The snare drum is to the drum kit what the singer is to the band. A different snare sound can completely change the character of the entire instrument. While drum head selection, tuning, and muffling techniques play a significant role in achieving various tones, the choice of the drum itself is equally crucial. It’s like finding the right actor for the role, and then using makeup and costume to bring out their best features.
Different Snare Sizes
Let’s dive into the differences between snare models and their impact on sound, starting with the most apparent factor: size. The standard diameter for snares is 14 inches, while 13-inch models sometimes are used as main snares, too. Smaller sizes often find their place as supplementary side snares. While a drum’s diameter primarily affects pitch, the depth determines the richness of the sound and the response of the snare wires. Deeper snares produce a fuller tone with more low end, whereas shallower ones provide a more precise response
Let’s put this information into practice using an example. Our snare lineup includes two distinct versions of our popular Black Beast Snare. The Black Beast 14” x 6” delivers a full and dynamic sound with a pronounced crack. This drum can be used in a wide variety of styles and is ideal for rock, pop and all their sub-genres – including the heavier ones. In contrast, the Black Beast 13” x 3.5”, is a smaller and shallower piccolo-style snare. It is designed to deliver a vibrant, high-pitched tone and offers exceptional wire response. This makes it a great pick for funky backbeats and articulate ghost notes.
Among these models, our 14” x 5.5” Black Steel Snare can be viewed as a versatile compromise. It combines a full sound with a precise response and will shine in any musical style. And if you want to go really heavy, the 14” x 6.5” Power Steel Snare or 14” x 6.5” Hammer Steel Snare are great choices, with the hammered shell producing a slightly warmer tone.
Snares Made of Metal
Beyond size, material plays a crucial role in shaping a snare drum’s character. All models discussed thus far are made of steel, delivering a bright attack, long decay, pronounced overtones and an overall high volume. Steel also is an affordable material which is why these drums literally give you a lot of bang for your buck.
If you are looking for a metal snare with a clear attack but a warmer tone, brass is an excellent option, that has proven itself over time. Some of the most iconic snares in rock history are made of brass, and of course we have a brass snare in our lineup, too. The 14” x 5.5” Power Brass Snare is just what you want, if you are looking for a present and yet warm snare sound with character. Keep in mind, however, that brass comes at a higher price than steel. Other options are aluminum on the brighter side and copper on the darker side.
Different Woods and Shell Thickness
If you are looking for an even warmer tone with a rounder attack and less ringing overtones, a wooden snare might be your answer. As a rule of thumb, harder woods like maple or birch produce a brighter sound with a longer decay, while softer woods like poplar offer a darker and shorter sound. That said, shell thickness plays an important role, too. A heavy shell (for example 12-ply or more) sounds brighter and louder, while a light shell (for example 6-ply) will give you a deeper, fatter and warmer sound with less volume.
Now, armed with the knowledge gained from this article, can you envision the sound of our 13″ x 7″ Mahogany Snare with a 9-ply shell? A hint: Mahogany is a relatively soft wood.