Best Snare Drums – How to Choose the Right One for Your Style of Music

The snare drum is one of the most important components in your drum kit. Perhaps more so than with any other drum, the snare can change the overall sound of your kit. As you’ll learn in this article, there are many types of snare drums out there, and you need to match the type of snare to the sound you’re going for.

Pearl Snare Drum

If you’re in a hurry, here’s a quick peek of what we’ll review in this article.

At a Glance: Our Choice of the Best Snare Drums on the Market

PREVIEW PRODUCT FEATURES

Pearl DC1450S/N 14-inch Snare Drum

Pearl Dennis Chambers 14×5 Signature Snare Drum
  • Solid build with large dynamic range
  • Surprisingly versatile with both high and low tunings
  • Rimshots create an gorgeous snap
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Ludwig LB417 Black Beauty 6.5' x 14' Smooth Brass Snare Drum with Imperial Lugs

Ludwig Supraphonic Black Beauty 6.5” x 14”
  • Unwanted overtones easily dismissed
  • Clear and powerful rimshots
  • Thanks to it’s wide tuning range, it can be used with a any type of music
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Pearl MCX Masters Series Snare Drum 14 x 6.5 in. Natural

Pearl MCX Masters Series 14” x 6.5”
  • Good projection with a warm sound
  • Die cast hoops and maple shell add to the strength of side sticks
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Tama S.L.P. G-Bubinga Snare Drum - 6' x 14'

TAMA S.L.P. Series G-Bubinga 14” x 6”
  • Sensitivity is very strong
  • Rimshots have a powerful crack
  • Best value for money
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Griffin Snare Drum | Poplar Wood Shell 14' x 5.5' with Black PVC Glossy Finish|Percussion Musical Instrument with Drummers Key for Students & Professionals|8 Tuning Lugs & Snare Strainer

Griffin Snare Drum 14″ x 5.5″
  • Great quality considering the low price point
  • Better than many entry level drum set snares
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Buying Guide – What to Look for in a Snare?

To work out which is the best drum for you, there are a few things you need to think.

Shell Material

Drums are made from a variety of materials: copper, brass, nickel over brass, bronze, birch, maple, aluminium and even acrylic. As metals go, steel is a very hard, rigid metal that has no tonal quality. Brass on the other hand does have natural tonal quality (if you were to hit a bare steel drum with a stick it wouldn’t ring, whereas a brass shell would). The good thing about steel though is it makes for tremendous attack – and because it doesn’t flex and absorb sound, it makes the drum heads vibrate like crazy. Another good thing about steel is you don’t need to worry about warping – unlike a wood snare, where excessive heat or cold could cause it to expand or shrink.

Shell Thickness & Rigidity

The thickness of the drum shell has a direct effect on a drums sound. Thinner shells are generally warmer, more sensitive with greater resonance than thick shells. They also have more low end, but aren’t as loud. Thicker shells on the other hand have more mid-range tones, project more volume and have greater attack.

It’s worth noting that plenty of drummers swap and change snares according to the song or sound they’re going for. The snare has a totally different purpose than the toms, so there’s no reason the drum thickness should match. One of the best drummer to ever live, Steve Gadd, uses three different snares (birch, maple and steel) and mixes and matches to suit what he’s playing.

Size and Weight

Like all drum shells, snares come in different sizes, usually measured in inches. Smaller snares have a tighter sound with more emphasis on higher frequencies. Larger snares are more common in drum sets geared primarily towards rock, metal and other hard genres, whereas smaller snares are more a feature of jazz and fusion sets. Of course, there are no concrete rules. The weight of the shell can also make a direct impact on the sound. Heavy snares tend to make a drum less resonant and brighter – but the weight does give a steel snare more volume and punch.

Which Snare Drum is Best for Jazz?

For jazz drumming, wood tends to be the material of choice, and of all the woods, it’s maple thats the most popular. Maple, with it’s warm tones, is the all-round workhorse for jazz but often even warmer woods are preferred (cherry, walnut, even mahogany). Steering clear of brass or very hard woods is usually a good idea for jazz. All the considerations we’ve already discussed applied too i.e. rigidity, thickness, size and weight. Go with a conventional size too, from 5×14 to 6.5×14.

Getting the right sound for jazz is as much about heads, tuning, and your own touch on the instrument as it is the shell material. Regarding tuning, for jazz it’s good to get the head tension just right so you get a lot of response without too much crack and pop. It’s good to leave a bit of dirt’ or ‘warmth’ in the sound. You want a nice ‘papery’ sound that’s tight enough to give you adequate rebound for the quick ghost work done in Jazz. It’s also important to take into account the sound of your cymbals, as you’ll be wanting a snare that blends in with your ride symbol.

Which Snare Drum is Best for Metal and Rock?

As wood is used in Jazz, so is brass or bronze the preferred poison for metal and often rock. Deep brass snares give you a booming loudness that metal players crave, along with a ‘ping’ tone. Thanks to it’s versatility, the Ludwig Supraphonic (see review below) is often the go-to drum of choice for metal. For the money, there’s probably no better sounding drum.

Product Round-up & Reviews – Best Snare Drums

Pearl Dennis Chambers 14×5 Signature Snare Drum

Pearl DC1450S/N 14-inch Snare Drum

We start out list with a humdinger of a snare drum, the Dennis Chambers signature snare drum by Pearl. Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the past 30 years, you’ll know about Dennis Chambers. He’s played with a star studied list of jazz and funk legends from John McLoughlin to Herbie Hancock, not to mention his stint between 1975-1985 as Parliament and Funkadelic’s resident drummer.

As you can imagine, this snare drum is the bomb when it comes to snares. With outstanding sounds and tonal dynamics, this black nickel plated drum comes in a cast aluminium shell with 5mm reinforcement walls. It features ribbed-like grooves around the outer shell to denote the grooves of a record (nice touch). The relatively large scallops taken from the bottom ridge of the drum make sure a large snare bed. The price isn’t for the short of cash, but if you’re looking for a premium snare you can’t really go wrong with this number.

PROS

  • solid build with large dynamic range
  • surprisingly versatile with both high and low tunings
  • rimshots create an gorgeous snap

CONS

  • Not for the drummer on a budget

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Ludwig Supraphonic Black Beauty 6.5” x 14”

Ludwig LB417 Black Beauty 6.5' x 14' Smooth Brass Snare Drum with Imperial Lugs

If you’re ready to try out a top of the range, premium snare drum, then this is the one to go for. Only for the most serious of musicians, it’s been a staple of recording studios and big name artists.

PROS

  • Unwanted overtones are dismissed easily by this snare, which helps to get the perfect recording or even for live shows
  • Capable of clear and powerful rimshots, and can just as easily deliver articulate sound with controlled, sensitive playing
  • Very easy to tune

CONS

  • If there’s one real problem with this snare, it’s that the price is going to be an issue for hobbyists, amateurs and non-professional musicians
  • The metallic construction defines the tone in many ways, and if you need something warmer a wooden shell would be more appropriate
  • Swapping out the heads and batters for custom ones can improve the sound quality even further, and should be done so to tease out the absolute best of this snare

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Pearl MCX Masters Series 14” x 6.5”

Pearl MCX Masters Series Snare Drum 14 x 6.5 in. Natural

A slightly more affordable option than the Ludwig Supraphonic, this snare is capable of competing in terms of quality, and has a maple construction with die-cast hoops that give it a very good sound.

PROS

  • Good projection with a warm sound in the center of the drum
  • Die cast hoops and maple shell add to the strength of side sticks
  • Sensitive across the entire surface

CONS

  • Can be a little tricky to get the tuning just right to get a full range of sensitivity and projection
  • Swapping out the heads can also be a problem point when trying to perfectly align your new batters
  • Although the tone is very pleasing, the maple construction can be out performed by other woods.

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TAMA S.L.P. Series G-Bubinga 14” x 6”

Tama S.L.P. G-Bubinga Snare Drum - 6' x 14'

The 12-ply, 10mm Bubinga shell makes this snare stand out immediately, and it sounds phenomenal. The hardware is cleverly designed to make it easy to tune and replace heads.

PROS

  • The snare heads can be removed without losing wire tension
  • Sensitivity is very strong, making the sticks rebound with very little work
  • Rimshots have a powerful crack

CONS

  • It comes with low end Evans heads which need to be changed in order to get the most from this snare, ideally something that can work well with the dry sound
  • Damaging the lacquer can become a point of paranoia as it’s really nice looking, but it shows up scratches very quickly if not taken care of
  • Although it can be used well in many styles of playing, it’s true strength is jazz/fusion, being a little weak for metal and hard rock

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Griffin Snare Drum 14″ x 5.5″

Griffin Snare Drum | Poplar Wood Shell 14' x 5.5' with Black PVC Glossy Finish|Percussion Musical Instrument with Drummers Key for Students & Professionals|8 Tuning Lugs & Snare Strainer

So far we’ve looked at some mid and high end snare drums, so we wanted to round out the list by including a budget friendly option that still performs better than the average snare that comes with an entry level drum set.

PROS

  • Great quality considering the low price point
  • Has a 1 year warranty
  • Drum key is included if you don’t already have one

CONS

  • Hardware is a let down, with some of the components needing upgrading
  • The glossy black finish looks cheap, even compared to other drum shells with the same aesthetic
  • For those who have progressed past the beginner stages, this snare will seem lacking compared to higher end models, and is best used primarily as a backup in case of an emergency whilst playing live

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Which is the Best Sounding Snare Drum?

The ultimate decision when choosing the best snare drum for you will depend on whether you want a warmer wood based shell that’s suited to jazz or a metal (bronze, brass, etc) drum that’s better for metal and rock.

You get what you pay for, and you’ll find the two premium drums on our list (the Pearl Dennis Chambers Signature Drum and Ludwig Supraphonic Black Beauty) are a superior build with better dynamic range and tuning capabilities. But they are on the pricey side. If you can afford it, you won’t regret it though.

For a cheaper alternative that doesn’t sacrifice too much on quality, the TAMA SLP Bubinga will be an excellent choice, especially if you want a dry tone.

 

 

Featured image / CC BY-SA 3.0

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