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The Ultimate Guide to Snare Drums

There are many ways to set up your snare drum. You can have a warm wooden sound as a result of using birch to build a set. Alternatively, you can attain a higher pitch and metallic timbre from an all-metal snare drum. There are the sharp, staccato bursts that come from a piccolo snare. Then, there is the machine gun explosion of a rim shot performed on a Yamaha Free Floating marching snare.

No matter the type of sound you are seeking, you will find it at Drum Center of Portsmouth. The following are the three different snare drum types and their sounds in the DCP collection. This guide will break down each type to help you choose a snare for your set.

Marching Snare

This is the type of snare drum that marching bands use. These drums can endure higher tensions and produce a deeper sound than orchestral or kit snares. The newest models feature free-floating devices. These allow you to attach the rim to the opposite rim. The result is a drum tightened to the highest possible level.

This is important due to most snare heads being made of Kevlar now. These will endure no matter how heavy you play. They will last through changes in temperature and humidity. The marching snare is the biggest of the snare drums available.

There are also similar drums like a pipe band snare or a field drum. A pipe band is similar to a traditional marching band snare. However, it has an extra snare added to the head. This gives it a crisper sound. Mostly these drums are useful for marching bands. On occasion, set drummers will use one to create a sound effect like a gunshot going off.

Kit Snare

Most musicians grew up with a traditional wooden shell drum. This probably had a head over one end with a snare held tight. The sound produced would have been a high-pitched rasping sound. This is the distinct drum sound we all grew up hearing in most traditional music.

There are many different types of wood that make the drum heads.

  • Maple - The most common is maple. Maple produces the typical kit snare sound. Birch presents a much brighter sound.
  • Mahogany - This is the most vintage wood used for making kits. Beech and poplar are both softer woods. These give a warmer sound. They are similar to birch but not quite as powerful.
  • Oak - Lastly, there is oak. Oak is the loudest of drum materials. It can last on the negative register the longest. This means it takes a bit longer for those deep bass sounds to wear away.

There are many ways to change up the sound. However, the biggest difference comes from the metal on the body. Metals such as aluminum, brass, copper, steel, and bronze offer different sounds.

Aluminum is the closest to the traditional wooden snare sound.

Brass creates a bright cracking sound with mellow overtones in the follow-up tones.

Copper bodies offer a warmer but darker tone. It also is cleaner than copper sounding snares.

Finally, there is steel. This is the material of choice for drummers in rock bands. Some say steel produces the ugliest of all the snare sounds. However, that’s what makes it perfect for rock and heavy metal music.

Piccolo and Popcorn/Soprano Snares

Piccolo snares are smaller than a traditional snare due to their shell being much shallower. Most piccolo snares act as an accessory for kit applications. The depth of most piccolo snares isn’t much deeper than 4” to 4.5”. The small shell size tends to bring about a higher pitch and a faster response than a traditional 5” drum. This leads to a sound with less body and bass.

Soprano/popcorn snares are similar than the piccolo snare. They feature non-standard shell dimensions. The typical soprano snare runs between 5” to 7” deep with a diameter of around 10” to 12”. These drums generally have a high pitched sound with slightly more body to the sound than what a piccolo could make. Usually, the snares come in the shallowest sizes.

Different Snares for Different Needs

Ultimately the snares that you choose to purchase will depend on the specific sound that you desire out of your kit. You might also just need it to replace a drum you already use. There isn’t one drum sound that will work for every application. That’s why it is important to look at all drum types before settling on the one you think will best suit your needs.

Rock drummers may be looking for a steel snare to provide a dirty muddled thunderclap sound. Jazz drummers may want the bright warmth of a wooden drum or a piccolo snare. This is why it is so important to try out the drums you have an interest in. Even one drum sound can change the way you sound as a whole.

Style Impacts Sound

It also helps to know the style of drumming you wish to play. This will help you decide upon the type of drum set to settle on. Gretsch and Slingerland are historically great drums for a jazz setting. Premier and Pearl make excellent marching band drums. The options available are truly staggering. It is easy to see why so many different drums need looking after.

Which to Choose?

Deciding upon a snare drum is a task that can be extremely difficult. There are many different ways to convey the same style of note. The entire process can make it hard to differentiate between the top picks.

However, it is safe to say you know a good sound when you hear it. The previous sounds described are among the many available to choose from. Picking a sound and making it into a signature sound is one of the ways that the team at DCP can help you out when looking at new snare drums.

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