Jazz is one of the most most dynamically diverse styles of music. There are a lot of sub-genres to it, but most of them pretty much require the same type of sound. Snare drums are a great way to reflect your voice on the drums, making them vital to your jazz setup.
Here are the best snare drums for jazz.
4 Best Snare Drums for Jazz Drummers
The Gretsch brand and jazz drumming go hand-in-hand. Gretsch drums were used by a lot of the jazz greats back in the day. They make vintage sounding drums which fit the jazz style perfectly.
The Renown snare has a 5” x 14” maple shell that is sensitive as well as powerful.
It has a warm crack with a lot of projection, sounding great when tuned low, medium, or high. The overall sound is quite vintage, making this a great snare for big band playing.
It has Gretsch’s 302 hoops which are light and add a lot of resonance. The overtones from that resonance make this snare quite musical, especially when fitted with a good single-ply drumhead. The snare also has 30 degree bearing edges which give it warmth, allowing it to blend comfortably in a mix of instruments.
It’s very sensitive to ghost notes, so it will react well to jazz comping.
The Ludwig Supraphonics have been on the market for years. They were used by drummers all the way back in the 50s and 60s and are still widely used today. The big band drummers of the 50s used to love this snare.
The LM400 has a chrome-plated aluminum shell that produces a resonating tone with a sharp attack. It has a smooth and articulate sound that responds well to dynamics.
It produces an even tone when played softly and a loud cavernous crack when played hard. This is why the LM400 is great for jazz as well as metal. It will work extremely well across all the sub-genres of jazz.
It has some seriously high build quality aspects, meaning it’s one of the more expensive snare drums on the market. The LM400 is well worth the investment though, seeing as many drummers tend to use this snare for decades.
The DW Design Series is the most affordable line of drums from DW. DW drums are typically quite expensive, so it’s great that DW has an affordable option that still maintains a lot of the high build quality features of their higher end drums.
I’ve added the Black Nickel Over Brass snare to this list since it is has a metal shell and loud metal shells can sometimes work extremely well in a jazz setup. This snare has a thin brass shell which makes it produce a very loud sound.
It has a loud snap with cracking rimshots. The tone is warm and brings life to the drums around it. This snare fits in well in a big band setup. Its loud energy matches the energy of all the horns, allowing you to accent all the hits in the songs with vigor and enthusiasm.
It has DW’s MAG throw-off system, which allows you to easily turn the snares on and off mid-song. This happens a lot in jazz drumming, making this a really useful feature.
The loudness of the snare stops it from being a great option for playing light jazz in a restaurant, meaning it’s not the most versatile snare drum for jazz.
The Warbird is a snare drum in Mapex’s Black Panther line that was designed with the help of Chris Adler. What’s a snare drum designed by a heavy metal drummer doing in a jazz list? Well, this 5.5” x 12” cracking machine fits really well in modern styles of improvisational jazz.
It’s made from a mixture of walnut and maple which give it a balanced tone that is pretty loud. The sound is high pitched and poppy, letting the crowd feel every rimshot that is played.
This snare is versatile, which is why it fits well with the modern styles of jazz that blend hip hop and soul. It works best when tuned medium or high.
It’s also a great option to have as a side snare in your setup, letting you pull out that high crack just when you need it.
Snare Drum Sizes
Snare drums are usually 14”. However, styles like jazz can get pretty experimental, making smaller sized snare drums more prominent options. The higher pitched sound of a 12” snare will fit extremely well in a jazz setup, adding to the creative sound.
You could also use a deep 14” snare for playing jazz. It would work well in a big band setup, providing a solid backbeat sound to the mix.
A lot of jazz drummers incorporate two different sized snares into their setup. The most modern trend is to have a deep and fat snare in the place of the first floor tom.
It sounds like a floor tom when turned off, but a fat snare when turned on. You’ll see this setup used by jazz drummers such as Larnell Lewis and Robert ‘Sput’ Searight.
One of the key features to look for in a snare drum for jazz is responsiveness. The style can get very technical at times and jazz drummers will try to get as many sounds as they can out of the snare drum. The more responsive the snare is, the easier that is to do.
A responsive snare will allow you to play the subtlest of ghost notes and still have them being clearly heard. That responsiveness is especially vital when it comes to comping.
Comping is when a jazz drummer plays different notes on the snare to complement what the other musicians are doing around him.
If the snare has a great comping sound while the ride cymbal is being swung on, you know it’s a great snare for jazz!
Many drummers will give you conflicting opinions on what shell material the snare drum needs to be for jazz. Most shell types will work fairly well. However, they each have different qualities that may cater better to certain types of jazz settings.
A snare drum with a metal shell will have a more aggressive tone than one with a wooden shell. Metal shells are great for big bands as the snare often has to be loud to be heard through all the instruments.
A snare that has a maple shell will sound a bit more mellow. Snares like this are often more versatile, better fitting into smaller jazz band settings.
Choosing the right drumheads is a critical decision to make when it comes to drums and jazz. Most jazz drummers will equip their toms with single-ply heads and tune them high so that they freely resonate.
When it comes to selecting a head for your snare drum, you need to make sure that you use one that is coated. If you use a clear drumhead, you won’t be able to play on it with brushes. The Remo Ambassador is a popular option amongst jazz drummers.
Jazz is a very expressive style of music. It’s dynamically diverse and calls for a lot of nuanced playing. Whether you’re playing in a small trio and or big band, you’re going to need a lot of skill to play jazz. You should have a snare drum that fits your playing style.
Your snare should spark your creativity and respond well to the style of music. So, go out and get a snare that is ready for some comping.