Ludwig Pioneer Snare Drum
Ludwig first made the Pioneer snare from 1939 to 1941. It was re-introduced in 1960. This Ludwig Pioneer snare drum review focuses on the drums produced from 1960 through 1976.
The Pioneer was priced to compete in the beginner/student market. However, the old axiom “they don’t make things like they used to” certainly applies in retrospect to this vintage snare drum. Unlike some entry-level snares made today, the Pioneer was built to last with excellent design and craftsmanship. Its sound ranges from bright and open when tuned high to fat and rich when loosened up. This Ludwig Pioneer snare drum review gives you information to consider before buying one.
Drummers and collectors snap up these drums that cost $40-$50 when new. Current prices are typically in the $250-$400 range for snares in good condition.
The 14” Ludwig Pioneer snare evolved during its production run, but its 6-lug, self-aligning design in 5.5” and 6.5” depths remained consistent. Standard options were nickel over brass vs. chrome hardware and a mahogany or lacquer finish. Pearl finish was an upgrade option. In 1964, Ludwig began coating the interior of Pioneer snare drums with its patented, white Reza Cote that the company said, “provides superior tone and response found in more expensive models.” Originally equipped with a “large Pioneer” throw, by the mid-1960s, the WFL P83 throw off was standard equipment, and the traditional bat-style tone control had been added. In the ‘70s, the snare throw was updated to the P85.
Ludwig Pioneer Snare Drum Likes
The tonal quality is excellent for a drum originally sold as student model. The response is quite bright, a bit brighter than the Ludwig Jazz Festival, for example. You’ll enjoy a sound range from high to low with the Pioneer that is above average for drums in this price range. Many drummers who play this model cite the 6-lug design for the warmth and versatility of the sound.
The fact that there are so many of these drums still available is a testament to how well they were made. And for every one you find for sale, there are many more being held onto by snare drum enthusiasts who wouldn’t think of selling theirs.
Ludwig Pioneer Snare Drum Dislikes
There’s very little criticism of the of this snare as originally designed and manufactured. In fact, it under-promises (“student drum”) and over-delivers (quality build, sound, fit and finish). It can be said that the 6-lug tuning isn’t as precise as is possible with 8-lug or 10-lug models, but that critique applies across manufacturers and models.
The major consideration when buying a Ludwig Pioneer snare are age issues, another across-the-board concern. Even the youngest of these snares have decades of play on them. There might be problems with the integrity of the shell (rare), functionality of the hardware (occasional) and condition of the heads (common if they haven’t been replaced).
You won’t know exactly what you’re dealing with until you’ve got it in hand and you play it. The heads might need replacing, the hardware might need repair, or you might have a vintage drum that is in pristine condition. If buying online, perhaps the seller would shoot video of it being played, like the one below, and show a brief inspection of it. Short of that, get a money-back guarantee to protect you if the drum is not in as-advertised condition.
The Skinny: What are Drummers Saying?
Ludwig Pioneer snare drum reviews generally have only good things to say about this classic. Drums from the ‘60s are preferred, and more prevalent, than those from the 1970s. Here are snippets from Pioneer snare reviews.
- My instructor says this Pioneer has been played heavily and consistently for 50+ years, and it sounds lovely
- Amazing for brush work
- I love the snap…but it would be perfect as an 8 lugger, IMO
- Amazing condition for a snare built in 1962 – not a speck of warp
- They don’t make student-level drums like this one [anymore]
- The tone of these drums is nice and warm
- Classic Ludwig vibe, open and featuring great response
- I switched out the head for a Fiberskyn, and am very happy with the overall sound
- Try the Ludwig medium-coated drumheads on your Pioneer – mine sounds awesome with them
- Some of the paint schemes are a little gaudy, but like hey man, it was the groovy 60s and 70s
Overall—3.5 to 4.5 Stars
Due to the age factor, it’s all about the condition of the Ludwig Pioneer snare drum you’re considering. Most are decent; some are outstanding. Decades after production ceased, those Pioneer snares in good condition have shed the “student model” stigma and have become favorites for many drummers. Overall, we give the Pioneer snare 4 Stars