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When it comes to picking a metal snare drum, no material seems to be more popular than brass. It’s a favorite of so many professional drummers, purely due to the versatility of tone that it gives.
For that reason, everyone would benefit from having brass drums in their collection, and there are plenty of good choices out there.
I’ve handpicked five of the best brass snare drums available, and I’ve compared them according to size, quality, playability, and overall design.
Look through all their details, listen to what they sound like, and then choose which one appeals to you the most.
- What are the Best Brass Snare Drums?
- In-Depth Brass Snare Drum Reviews
- Brass Snare Drum Buying Guide
- What Makes Brass Snare Drums a Good Buying Option
- Features to Look Out for in a Brass Snare Drum
- Brass Snare Drum FAQs
What are the Best Brass Snare Drums?
In-Depth Brass Snare Drum Reviews
One of the most sought-after snares, the Gretsch USA Bell Brass snare drum has a wonderfully smooth and pure tone and plenty of depth and character.
It has a 3mm shell that gives the snare plenty of tonal responsiveness.
When you strike the snare, you hear a lot of body, but the tones are accented in the higher ranges. That makes it sound amazing when you play rimshots, and the die-cast hoops add further to the punchiness.
The snare comes equipped with a 42-strand set of wires, making it very responsive to soft notes as well. The dynamic range makes it amazing for both live gigging and studio sessions.
The benefit of the deep shell is that you can get really beefy tones when you tune it low. It’s surprising how much volume it gives out when tuned low, and that’s why it’s such a great snare for heavier styles.
There are two downsides. Firstly, it’s the most expensive snare drum on this list. It’s not a compelling option for anyone with a low budget. Secondly, it’s incredibly heavy. That’s not the worst thing in the world, but it can affect drummers who lug gear around often.
- 3mm bell brass shell
- Die-cast hoops
- 14” x 6.5”
- Huge sound with plenty of body
- Sensitive to subtle notes
- Die-cast hoops add a good amount of crack
- 3mm shell gives it musical tones
- Very heavy
The Ludwig Black Beauties have been great snare drums since the 60s and 70s, and it’s been recorded on more studio albums than most other snare drums. It’s another brass snare with an incredible reputation.
The thing that makes it so good is its versatility. Whether you’re playing jazz, rock, or world music, this snare will sound fantastic. It records very well, and it has a very wide tuning range.
It has a warm tone that also sounds fairly metallic. It’s that combination that allows it to cut through mixes with relative ease.
One of the qualities that make these snare drums so attractive is that they’re scarce. Ludwig doesn’t make too many every year, so they’re always in demand.
That also gives them a high resale value. It’s always great to know that you can sell your snare drum for a great price if you decide to in the future. However, you’ll find that you won’t want to let this one go any time soon. It’s just so good.
- Brass shell with nickel-plating
- Triple-flanged hoops
- 14” x 6.5”
- Highly versatile and a wide tuning range
- Amazing resale value
- Works wonderfully for studio work
- Black finish looks good visually with any drum kit
- The P88 snare strainer can be problematic
This snare drum was designed by Gretsch for Keith Carlock, who is one of the most successful session drummers in the world at the moment. He’s played with John Mayer, Steely Dan, Sting, Toto, and many more.
The whole idea behind the snare was to create something versatile enough for him to use with every artist he plays with, and it does that job fantastically.
It has a 2mm Vintage Patina brass shell that gives it massive power and depth, but it’s musical enough to sound amazing in any tuning. The die-cast hoops also add to the intensity of rimshots and cross-sticks.
The aspect that impresses me the most about the Gretsch Drums Keith Carlock Signature Snare Drum is that it has plenty of ring, but it doesn’t sound out of control. Even with no muffling, you get a tight sound that is open and effective. You can change it to sound however you want with a bit of muffling if you want, though.
It’s a bit on the heavier side, but that’s to be expected with a 2mm brass shell.
- 2mm Vintage Patina brass shell
- 4mm die-cast hoops
- 14” x 5.5”
- Vintage Patina shell looks incredible
- Highly versatile
- Designed with the help of Keith Carlock
- Good amount of power
- Almost as heavy as a cast-shell snare drum
The DW Black Nickel Over Brass snare drum from the brand’s Design Series is a great option for drummers looking for a more affordable option. It costs about half of most other popular brass snare drums, but it has tonal quality good enough for any professional situation.
The standout feature of this snare is the sheer amount of bite and attack that it has. You get a lot more pop out of it than the other snares on this list, and that makes it a great option for lively styles of music.
It has all the classic DW hardware features, including the MAG throw-off and True-Pitch tension rods. These add to the playability, as they make the snare easy to tune, and turning the wires on and off is a breeze.
Most of the drums from the Design Series are made from maple, so it’s amazing the DW offers this brass option for drummers that is more attainable than their Performance and Collector’s snares.
The stock batter head isn’t the best, though, and you’ll get much better tonal control when swapping that out.
- 1mm bead-reinforced brass shell
- True-Pitch tuning rods
- 14” x 6.5”
- More affordable than other brass snare drums
- Sharp attacking tones
- MAG throw-off makes adjusting the snare wires quick and easy
- Top-tier DW build quality
- You’ll get better tonal control with drumheads different from the stock ones
If you’re looking for something loud and punchy, look no further than Matt Halpern’s signature brass snare drum from Pearl. I’d say this is an awesome snare drum for drummers with quick playing styles where they play many notes in short bursts.
It’s incredibly articulate, but it’s so loud that all your subtle notes are easily heard. Matt Halpern plays drums in Periphery, so this snare was designed to handle all the complex parts in progressive metal music.
Pearl has put some top-tier hardware components on the snare to make it feel and sound amazing. The STL swivel lugs are light, so they allow the snare to vibrate freely.
The MasterCast die-cast hoops are one of the biggest reasons for the snare sounding so aggressive, but they also round out the tone very nicely.
Finally, the SR150 Click-Lock strainer ensures the snare wires are always activated. Matt Halpern said he had problems with levers coming loose on other snares while he was playing, so this strainer is far more reliable.
With the snare sounding so punchy and articulate, it’s not the best option for gentler music styles. Another brass snare with mellower tones would be a better pick.
- 1.5mm brass shell
- Pearl MasterCast die-cast hoops
- 14” x 6”
- Great snare for intricate metal drumming
- Good amount of attack with plenty of articulation
- Powder-coated finish looks timeless
- Triple shell vents add body to the tone
- Too loud for certain styles of music
Brass Snare Drum Buying Guide
When looking into the world of metal snare drums, brass snares will always be one of the biggest suggestions you may get. Professional performing drummers love brass snare drums for all their tonal qualities, so having one in your snare collection will always be a good thing.
There are a few things to check out before getting one, though, as not all brass snare drums perform in the same way. You’ll also find a range of prices with different brass snares, and it’s good to know why some are more expensive than others.
Here’s everything you should know about buying a brass snare drum.
What Makes Brass Snare Drums a Good Buying Option
- Brass snare drums are typically louder than wooden snare drums, but they’re more versatile than other metal snare drums.
- Brass snares tend to have fewer nasty overtones compared to other metal snares.
- Brass snare drums are very effective at cutting through a mix, so they’re great for heavy styles of music and for live performances.
- Brass snares have incredible dynamic ranges, as they’re very loud but can be heard clearly when played softly.
Features to Look Out for in a Brass Snare Drum
Size is the first major feature to look out for. Most brass shells are 14” in diameter, so you’ll mainly be looking at depth. Snare drums have depths that range from 5” to 8”, with 5” and 6” being standard.
Essentially, snare drums with deeper depths will have lower tuning ranges and more body in their tones. Snares with shorter depths will have higher tuning ranges and more crack in their tones.
Deeper snare drums are also heavier, especially when looking at brass snare drums.
You need to choose a snare drum according to your tuning preferences. If you love tight and punchy snare drums, I’d suggest getting a 14” x 5” option. If you like deep and thuddy snare drums, I’d suggest getting a 14” x 6.5” option.
The beauty of brass snare drums is that they can also be tuned both ways, and it always turns out well.
When looking at brass snare drums, you won’t be looking at numbers of plies as you would with wooden snares. Instead, you’ll be looking at the thickness of the single brass shells that the snares are made up of.
The shells typically range from 1mm to 3mm, but you’ll also find a few outliers.
The thicker a shell is, the more attack and volume the snare drum will have. The sound will also be quite controlled. This makes thick-shelled brass snare drums amazing for settings like rock and contemporary worship, especially if you’re going for low tones.
Thinner shells have far more tonal expressiveness. There’s less mass stopping the snare from ringing out, and that gives you a singing snare drum. Thinner brass snares often need to be muffled, but some drummers love the boosted musicality that they offer.
Another factor is that thinner shells have deeper tones, but that’s not a reliable measurement, considering that it depends on all the hardware components as well.
When checking out the hardware of a snare drum, you’ll be looking at the lugs, snare throw-off, and hoops. These all affect how the snare can be tuned and how it feels to play. Some snares have extra hardware features, which could come in the form of unique shell designs or add-ons.
When looking at hoops, you’ll either get triple-flanged or die-cast hoops. Die-cast hoops are heavier, and they add a lot more bite to the snare drum. Brass snare drums with die-cast hoops sound seriously punchy.
The snare throw-off will control the snare wires. Some throw-offs have special designs that make them easier to use. You should also check how many snare wires are on the snare, as that affects sensitivity.
The lugs will affect how the snare vibrates, as well as how easy it is to tune the snare drum. Every brand has their own version of drum lugs, and they all offer various qualities. They all perform the same job, so it’s not the most defining feature to look out for, but the subtle differences between lug designs may sway you in one direction or another.
The hardware features and the shell design work together to create the overall snare drum sound and playing experience. So, both are just as important to look at.
Brass Snare Drum FAQs
What’s the Difference Between Wood and Metal Snare Drums?
Wood snare drums sound warm and a lot subtler than metal snare drums. Metal snare drums have more aggressive tones. They’re sharper, louder, and far more in your face.
This leads them to sound livelier, but they’re not as versatile as most wooden snare drums, and wooden snare drums are often preferred in recording studios.
What are the Most Versatile Types of Snare Drums?
Maple snares are the best snare drums for versatility. When it comes to playability, price, availability, and overall musicality, they’re unmatched.
However, any snare drum can work for any style, depending on how you tune it. If you’re looking at metal snare drums, brass snare drums tend to be the most versatile choice.
Why are Brass Snare Drums Expensive?
The most affordable brass snare drums will have starting prices of around $300. They cost more than the most affordable wooden snare drums as they’re more expensive to make. There are also far more wooden snare drums than there is brass, so supply and demand play a role in the price jumps.