Most drums sound pretty similar. There are specific nuances of tone that musicians will understand and recognize, but most casual listeners will just hear drums.
However, each drum kit has a unique voice and the 2 biggest contributors to this voice are the snare drum and the cymbals. Every drum kit has a different snare and cymbal sound. In this article, I'm going to be focusing on the snare part.
Heavy styles of music like rock and metal call for a snare drum sound that is large and powerful. It needs to be present in the music and provide a solid backbeat to songs. Here are some of the best snare drums for rock and metal.
Best Snare Drums for Rock and Metal
The Black Beauty is an expertly crafted snare drum from Ludwig. It’s truly a work of art, having some of the highest build quality aspects I’ve seen on a snare drum.
Ludwig offers this snare in 2 different sizes and I’ve put the 8” x 14” snare on this list, seeing as how the deeper size caters more to heavy styles of music.
It’s a metal snare drum that delivers a metallic tone that is fat and cuts through any mix you throw at it. This snare is buttery to play and sounds very powerful, with the rimshots being the shining point of the whole thing.
However, the high build quality makes it really sensitive to dynamics, meaning it produces a robust tone even from the softest ghost notes.
The Black Beauty is one of the more expensive snare drums on the market. It’s a big investment if you get one. It’s well worth it though!
The Supraphonics are some of Ludwig’s best selling snare drums. This means they’re very accessible and widely loved by a lot of drummers. The LM402 is a bit more affordable than the Black Beauty. However, it’s still pretty expensive.
The Supraphonic LM402 has a chrome-plated, beaded aluminum shell that gives it a good balance between a round tone and a cutting snare crack. It resonates beautifully, is very defined, and has a nice pop that cuts through a mix.
The depth gives the snare a fatness which you will feel when you play it hard, meaning this snare gives back the energy that you put into it which is great for rock music.
The graduated bed built into the bottom bearing edge helps with easy tuning and gets rid of a lot of unwanted snare buzz.
The Supraphonic LM402 was one of John Bonham’s favorite snare drums. If one of the greatest rock drummers of all time used this snare, we can confidently say that it’s a great snare drum for rock.
DW is a company renowned for their high quality drum construction and innovation. Their drums can get pretty expensive, so you’ll find that a lot of drummers just add DW snare drums separately to their kits. The snares have the same build as the kits and are a great way to experience the quality that is DW.
The DW Performance Series Steel Snare has a thin steel shell that produces a cutting crack with little overtones. The best word to describe this snare is ‘fat’. It’s one of the fattest snares around. It has a seriously thick sound and works best when tuned medium to low with slightly looser snare wires.
The rimshots bring out the crack and cross sticks have no problem cutting through a mix of instruments.
It has DW’s True-Pitch tuning rods which allow you to tune the drums more accurately. This means you’ll get a great sound without having to spend lots of time on tuning the snare.
The Big Black Steel snare drum is part of Tama’s Sound Lab Project which aims to provide quality products at affordable prices.
This snare has a large 8” x 14” steel shell that produces a sound that is bright with a long sustain and a lot of overtones. The sound is very aggressive, yet it has great sensitivity and response.
The unique thing about this snare is that it sounds really good when tuned high. This is something not common to deep snare drums. So, if you like your snare tuned high, but still want a thick punch, then the S.L.P. Big Black Steel snare is a great option.
This snare is well-suited for rock and metal, whether it be for playing on stage or recording in a studio. It’s also very affordable.
The one downside is that the stock drumhead that comes with it isn’t great. So, you’d need to replace that with a better snare head to get the best sound out of the snare.
The Design Series is DW’s most affordable line of drums. The Design drums share a lot of the build qualities from DW’s higher end products, but are produced in a way that cuts costs and makes them cheaper. The Black Nickel Over Brass snare has a thin brass shell that produces a loud sound.
This snare has a loud snap with center hits and rimshots that have a decent ring to them. The tone is lively and warm, providing a versatile sound that could fit any style of music. The loudness of this snare is what makes it great for rock and metal.
One of the best parts of this snare drum is the MAG throw-off. It controls the snare wires with a magnet and lets you turn the snare on and off very smoothly and easily. This is great for when you want to turn the snare off mid-song without missing a beat.
With all the snares on this list having metal shells, I felt it would be good to add a wood option on the list. The Pearl Modern Utility snare has a maple shell that provides musical flexibility and a wide tuning range.
This snare is designed in a way that makes it very reliable and durable, ready to take a beating when playing rock and metal. It has a boxy sound that stops the rimshots from ringing too much, meaning this snare doesn’t need much dampening.
The sound is tight and controlled, but still sounds open enough to make an impact on stage. The large depth makes this snare work well in low tunings, giving a beefy sound.
It’s affordable, looks good, and is very durable. This makes this snare a great option for anyone wanting to play rock and metal, but not wanting to break the bank on a snare drum.
Snare Drum Size
The size of your snare drum is a vital aspect to deciding what voice you want to have as a drummer. If you wack a bunch of snare wires on any drum, it basically becomes a snare drum, meaning snare drums can range from 8” to 16”. Those sizes are a bit extreme and only get used by creative and experimental drummers.
We mostly deal with 14” snare drums, like all the snares on this list. The other size aspect of snare drums is their depth. The deeper a snare is, the lower its tuning range will be. Depths of snare drums will usually range from 5” to 8”. Some snares are shallower than that and they’re referred to as piccolo snare drums.
The 5” to 8” range is what we look at for rock and metal. You need a deep and thuddy sound for heavier styles of music. The snare drum needs to match the energy of the distorted guitars and powerful vocals.
The shell material used for a snare drum makes a big impact on how it sounds. The two main types of materials that are used are metal and wooden shells. When it comes to wooden shells, the most popular woods are maple, birch, and poplar.
Maple shells produce warm and well-rounded tones while birch is better for attacking and popping sounds. Birch tends to work better for rock and metal thanks to its fairly aggressive nature. Poplar shells are used in cheaper drums as poplar is an inexpensive wood.
However, the best shell material for rock and metal is arguably metal. Whether you’re using a snare drum that is made of steel, brass, or aluminum, it will have a punchy sound that fits the two musical styles perfectly.
This is the reason why most of the snare drums on the above list are made of metal. Metal snare drums are heavier and more aggressive most of the time. They also have highly sensitive responses, making them quite versatile in many situations.
The one downside is that they’re physically heavier than snares with wooden shells. Take that into account if you’re planning on moving your drum kit around a lot. Having a wooden shell might just save you a bit of energy. The Pearl Modern Utility snare would be a great choice in this case.
There are several popular drum brands that sell very high-quality snare drums. You may have heard some people saying that one brand is better for rock and metal than another.
While this may have been true 20 years ago, all the drum brands today are in tight competition with each other.
They all have snare drums that are designed to work well for harder styles of music. The choice of which brand to go with depends on what you want from a snare drum.
You should compare all the snares from the list above and decide which one you think is the best for you, no matter what brand it comes from.
The great thing about a snare drum is that it has a wide range of sounds. You can tune it low, medium or high. You can also turn the snares off, play cross sticks and rimshots. It’s the centre of your whole drum kit setup. This means it’s important to have a really great snare drum.
Most drummers will actually have 2 or 3 snare drums that they change up according to what style of music they’re going to play. If you’ve ever been to a recording studio, you would have noticed that the sound engineer has a whole rack of snare drums ready to use.
Get yourself a good snare drum. Your rock or metal band will greatly benefit from it.