Snare Drums Galore
When starting out drums you may have the question, how many snare drums do you need? I know exactly how you feel because I’ve been there as well!
The Number May Surprise You
For the average drummer, two or three snare drums should be plenty. This will give you the ability to mix and match different sounds to find the perfect one for each song/genre.
Plus, having multiple snares gives you the option to change things up if you get bored with your current sound.
So Many Different Choices And Exceptions
A different sound is nice, but for beginner drummers and even more experienced, you may want to know even more, considering there is so much to look at.
There are many different types of snare drums and even the most similar can have a distinct unique sound. Let’s look at these different drums and figure out your best option!
How Many Snare Drums Do You Need? Broken Down!
Out of all percussion instruments, the snare drum is one of the most popular. It makes sense, especially for drum kit snares (not excluding the marching snare, they are great as well). A drum kit snare sits between your leg, so it’s going to be one you use a lot.
I won’t be talking about price too much, but just the overall sound and what most benefits you as a drummer. Whether it’s an expensive snare drum to you or not, is it the sound you are looking for or want to add to your arsenal? I don’t exclusively use professional snares myself.
So, let’s go over a few different things and save you the hassle of spending a long time researching every little thing that affects the tone of the drum and such (pinkies up)!
Snare Depth Explained
So, how many snare drums do you need? You’ve probably seen when a drummer has a side snare drum next to the main snare drum (right next to the hi-hat foot pedal).
These usually tend to have a higher pitch over the main. Most of these are piccolo snares, specifically the ones with less depth and sometimes a smaller diameter.
Piccolo snare drums are usually between 3-4 inches in depth and then it just becomes regular snares up until about 7 inches in depth. Deep snares are beyond that.
A Piccolo snare/less deep one will give you more response and better crack. The batter head and resonant head are also normally tuned pretty high. This snare drum is great for fusion, funk, and a lot of other styles where you want that crack to be heard from your snare.
You could get a decent crack from any snare drum by taking your drum key and cranking the tension rods. Although, I’d recommend you tune it properly if you do this. Also, tighten your snare strainer some, but need to over do it.
Another reason these piccolo snares get such a nice crack is because the response time is shorter after your drum sticks hit.
The sound has less space to travel from the from the top snare head to the bottom head and snare wires. You can use one as a side drum or a main drum, but just know there is a smaller sound.
Compare this to a deeper snare. A snare with more depth produces a general fatter sound (large). When you strike the top head of any deep snare, you’ll notice it has a fuller sound.
It makes it perfect for any type of rock music, gospel, and also pop (and many more styles).
Speaking of deeper snares, a popcorn snare is another one to discuss. Typically, you’ll see the diameter of these at 10″ normally, but they are deeper than Piccolos.
This will give you a higher pitched fullness to your snare.
Shell material can vary between wood, metal, and acrylic. You’ll find more wood shells are made across the board and there are specific drum companies that may only make wood shells (especially smaller companies and hobbyists).
There are a few different ways wood drums are made and also different species of wood that each has their own unique sound.
Ply drums and stave drums are typically what you’ll see within this category. The process of making each one is a bit different and so they can have different sound characteristics. You can read all about the differences and which one would work for you in my previous post here.
There are several wood species that snare drums can be made from. Each wood has a particular sound and can include poplar, maple, mahogany, and oak to name a few. I’ll go over these and a few more and give you an idea of what overall sound you can expect.
Poplar is among the cheapest material. If you buy a cheap junior drum set, you can bet it’ll be made of poplar. It’s got nice low-end punch and mellow highs/mids.
Maple is definitely the most popular. It has warm lows and pretty equal highs/mids. It’s really adaptable to a lot of different styles of music.
Mahogany has a really resonant sound. It has a sleek midrange with almost non-existent highs. It’s a versatile sound for sure and also one of the more expensive hardwoods.
Oak has great lows, softer highs, and an even amount of mids. I made my stave snare drum out of this and it works for many styles of music.
Walnut has a big/warm sound and it’s eq is pretty consistent across lows/mids/highs. This has to be my personal favorite. Every time I hear a walnut snare from any company, it sounds great to me.
Cherry is another one that is bright, but sensitive. It has powerful mids.
There are so many other woods that are used for drum building. A lot of companies/drum makers will also use a mix of different wood species for accents and more depth to the sound of the drum (and to experiment). Exotic woods are not excluded and can have some very interesting sounds!
There are different metals snares can be cast from. Such metals include: stainless steel, brass, and bronze to name a few. There is a lot more sustain in metal drums vs. wood.
Stainless steel snares have articulate highs and average low/mids, but are very versatile.
Brass snares will give you a warmer sound. Lows/mids/highs are more open with this metal. Bronze snares will give you prominent lows and mids and are also fairly warm.
As I mentioned, there are other metals that are used, but I just went over the most popular.
Acrylic snares are something else you can look at. These have an extremely fat sound and are always loud, with a phenomenal crack. This would fit the bill for any style where you need to be heard, such as metal, rock, etc.
These are also cool because you can see through the drums and often get different color acrylic.
Some Other Things To Look At
You’ll want to determine what snare sounds the best for you and your situation. If you are slamming on the ride cymbal, smashing the floor tom, and really digging in that bass drum pedal in a heavy rock setting, maybe a deeper brass snare would fit the bill.
If you are doing some lighter stuff, you may want a shallow cherry snare. I do want to mention that metal and wood snares can be interchangeable and there is no one size fits all.
Something else to look at is whether your snare beds are still good. Sometimes too much buzz can come from your snare no matter how tight you crank the tension rods, snare strainer. This can indicate uneven snare beds.
These snare beds allow the snares to dig into the resonant head just right. This typically isn’t a problem with new snare drums, but it’s something to look out for.
For electronic drum kits, it doesn’t really matter. You will either have a mesh snare or a rubber one. I always recommend mesh with electronic kits.
I didn’t want to go over specific snare drums because there are so many out there. Just because I like one that may be top-of-the-line, doesn’t mean it’ll sit right with you.
Companies that you can never go wrong with when buying snare drums include: Ludwig, DW, Pork Pie, Peal, Tama, Yamaha, and Sonor Percussion, just to name a few!
Snare Drum Needs May Vary
It’s common for both experienced drummers and beginner drummers to ask, “how many snare drums do you need?” I’ll be honest, I’ve mostly only ever used one.
I’ve had multiple snare drums with one being deeper than the other. I’d make the switch depending on what serves the music best. Most of the time I don’t make the switch. I just continue using the same snare. I’ve also used a side snare before, but only a couple times.
I always say nothing is set in stone because you can play with whatever and however many snare drums you want. I actually play with a shallow poplar snare drum (5.5″) and I play everything from hard rock to blues with it.
I talk about how poplar is cheap, but I’m more about developing my drum chops over top gear. What’s all the gear if you don’t sound any better? I may or may not get another snare drum that is more versatile.
Find your sound and don’t let anyone tell you it’s not right. They aren’t you. Realistically, I want 12,000 snare drums because 2 and 11,999 are not enough!
Thousands Of Choices
I’d love to hear about how many snare drums you have or your experience with certain sizes/materials. With over 3,000 species of wood, different building techniques, all types of metal and beyond, the sounds are endless! What is your snare set-up? Any questions about snares, let me know!
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Until next time!