Your snare drum might be the hardest working, most crucial part of your drum kit. I’d compare the snare to the sword a knight would carry in the middle ages. It’s one of those things that can define a drummer’s sound. It’s the essential tool that helps you as a drummer get the job done.
A musical instrument bearing this much importance would suggest that you should be prepared to spend a significant sum of cash on it. But the truth is, spending more on anything, even a snare drum won’t necessarily guarantee that you get the best-sounding snare out there.
You may be one of those people currently contemplating purchasing a new snare drum but, you’re not sure how much money you should be spending. With such a multitude of variations available to choose from, it’s no easy task picking the right snare for your kit. I’d like to help you make that decision.
I took a look at snare drums from multiple manufacturers with a vast price range. From the bottom of the pricing spectrum all the way to the top-of-the-line five-figure price-tagged snares.
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How Much is a Snare Drum for a Beginner?
You could easily spend about $50 on a snare drum and get something labeled for a “beginner” but, you may just be wasting your money in that case.
With snares, more often than not you do, in fact, get what you pay for. In order to get a respectable snare drum for a beginner, be ready to spend at least $100 to $200.
You’ll be surprised at the options available to you within the $100 to $200 range. You will be able to choose decently built options like a steel snare from Tama. Mapex also offers an affordable option in the form of the maple-shelled MPX snare.
Fans of Pearl, PDP, and Gretsch will find some good choices as well. At around the $200 mark, Ludwig’s Supralite Steel Snare is an extremely popular choice, as well. Another personal favorite is a compact snare offers a great deal of value for money, the Gretsch Blackhawk.
Just a little side note; most of these snares will come with flimsy heads on them so you may want to set aside an additional $20 to $30 to change out that head with something better. We’ve previously covered the best snare heads for every budget.
How Much is an Intermediate Tier Snare?
The intermediary level category will likely be where the majority of buyers land when looking to purchase a snare drum.
An intermediate snare will have better shell build quality with more layers and edges that enable your drum head to sit flush with the shell. They’ll also have better hardware, sometimes a higher lug count, and better resonance.
The intermediate-level snare category has a bit more variety within its selection. Potential buyers should safely expect to spend somewhere around $250 to $600 or so dollars.
At the lower end of that price spectrum, the Tama S.L.P. is a very popular choice among hard rock and metal drummers. For a sharp and expressive tone, you can consider this Pork Pie Brass Snare.
A Yamaha Tour Custom Snare will perform great and it won’t break the bank. I’d also recommend looking at the highly popular Mapex Black Panther line or for a more sophisticated feel, the Ludwig Classic Maple Snare.
How Much is a Professional Tier Snare?
When you’re looking at pro-level snare drums that can do it all, expect to see some snare drums carrying five-figure price tags. A professional-level snare drum will cost you $700 to $3,000+ dollars.
Professional-level snares are often used in a recording or studio context rather than on the road or for weekend gigging. That is not to say you can’t use them while touring or for live play, just be sure to take care.
Some of these snares, especially the ones that cost thousands, are made from meticulously curated materials. These snares can yield tones that are highly specialized for specific styles of music.
Recording studios sometimes have an arsenal of these snares locked in a secure and temperature-monitored room to ensure they aren’t damaged or stolen. If you’re lucky enough to record at one of these studios, they’ll often let you pick which snare you’d like to use for your songs.
Some of these costly snares are borderline legendary, like the Ludwig Black Beauty or Tama’s flagship snare, the Star Reserve Maple snare.
Around the $1K to $1.2K mark, you have several capable options like the Gretsch Bell Brass Snare, the DW Collectors’ Metal Snare, and the Sonor Benny Greb Signature Snare.
What Can Make a Snare so Expensive?
The key factors that affect how much a snare drum will cost are; the type of materials used, quantity of materials used, method of construction, hardware, time to creation, and scarcity.
The more expensive snares are often made by hand whereas less expensive snares are made by an automated process. Making a snare by hand does take more time which raises the cost but, you are going to get a better-sounding snare.
Some of these costly snares are constructed from rare materials like exotic woods. For example a highly limited, meticulously built snare; the DW Jim Keltner ICON Snare Drum. Only 250 of these snares exist in the world. They are constructed using strips of laser-cut exotic woods that are then laid into the shell, along with some other nice touches.
Other pricey snares can be constructed entirely from metals. Popular metals used in snare construction are bronze, copper, brass, steel, and nickel.
Sonor offers a sonically brilliant bronze snare within their Artist Series. Just be ready to drop a significant amount of money for that particular snare.
Can a Cheap Snare Drum Sound Good?
Because you spend more on a snare doesn’t mean it’s going to be the best sounding. There are a few things you can do to make a snare of a lower tier sound pretty darn good.
First thing almost every drummer does when they buy a snare is change out the batter head. Snares often come from the factory with a flimsy batter head that isn’t great sounding. Do yourself a favor and pick up a snare head from whoever your preferred manufacturer may be and change that stock batter head out.
You should also consider changing the resonant head as well. Some drummers will tell you the resonant head isn’t that big of a deal, but I’d strongly disagree. Changing out my resonant heads on all my drums has led to a better overall tone.
Next, think about changing your snare wires. Stock snare wires aren’t always the best. They’ll get the job done but, an aftermarket snare wire can tremendously change your snares’ sound and playing dynamic.
Finally, try some dampening. Items like gels or o-rings that lay over top of your snare can help reign in those disruptive overtones. Adding something as simple as a single gel can eliminate unwanted sounds and leave behind that snappy snare tone you want.
What is the Cheapest Snare Drum?
I’m sure you are asking yourself this question just as I was when trying out these snare drums. The absolute cheapest snare drum I could find (that didn’t sound horrible) is the Pearl Short Fuse Snare, and I gotta say this is a really cool little snare drum!
This little snare measures 10 inches wide by 4 inches deep. It has an absolutely delightful, POP, when struck. It can also be mounted to a rack which can be a lot of fun.
The Short Fuse isn’t inexpensive because it’s a low-quality snare. It’s more of a snare that is built with a specific user in mind.
It’s under $100, so a low-risk buy with the potential for hours of fun.
What Should I Look for in a Snare?
The first thing I always consider when looking at a snare drum is the tuning lugs. A good snare will typically have 10 tuning lugs. The reasoning behind this is the more lugs the more evenly I can distribute tension on the heads. More even tension around the drum head produces a better tone.
There are some decent snares out there that will have 8 tuning lugs and sometimes they sound just fine. However, I’d still recommend 10 tuning lugs for the sake of consistency and flexibility.
Also consider the make of the shell. Do you want metal or wood? The sounds of a metal snare and wood are drastically different. I’d recommend trying a few different shells out to see which tone suits your taste better.
You should also consider the shell’s diameter and depth. The depth and diameter of the shell affects the resonance, sustain, and overall sound produced by the snare.
The most common snares you’ll find are usually 14” x 6”. Personally, I didn’t like the way these size snares typically sounded. So I looked at a 13” x 7” and bought it because it was much more appropriate for the sound I desired.
Go try out some different sizes. You may be surprised by what you discover.
I wanted to be sure to touch on this too. Please be sure to take a good look at the shell of the snare you’re interested in buying. Make sure there is no warping, chipping in the edges, or any sort of visible damage anywhere inside or out.
A warped shell is virtually unfixable and you’ll never be able to get your heads to sit on the shell properly. If your head can’t sit on the shell properly your sound will suffer badly.