Choosing The Right Snare Drum

Choosing A Snare Drum

Every Kit Needs A Snare

As you put your drum kit together, you will certainly want to add a snare drum to your mix. Also called a side drum, this versatile tool delivers a wide range of sounds, from the standard wire-enhanced snare sound, to the time-honored rim shot. Let’s take a look at this integral tool and how various factors affect the sound and durability of the snare, so you will be able to select the right snare drum for your style.

Choose The Size For The Sound You Want

The depth of the drum affects the depth of the sound. Most are 5 to 6 inches deep, though some go as deep as 8 inches, with a corresponding depth of sound. Standard snare drums are 5 inches deep with a 14 inch diameter, and are the mainstay size for jazz, country, and rock drummers, and are featured on the kits of those playing metal/heavy metal and funk.

Deep snares are sometimes used as alternatives on rock kits, or on drum and bass set ups. Piccolo snare drums are typically just 3 inches deep with a 13 inch diameter, which keeps the sound crisper with a higher pitch. Piccolos tend to be more prominent on the kits of drummers playing pop, reggae, jazz and hip-hop. A lighter, brighter sound is achieved, and the piccolo is often used as a second or alternative snare on the kit.

What It Is Made OF Determines What It Is Made FOR

Snare drums produce different sounds based on the materials they are composed of. Jazz snare drums are usually made of brass or wood, with maple being the predominant material, which gives the drum a rich, deep sound. Rockers like snare drums made of stainless steel, which gives the drum a distinct and louder sound that lets it be heard against the backdrop of electric guitar riffs. Metal drummers and punk rockers like a snare drum that makes a lot of noise at higher pitch and one that can handle some pretty heavy action. Their snare drums usually feature materials like aluminum, bronze, brass, or synthetics like carbon fiber or acrylic.

The Difference The Head Makes

The drumhead the drummer strikes will greatly affect the sound. Funk drummers like a tightly tuned head made of durable material that will deliver immediate, full-bodied sound. Those favoring punk seem to prefer a tighter set up that produces crisper action and sound. Jazz drummers usually outfit their snares with a textured drumhead that enhances the nuanced, muffled sound they want. And rockers want a slightly muffled sound rippling through a heavy drumhead, which gives the snare more “thump” and less “crack.”

More tightly tuned heads will prove less durable, regardless of material. But the difference is not so great that you should let it affect your set up. Tune the head to your style, and let it rip. Most heads will give you a decent return on your investment.

Conclusion

As you put your set together, or select a snare drum for an existing set, consider your needs and style, then choose a snare drum that will deliver the sound you are looking for.

2 Comments »

  • 65Luds said:

    Great analysis, thanks.

    My 2 cents: “The depth of the drum affects the depth of the sound.” Yes, but depth does not mean the specific pitch (which is determined by head thickness tension), but the fullness. If you hit a C on a piano two octaves above middle, and then hit C two octaves below, the lower C sounds fuller. This is not an exact parallel because a 6.5″ drum and a 4″ drum can be tuned to the same pitch, but the bigger drum will sound fuller.

    A deeper drum will give more of the tone of the drum itself, and theoretically the snare response will be less (but I’ve heard some pretty sensitive 6.5″ snare drums). The reason that 5 – 5.5 snare drums are so popular is that for most people they have just the right balance of tone : snare sensitivity.

  • SnareDude (author) said:

    Hey Chip,
    Thanks for stopping by and dropping in your two cents! I agree that it seems that a lot of drummers like the balance between response and tone of the 5-5.5 inch drums.
    If you don’t mind me asking….how many snares do you currently own, what are they which is your favorite all-around?
    Jeff

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