How do I improve snare drum sound?

Author: Simon DasGupta.
August 19, 2022

In this article

Getting a good snare drum sound can be challenging for beginner drummers, who often ask:

  • Why is my snare drum ringing?
  • How can I dampen the sound of my snare drum?
  • Does the drum head make a difference to my snare sound?

Why is a good snare drum sound important?

The snare drum is your drum set's centerpiece and can help shape your sound. A great snare drum sound is essential for any recording or touring drummer, but it's equally important for beginner and hobbyist drummers. Why? An instrument that sounds good, appeals to the ear and produces a desirable tone is more inspiring and enjoyable to play. For friends and family going on this journey with you, it's much more pleasant on their ears too.

Here are five tips to help you achieve a great snare drum sound.

1. Select the right drum heads for your snare drum.

Snare drums can come in different sizes and shell types. However, one common thing on most snare drums is that they usually leave the factory with a single-ply, coated batter head. This is generally accepted as the industry-standard snare drum head and is always a good starting point if you are thinking of making a change.

Suppose your snare drum head is worn (where all of the coating has been worn off to just a plain, smooth plastic surface at the center of the head) and has multiple pits (minor dents or "pits" occur when the drum has been hit too hard, with inadequate technique, or perhaps with a damaged drum stick). It's time to consider a new drum head.

If you are a hard-hitter and prefer playing harder/louder music, you might want to think about a heavier-weight snare drum head, such as a two-ply model. This may last longer than a single-ply head and give you a more controlled (less resonant) sound.

The snare side head (also known as a "hazy" head) is also important. This is the bottom head, to which the snare wires touch and create that classic snare "crack." Typically, this needs to be a thinner model and lighter weight than the batter side.

2. Good tuning is essential.

Tuning a snare drum is a skill that is learned over time, and most badly tuned snare drums result from understandable inexperience.

As many videos, DVDs, and even books have been produced on this subject; it's fair to say that this has always been the Achilles heel of many drummers. The good news is that there is help!

One of the most innovative inventions in drum set tuning is the DrumDial. Our best advice to any drummer is to invest in one of these neat devices and take the time, frustration, and mystique out of drum tuning.

If you can't get to your friendly local drum retailer, you can buy one here. As an affiliate, we may receive a commission if you choose to do this.

3. Additional dampening makes a huge difference.

Even with new drum heads and good tuning, it's still possible for a snare drum to ring more than desired and produce unwanted overtones.

This is where additional dampening becomes extremely useful. Consider using Moongel, or other putties and rubber-based products that can be applied directly to the drum head and adjusted as necessary. This gives you a vastly more controllable snare drum sound. Tone rings are also a good option, but these are less controllable.

4. Don't choke the snare drum.

Every snare drum has a snare strainer on the side of the drum. A dial on the top of this device adjusts the tension of the snare wires. This will allow you to get a good balance of buzz and control.

If the snare wires are too loose, the wire strands will continue to vibrate long after the drum has been played, which can be bothersome. On the other hand, if the wires are too tight, they will choke the effectiveness of this critical function, producing an abrupt, sharp sound.

5. The condition of the snare wires is important.

Most snare wires consist of twenty or so individual strands. If individual strands become damaged or loose, this can affect the sound. Individual strands can be removed if necessary using scissors or wire cutters, but be careful not to leave exposed sharp ends at the edges that can cut into the snare-side head. As this is a very lightweight head, it is easily damaged or torn.

Want to learn more about drum set equipment? Our FREE eBook can help!

Free eBook, all your drumming questions answered!
Rich Redmond

“I have never encountered a book this complete. It has everything you need to start your life-changing journey.”

Rich Redmond

Drummer - Jason Aldean, Kelly Clarkson

“An easy basic read that answers a lot of questions for new or aspiring drummers that may not have access to a local expert.”

Drum Ambition Logo
Verified Review

“I really liked this book. The sharing of tips learned on the author's journey is really inspiring and encouraging.”

Drum Ambition Logo
Verified Review