- Best Snare Drum Overall
- Best Snare Drum for Rock
- Best Snare Drum for Jazz
- Best Snare Drum for Hip-Hop
- Best Snare Drum for Metal
- Best Piccolo Snare Drum
- Best Budget Snare Drum
Best Snare Drum
Of any drum, the snare is the one with the most character and the main component in defining a drummer's signature sound. Most professional drummers prefer to use different drums for specific genres of music and snares are no exception. The best snare drums are versatile enough for use with multiple genres of music with the four main genre-specific categories being rock, jazz, metal, and hip-hop. We've compiled the following lists of the best genre-specific snare drums available and provided a buyer’s guide loaded with information to help you in your search.
Best Snare Drum Overall:
The Snare drum is a very unique drum because of the snares stretched across the bottom head which give these drums their characteristic sound. The two main components making up a snare drum’s sound are the snares and the shell. Most snare drums are made with a diameter of 14 inches and the depths vary from five to six and a half inches although there are specialty drums with deeper shells and smaller diameters used as a second snare in a drummer’s set-up. There’s also piccolo snare drums which have shallow shells and often smaller than fourteen inches in diameter.
Snare drum shells are usually either made of wood or metal, and come in a variety of different colors and finishes. Metal shells are typically made of brass, steel, or aluminum with wood shells constructed from maple or birch. Most drum set snare drums have “snappy” steel snares stretched across the bottom of the head but cable snares are also available.
All of these best snare drums overall were chosen because of their signature sounds which are excellent when paired with most genres of music, while also suitable for use both on stage and in the studio. The unique snares that are included with these drums are a big reason behind their legendary sound; while they’re all easily replaced, it’s recommended to keep the original snares as they play a big part in their distinct sound. All of these drums are versatile enough to use for many different music genres and each will retain their great sound regardless of the genre you’re playing.
All of the drum shells are made from high quality materials and held together with durable hardware made to last through years of rigorous gigging. The hoops won’t warp on you, the lugs will remain solid through even extreme tuning tensions, and the strainers are the best money can buy, being very fluid and dependable. Finally, this is a case where name recognition is important as all of these drums are made by the very best drum manufacturers who have become legends in the industry. These are the very best snare drums that money can buy, and for that reason they can be quite expensive. If you are looking for a more budget-friendly drum, refer our list of Best Budget Snare Drums.
The Ludwig Black Beauty is among the most famous line of drums on the planet and the Brass Black beauty sounds great for every genre of music. The shell and hardware are all top of the line and combine to produce the best sounding snare drum on the market. Read Full Review
DW Collector's Series All-Maple Snare drum is the best sounding wooden drum on the market. The high quality design produces a pure tone and the hardware is made to be extremely durable. The customizable appearance allows for the drum to create a look as unique as its sound. Read Full Review
Pearl's Reference Pure snare drum has a lot of great features which create a wonderful sound. Its blended shell has the power of birch with the warmth of maple. A lot of attention to detail has been paid in the production of its hardware and shell design creating a great sounding drum. Read Full Review
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The Ludwig Supraphonic is one of the best overall snare drums mainly because of its superiority as a rock snare drum. This drum has been made famous by several legendary drummers and has been heard in use on countless, well-known recordings. Read Full Review
Gretsch's Mark Schulman Signature Snare Drum is a very unique drum with a great overall sound. Its maple shell produces a warm sound with enough power to cut through the band. The high quality hardware and reputable Gretsch name assure that this drum is extremely well made and will consistently sound great. Read Full Review
Best Snare Drum for Rock:
The snare drum is perhaps the most important drum in any drummer’s rock setup, providing a solid back-beat which drives the entire band. Just as with most snares, rock snare drums have a diameter of fourteen inches and the depths vary from five to six and a half inches. The following best rock snare drums have been chosen because they all provide the necessary sound which is big enough to drive a rock band. All of these models can produce a consistent sound that is even and rock solid, because this particular genre of music requires a consistent back beat for both live and studio playing. Additionally, these selections offer the best sounding shells thanks to the premium woods and metal alloys used in their construction. Since many rock drummers are heavy hitters who play a lot of taxing rim shots, these snare drums are manufactured with high-quality hardware that is very durable. Finally all of these drums are made by the very best drum manufacturers who have decade’s worth of quality production experience under their belts.
The Ludwig Supraphonic is the best snare drum for rock music and has helped to define the sound of the Rock genre as a whole. It has enough body to support the band while bright enough to cut through. This drum has been used by some of the most famous drummers in history and it can be heard on many legendary drumming recordings. Read Full Review
Pearl's Reference Pure Snare drums offer advanced design and sophisticated features. These advancements in design have helped to create one of the best sounding drums in the rock genre. The blended birch and maple shells provide the best of both worlds, adding power and maturity to your sound. Read Full Review
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The Ludwig Black Beauty 5x14 Brass drum is one of the is the best sounding snare drums for rock music. This legendary drum has a sound ideal for rock music, looks as good as it sounds, and will last you a lifetime. Read Full Review
DW's Collector's Series All-Maple Snare Drum ranks among one of the best drums available for rock music because it has a string attack and a consistent sound. It’s constructed with a lot of attention to detail as well as using the highest quality materials. The durable DW hardware can take the beating that most Rock drummer provide and will still sound great! Read Full Review
Pearl’s Masters MCX Snare Drum continues the Masters tradition manufacturing great sounding drums for rock music. This drum creates a lot of mature sound with its 6-ply Maple shell while the high quality hardware and Pearl reliability make this drum an incredible value. Read Full Review
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Best Snare Drum for Jazz:
The snare drum in a Jazz drum set is used as a supportive voice and used more than simply providing a backbeat. A good Jazz snare is very responsive to the different dynamic contrasts displayed by the seasoned Jazz player. A good fourteen-inch snare drum with a warm-sounding wooden shell is good for Jazz but there are some metal drums which also deliver a great sound. Keep in mind, the sound of a Jazz snare is very different from a Rock snare and often has to be tuned differently.
The following five best Jazz snare drums have been chosen based on criteria which includes their sound, shell quality, responsiveness, and affordability.
These five best snare drums were chosen because of their exceptional tone, allowing the drum to communicate with other members of a Jazz band. These snare drums also have high quality shells made by some of the most reputable drum makers on the market such as Gretsch and Yamaha. Since there are lot of dynamics in Jazz music, these snare drums are very responsive with a dynamic sound on multiple levels. As in reviews for snare drums in other categories, basic affordability has been taken into consideration for these rankings but you should consider paying more for a better quality drum if possible.
The Gretsch C-65142S Custom wood snare is an incredibly responsive drum which speaks well at loud and soft volumes. The Gretsch snare bed design is designed specifically to create a very responsive drum making it the best snare for Jazz music. Read Full Review
Yamaha’s Maple Custom line has set the standard for Jazz drums and their Maple Custom Absolute snare drums are ideal for Jazz. This snare is most effective in smaller combo settings but can support a big band if necessary. Its six-inch size is fairly rare and is a good blend of crispy and bold. Read Full Review
The Black Beauty sounds great for Jazz music with a very crisp and responsive sound for comping while capable of yelling when you want it to. It has a very unique voice for soloing and can blend well when needed. Read Full Review
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The Ludwig Acrolite has a controlled sound ideal for Jazz music. Its crisp sound is very responsive to varying dynamic levels allowing drummers to express exactly what they want to on the drum. This drum is effective for everything from big band gigs to intimate combo performances. Read Full Review
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Best Snare Drum for Hip-Hop:
The snare drum is perhaps more important to hip hop music than any other instrument. Drums are often very exposed in Hip Hop music and the snare drum is usually the sound giving a track its personality. Hip Hop artists and producers are constantly trying to produce the next great sound, and unfortunately this can often lead them to using processed drums that sound simply terrible.
Hip hop snare drums are usually sized differently than rock or jazz snare drums. Most drummers prefer a deep snare drum with a small diameter and so we’ve chosen the best five drums available in these unusual dimensions. These snare drums have a unique sound that may not be appropriate for other styles of music, but can really make a hip hop groove shine since they have a full sound to drive a groove, but don't overpower like a rock snare. Rather, these picks all have a bright sound that can cut through the various electronic effects present in many of today’s hottest hip hop tracks.
Each of these drums also have a unique sound which can give a signature sound to a groove yet very accommodating when it comes to sound processing. They’re also constructed with durable hardware that will last for years’ worth of rigorous playing. Constructed by the finest drum manufacturers to ensure the highest quality, basic affordability has been taken into consideration for these rankings but you should consider paying more for a snare drum if it has a unique or superior sound.
Mapex’s Black Panther Fastback Snare Drum is sized perfectly for hip hop music and has a dry sound that will cut through the groove. The high-quality Mapex hardware is very durable and holds pitch well. While this drum is darker than most hip hop snares, it still has plenty of bite. Read Full Review
Tama’s S.L.P. G-Maple Snare drum has a bright sound that will cut through electronic effects and heavy bass. This is a well-made drum with a unique sound that excels in the hip hop genre.
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This 5x13-inch snare drum is perfect for hip hop because of its tight sound. This drums sound and price tag are built for professional drummers playing more commercial friendly hip hop music. Read Full Review
Pearl’s Omar Hakim’s Signate Snare drum produces a tight sound that is still very big. The 5x13-inch size produces a bright sound that works well with the hip hop genre while the mahogany shell has enough power to cut through electronic effects and loud bass. Read Full Review
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Best Snare Drum for Metal:
The best snare drums for metal music provide a solid and piercing backbeat that can cut through the intense volumes of this music genre. These drums are pushed to extremes that most snare drums will never experience. Snare drums in this genre are usually big and made of metal rather than wood and while it’s common for snare drums to have aluminum shells, the drums used for metal music are often made out of brass or bronze. Keep in mind this is one genre where low budget drums cannot compete with high-end options. If you are working off of a restricted budget, check out our list for Best Budget Snare Drum.
The following best snare drums for Metal have been chosen based on criteria including their sound intensity, individuality, appearance, and durability. All of the drums presented here have metal shells capable of producing intense, almost violent, sounds which make them perfect for a metal performance. Each model also has a specific personality since they are made of such unique materials. These drums may sound foreign when first hearing them because they sound very different than the typical aluminum, birch, and maple shell drums. Rest assured that once they are paired with an intense Heavy Metal band, they will fit right in.
The appearance of these drums have been designed to have a distinctive heavy-metal look because so much of the metal genre is built on appearance. All of these drums are built to take a lot of hard hits and handle extreme volumes with their hardware offering solid construction for handling the extreme head tensions and constant rim shots metal requires. While we usually take basic affordability into consideration for our rankings, unfortunately all of these drums are quite expensive because of the unique metal used in the construction of their shells.
Tama’s Starphonic Bell Brass snare drum is a great snare drum for Metal drummers who can afford the very best regardless of price. Its high quality Bell Brass shell has a piercing sound, a full tone, and one of the most responsive metal snare drums available. This is one of the most expensive drums on the market but it has a sound that’s unmatched by anything else. Read Full Review
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DW’s Collector’s series Bell Brass snare drum has enough power to compete with other top brass drums, and it features DW’s refined snare sound. It’s one of the most durable drums on the market and can withstand intense playing. This snare drum costs a little more than other options, but you will rarely regret buying a DW drum.
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Pearl’s Ultracast snare drum provides a lot of power but still has great tone. It has thick aluminum shell that creates a very unique sound. With a price tag that is lower than its competitors, this is one of the best buys out there for a heavy-metal snare drum. Read Full Review
DW’s Collector’s Series Bell Bronze snare drum has a very unique and extremely powerful sound. It will cut through any metal band and is made with the high quality standards DW is known for. If you’re looking for an alternative sound to brass or aluminum, then this drum is for you. Read Full Review
I’ve always trusted Tama drums for Metal music and they’ve really pushed the envelope with the Lars Ulrich signature snare drum. It has an intense sound which can compete with even the loudest metal band and one of the coolest looking drums around to boot. Read Full Review
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Best Piccolo Snare Drum:
Piccolo’s are specialty drums with unusual sizes which create unique sounds and typically used as a compliment to a drummer’s primary snare drum. These drums are usually smaller in depth or diameter than a primary snare drum, usually three inches deep and a diameter usually between 13-14 inches. Recently there’s been a rise in production of other unusually sized snare drums like piccolos as many drummers continue to search for even more unique sounds. While some of the following drums on this list aren’t labeled specifically as piccolo snare drums, I’ve included them in this list because they’re commonly used in the same manner.
The following best piccolo snare drums were chosen because they have a very unique sound which allowing them to be used as an alternative to a drummer’s primary snare drum. These drums sound excellent when paired with other snare drums, but can also be used as a primary snare drum in certain styles of music such as jazz and hip hop. All of these drums are made by reputable drum manufacturers that consistently produce great sounding drums. The shells of these drums are made with the same high quality wood and superior metal alloys their big brothers are constructed from and they also feature durable hardware to withstand the beating they take when used as a hip hop snare or a second snare in a rock band.
Pearl’s Maple piccolo snare drum is the most versatile snare drum available. Its maple shell is superior in quality when compared to other piccolo shells and it’s constructed with very durable hardware. It has a small and compact sound but maintains great tone and speaks very well. Read Full Review
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Pearl's Piccolo Snare Drums are the industry standard and the Brass Piccolo is the best choice for a crisper sounding drum. It has the same quality hardware as Pearl's Maple Piccolo Snare Drum, and comes with a more affordable price tag than most brass drums. This drum compliments primary snare well and can even be used to compliment other piccolo snare drums. Read Full Review
The Pork Pie little squealer has more power than the typical piccolo snare but small enough to stay controlled, along with a wooden shell which has more bite than other drums to help it stand out. This is a great piccolo which can also be used as a primary snare drum for certain music genres. Read Full Review
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Pearl’s Firecracker snare drum is a great sounding drum that can be used as an alternative to a drummer’s primary snare. It can also be paired with other piccolos due to its unusual 5x12 inch size. It added depth gives is extra power and it can even be used as a primary snare drum for hip-hop. Read Full Review
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Best Budget Snare Drum:
A drummer’s snare drum is very important to their overall sound, but beginners don’t need to break the bank to secure a quality snare. The snare drum is a part of the drum set that’s usually not included in high-end kits and sometimes it’s even left out of entry-level kits. In fact, many parents purchase a drum set for their child and soon realize they purchased a kit which didn’t include a snare drum! Fortunately, all of the snare drums on this list offer a budget friendly way of completing a snare-less kit, or offer options for budget conscious drummers looking for a great sounding snare.
Most snare drums are made with a diameter of fourteen inches and the depths usually vary from five inches to six and a half inches. I encourage all beginners to buy a fourteen-inch drum because this size the standard and will retain its value better than a sized down drum which is more of a toy than a legitimate instrument. Additionally, most budget snare drums have metal shells, but there are a few with wooden shells, the difference between the high-end and the budget snare being the quality of the wood or metal used to make the shell.One thing worth mentioning is some beginners make the mistake of purchasing a piccolo snare because they’re often less expensive than a full size snare drum. If you’re looking for a piccolo snare drum, refer to my list for Best Piccolo Snare Drum for several great options to work with.
We chose the following best budget snare drums based on their sound, construction by reputable manufacturers to ensure a long service life and versatility across multiple music genres. I was actually surprised playing these snare drums, because they all sound much better than what their humble price tag led me to believe at first. These snares are all made by the best drum manufacturers on the market, all of which are known for crafting high-end snare drums.
Some companies often use inadequate parts that fall apart on their budget snares, but the drums on this list are made with quality hardware and durable materials which give them a surprising amount of longevity. These picks also have great sounding shells made from higher quality materials than other budget snares. These snare drums are also extremely versatile sound-wise because obviously if you’re looking for a budget snare, you may not have the finances to afford a different snare for every music genre.
Mapex has really raised the bar by created a maple snare drum in the low-budget price range. Their MPX Maple snare drums sounds great with its maple shell possessing warmth that’s unmatched by any other budget snare on the market. Read Full Review
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Mapex's steel-hammered snare is a great value offering the biggest sound of any budget snare and can really drive a band. With a thick sound, triple-flange hoops, and chrome hardware, this is the best budget snare for heavy hitters and young rock drummers alike. Read Full Review
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Yamaha makes some of the best sounding drums around and their stage custom snare drum is one of the best budget snares on the market. It has a high quality birch shell and a crisp snare sound. With durable Yamaha hardware and an affordable price tag, this snare offers drummers a complete package. Read Full Review
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I’ve trusted pearl drums my entire career, relying heavily on them when I had a very limited budget. The Vision birch snare is a great value because it has a birch shell that sounds great. The drum is well constructed and can take a beating. Read Full Review
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Pork Pie Percussion specializes in making great sounding snare drums, and have managed to make one under budget with the 6 x 14 inch Steel Shell Little Squealer. Despite the name, this drum has a big sound that is very full. With high quality hardware, this is one of the best buys for a budget snare. Read Full Review
Snare Drum Buying Guide
The snare drum is often the first purchase made by any drummer because of its practicality for learning technique and rudimentary skills. Unfortunately, many drummers often purchase the first snare they find and end up wasting a lot of money on a poor choice. Additionally, many parents will buy a snare drum for their child yet know nothing about what they’re purchasing. This buyer’s guide will help you in your search for quality snare drum whether it’s for yourself or your child.
Snare Drum Size
Most snare drums are 14 inches in diameter with a depth of either 5 or 6 1/2 inches.
Snare Drum Parts
Snares are wires or cables spread across the bottom head of the drum. These snares vibrate when the drum is struck, giving off a crisp sound.
The snare drum shell is usually made of wood or metal. There are some drums constructed from synthetic materials such as fiberglass but they often sound inferior to their wooden and metal counterparts.
Snare drums have calfskin or plastic drumheads stretched across the top and bottom of the shells. The top head is called the “batter” head which is struck with a stick to create sound. The bottom head is called the “resonant” head and interacts with the snares to produce the crisp, snare drum sound.
Hoops are round pieces of metal or wood which keep the drumheads in place.
Tension Bolts and Lugs
Tension bolts are screwed through the hoop and into lugs attached to the shell and when tightened with a drum key, these bolts lower the hoop and tighten the tension of the drumhead to produce a higher pitched sound.
The strainer is a device mounted to the side of the drum which tightens the snares with a screw.
The throw-off is a switch attached to the strainer which detaches the snares from
the bottom head, generating a sound similar to a tom-tom.
Wooden shells usually produce a warmer sound than metal. The most common woods used to make shells are maple, birch, or mahogany, each offering a different sound. Maple tends to be the warmest, refined-sounding wood. Birch shells produce a more focused sound which still blends well. Mahogany typically sounds deeper than either maple or birch.
Drums manufactured with metal shells produce a sharp sound that cuts through the texture of a band. Brass and aluminum are the most common metals used to make shells. Brass produces a sharp and pointed sound while aluminum sounds thin and “pingy”.
The depth of the shell determines if the drum has a high or low pitch. 5 inch shells will have a higher pitch that cuts through the texture while 6 1/2 inch shells will support and blend well.
The material used to make the snares determines how crisp the drum sounds. “Snappy” snares are made from metal and produce a crisp sound while cable snares are plastic which produce a very full sound.
Snare Drum Features
Solid Shell Construction
These shells have a very pure sound since they’re made from one solid piece of wood.
Alternately, multi-ply shells are made from several different layers of wood and are much more common.
Some drummers prefer die-cast hoops to triple flange hoops because they hold tension extremely well.
These are designed to allow quick and easy snare tension adjustment. Many companies offer specific strainers and throw-offs with additional features exclusive to their brand.
Some snare drums have a built-in dampening device mounted to the inside of the shell. This device presses a piece of felt against the underside of the batter head and mutes the head slightly. Professionals usually remove this dampener because it’s not the best way to evenly dampen a head.
Specialty snares are typically used for specific genres such as hip-hop. The most common of these specialty drums are piccolo and soprano snare drums.
Piccolo Snare Drum
Piccolo snare drums are smaller in depth and diameter than normal snare drums. These drums have a higher pitch than common snare drums and often have a smaller sound.
While normal snare drums are 14 inches in diameter and five or six-and-a-half inches in depth, piccolos are usually 13 inches in diameter and 3-4 inches in depth. For specific recommendations, refer to my picks for “Best Piccolo Snare Drum”.
Soprano Snare Drum
Soprano snare drums are smaller in diameter than normal snare drums, but are often much deeper. These drums have a very unique pop which works well for hip-hop and other specific musical genres.
Companies known for producing quality snare drums include Ayotte, ddrum, DW, Gretsch, Ludwig, Mapex, PDP, Pearl, Rogers, Sonor, Tama, Trick, and Yamaha.
Pork Pie makes specialty snare drums, and manufacturers such as Black Swamp specialize in making orchestral snare drums. You can refer to my picks for “Best Snare Drum” to get specific recommendations.
A great sounding snare drum can increase in value and may quickly become a collector’s item so think of your purchase more as an investment. The price is based largely on the cost of the materials used to make the shell and hardware and while high prices usually correspond with a great sounding drum, this isn’t always true.
Maple and brass shells usually sound better than other materials but are often more expensive. If you’re looking for an affordable drum which still sounds great, I recommend an aluminum or birch shell with triple-flange hoops.