldn't try it again. I always use a drill press, and I've described a jig I use later on.

Step 3: Take a Measurement of the Distance Between the Centre Points of the Double Clamp

This will be the distance between the two drilled holes on the drumstick handle.

Step 4: Drill Two Holes in the Drumstick Handle

  • Starting an inch in from the butt end of the stick, drill a 6mm hole perpendicular to the stick. Again, best done with some sort of drill press.
  • Drill the second hole at the clamp-width measurement away from the first. To ensure that it is parallel, I use a simple jig - a straight block of wood with a 6mm bolt stuck through it at a right angle. An alternative to the jig would be to clamp two or more sticks together to stop them rolling.
  • Tidy up any splinters around the hole edges

Step 5: Remove the Hi-hat Clutch and Measure the Outer Diameter of It's Shank

.....(the threaded centre pipe)

If you don't have calipers get a measurement by using a small clamp. Or two nuts on a bolt.

Step 6: Make a Bracket

    Find a suitable angle bracket - the best I've found so far for this has been a 200 x 250 x 25mm angle bracket in 4.5mm zinc-plated steel cut down to70 x 30 (pics 1&2)

    Drill a 6mm hole through the long part of the inverted "L" bracket, around 50 - 60mm from the bend, centrally.

        On the top end drill a hole the diameter of the clutch (I used the hole already in the centre, 20mm in). Check clearances while doing this - you want the hole close to the stick to reduce angular forces, but the clutch needs to clear the 6mm bolt end below, and the hi-hat clutch thumbnut must clear the bracket.

            ***In pic 3 you'll see a different bracket that works fine but is a little heavy & unsightly. Pic 4 is my original bracket - which broke after 600+ hours use. It was nice and light but too thin - 20mm wide for a 12mm clutch in 2mm steel was it's design flaw. ***

            Step 7: Drill a Hole in the Post

            • Drill a 6mm hole through the centre of the post at a right angle, 20mm from one end.

            Step 8: Assemble

              • Remove the end cap, felts and one aluminium thumb nut from the high-hat clutch.
              • Lock the clutch to the bracket with the aluminium thumb nuts.
              • Bolt the end of the stick to the post with the cup-head bolt, using a washer either side of the stick. Tighten the bolt as far as the free swivel of the drumstick will allow, then lock it there with the Nyloc bolt.
              • Bolt the stick to the bracket from the same side in the same way - firstly placing a washer before the head of the bolt.

              Step 9: Attach the Clamp to the Hi-hat Stand

              • Attach the clamp to the hi-hat stand just under the top collar. No need to tighten fully as it will need reorientation later. Facing the clamp's wing nuts towards your playing position is a lot more practical than what I've done in the pic ;).

              Step 10: Adjust Stands and Assemble

              • Adjust the snare stand so that the drum sits horizontally and raise it's height as far as you can maintaining stability.
              • Lower the hi-hat stand all the way down. Angle the pedal to your liking.
              • As I mentioned earlier, your hi-hat stand must be able to be adjusted so that it's top collar sits lower than the top of the snare drum.
                • Fit the clutch back on to the pull-rod of the hi-hat stand, leaving it loose for now - let the drumstick rest on the drum head.
                  • clamp the post on lightly.

                  Step 11: Calibrate

                  • Adjust the post and/or snare stand with the tip of the drumstick resting on the centre of the drum until the side of the stick is 1-2mm away from the rim of the drum. Tighten the clamp.
                  • Lift the drumstick up a little way to ensure it is traveling freely until the pull-rod interrupts it's arc. Tighten the clutch when the stick is somewhere just above it's horizontal position - using all of the travel available isn't necessary - or as playable. Find where it feels best for you.

                  Step 12: Find the Sweet Spot and Lock It Down

                  • By keeping the stick's position around 1mm from the rim, a firm (held) strike will produce a rim shot as the drum head gives way a little and lets the stick hit the rim, giving plenty of extra dynamics and timbre to play with.
                  • Experiment with the pedal tension spring on the high-hat stand in conjunction with the arc travel (clutch) adjustment to get it right for you - the weight of your chosen stick and "L" bracket are also a factor to consider.
                  • With the right setup many bass-drum techniques can be employed - you can move your foot down the pedal and get it bouncing nicely.
                  • Since you are hitting this with the force of a leg it's important to keep all clamps and stands done up tightly. All components and stand positions need to stay put - especially the clamp end holding the apparatus to the hi-hat stand, as this is the one used when setting up and detaching. If this is at all loose the stick will wander off across the drum, leading to the scenario of being in the last chorus of a big tune and having nothing but stick hitting rim from the snare. The same will happen if the snare position moves - I use a heavy duty snare stand, and often gaff two of it's feet to the stage to stop it from jumping around.
                  • The height of your drum throne is important to get right, especially in relation to the ergonomics of whatever other instrument you are playing.
                  • After playing in for a few hours the lock nuts on the drumstick may need readjusting to maintain firm but free movement.

                  For me, playing this & bass is like a playing whole new instrument - improvised dynamics are instant, as you are the rhythm section. With the bass amp set up directly behind, you can play with the parameters of the bass guitar setting off the snare wires - great when playing cross-rhythm.

                  Here's some links where I'm playing this rig -with Rick Steele andwith Matt Taylor