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Having a good snare drum is majorly important when playing most styles of music, and Jazz is no exception.
When it comes to jazz, you’ll be playing busy comping patterns as well as hard rimshots. So, you need a dynamic snare drum that can handle everything musical that you throw at it.
The best snare drums for jazz have great tones, excellent musical response, and wide tuning ranges. Jazz is a very broad style of music, so the best jazz snares have broad applications.
In this guide, I’m going to help you choose the best snare for jazz drumming. I’ve compiled a list of good options, and I’ve compared them according to sound quality, versatility, build quality, and value.
- What are the Best s?
- Best Jazz Snare Drum Reviews
- Jazz Snare Drum Buying Guide
- Features to Look Out for in Jazz Snare Drums
- Jazz Snare Drum FAQs
What are the Best s?
Best Jazz Snare Drum Reviews
The Ludwig Supraphonic has been one of the best jazz snare drums for decades. There are a few size versions of it, but I’d say the 14” x 5” version is best suited for jazz drumming.
The snare has an aluminum shell that gives it a throaty growl with amazing responsiveness from the snare wires. You get incredible articulation when playing very subtle notes, and that’s a great quality to have when playing snare comping patterns.
This snare drum has been used on hundreds of records over the past century. So, it has a bit of a vintage aspect as well.
With ten lugs, it has a wide tuning range, allowing you to dial-in different snare tunings to fit varying styles of jazz. It’s an industry-standard snare drum, and you can’t go wrong with it if you want something with a metal shell.
- Aluminum shell
- 14” x 5.5”
- Supra-Phonic Snare strainer
- Industry-standard snare drum option
- Excellent tuning range
- Very dynamically responsive
- High resale value
- The chrome tends to pit over time
The Gretsch Brooklyn Standard is a snare drum designed with the help of Mike Johnston. While it’s a signature snare, Mike chose not to put his name on it to emphasize the fact that it’s a snare drum for everyone, and I’ve found that its tones cater particularly well to jazz drumming.
The snare has a mixture of maple and poplar in its shell plies. While poplar is usually regarded as a cheaper wood, it adds a lot of tonal depth to this snare when mixed with maple. The snare has a very full sound with cracking tones and plenty of dynamic response.
There are 42 snare wires on the bottom side, boosting the snare’s responsiveness dramatically. You can easily tighten those wires to get a clean tone if you want, though.
Another enticing aspect of this snare is its internal muffler. You don’t need to add dampening to the top head, as you can use the dial on the side of the shell to dampen the batter head from underneath. This gives you a clean tone, and it also allows you to adjust dampening on the fly.
If you’re looking for something with beautiful tones and plenty of versatility in altering them, the Brooklyn Standard is a great pick, and it can easily be considered the best snare drum for jazz on this list.
- 6-ply maple/poplar shell
- 14” x 5.5”
- Gretsch 302 hoops
- Internal muffler stops you from needing to put dampeners on the batter head
- Very clean aesthetic touches
- Full warm tones
- 42-strand snare wires add a lot of responsiveness
- Fairly expensive compared to similar wood shell snares
- Only one finish option
The Pearl Modern Utility is one of the best affordable snare drums for Jazz on the market. This drum has an all Maple shell which is impressive for a drum at this price point.
There are many snare drums that come stock with drum kits that you can buy separately, but most of them don’t have as much detail as the Modern Utility, which is why it’s my top suggestion if you need something that won’t break your bank.
The version I suggest is the one that is 14” x 5.5”, as that depth tends to fit jazz drumming the best. This snare has a maple shell that gives it a warm tone with plenty of musicality. It’s one of the most affordable maple snare drums available on the market.
It has a few top-quality Pearl hardware features, including 1.6mm triple-flanged hoops, CL Bridge Lugs, and the SR700 snare strainer. All these features make the snare act the same way a top-tier professional snare would.
The snare just doesn’t have the same tonal richness or complexity as you’d get from high-end snares. Nonetheless, it’s an excellent option for the price and it is very easy to tune.
This is a perfect option for beginner jazz drummers, gigging drummers looking for a backup snare, or for an upgrade on a kit intended for a school jazz band.
- Maple shell
- 14” x 5.5”
- 1.6mm triple-flanged hoops
- Very affordable
- Impressive Maple shell construction
- Excellent build quality
- Sounds particularly good when tuned high
- Tones aren’t as rich or dynamic as the ones from high-end snares
The Sonor Benny Greb snare is one of the most popular signature snare drums in the drumming industry. It’s an incredible snare for all styles of music, and it’s incredibly versatile. With versatility comes plenty of potential in a jazz drum kit setup.
The snare has a 9-ply beech shell. Beech is an uncommon wood used in drums, and it gives the snare drum deep tones that are incredibly rich. You still get those rich tones when the snare is tuned high as well.
The Benny Greb snare has Sonor’s 2.3mm Power Hoops which give it stronger attacking tones that are perfect for rimshots.
You also get incredible construction with this snare, as it has two built-in dampeners for varying tones and a highly intuitive snare throw-off system.
The snare is quite expensive, but you only need to buy it once to have a snare drum that can handle virtually any style of music. The rich and detailed tones are perfect for jazz, where sound quality is so important.
- 9-ply beech shell
- 13” x 5.75”
- 2.3mm triple-flanged hoops
- Supremely versatile
- Two different internal dampeners for varying tones
- Vintage Teardrop lugs look fantastic
- Beech shells are quite unique
- Rather high price tag
The A&F Rude Boy Brass snare is an incredibly rich and detailed snare with a shallow drum shell. It’s completely handmade, giving you a snare drum that has been crafted with extreme attention to detail.
The tone you get from the snare is very dry and cutting, and it tends to sound best when tuned high due to the shallow shell. It’s an incredible snare to use in modern jazz subgenres where high-pitched snares are so prevalent.
However, it sounds surprisingly good when tuned low as well. You can easily get a beefy sound if you want to.
Apart from the premium tones, you also get amazing aesthetics. The snare shell has been hand-sanded, giving you a rustic appearance.
If you want to build a snare drum collection and have something that works very well for jazz in it, this shallow A&F snare is a good pick.
Just note that the cost is quite high compared to other snare drums with similar dimensions. A&F is a custom drum company, so you’re paying more for the unique touch on all their snares. With that being said, this is one of the brand’s more affordable snare options.
- Brass shell
- 13” x 3”
- Handcrafted drum
- Beautiful appearance
- Unique snare to add to a collection
- Surprisingly wide tuning range, considering how shallow the snare is
- Very detailed in every area of tone and build
- Expensive compared to similarly sized snare drums
Jazz Snare Drum Buying Guide
When setting up a jazz drum kit, your cymbals are the most important component. Make sure to focus on those first before anything else. After that, the snare drum is the next prevalent part of the set.
Jazz snare drums need to be dynamic and very responsive to nuanced playing.
Jazz drumming can be very technical, and a high-quality snare drum will clearly articulate all the technical notes that you play.
Cheaper snare drums will still sound decent, but they won’t give you the same clean articulation that premium snares will. They also simply won’t sound as good.
When professional drummers buy drum sets, they typically replace the stock snare drums quickly because of this.
Buying a standalone snare drum is one of the best things you can do to improve your sound. That goes for jazz and every other musical style.
Features to Look Out for in Jazz Snare Drums
The size of a snare drum is measured by its diameter and height. Standard snare drums have 14-inch diameters, and they range between 5 and 6-inches in depth.
If you want a versatile snare that sounds balanced in all tuning ranges, I’d suggest getting a 14-inch snare drum. 12 and 13-inch snare drums tend to sound better when tuned medium or high.
When it comes to depths, 5 to 6-inch snares tend to work best within jazz setups. I wouldn’t recommend using a snare drum that has a larger depth, as those have beefier tones that are better suited for styles like rock and country.
Shorter depths can work well for jazz, but they don’t help the snare with versatility. Many jazz drummers use snares with short depths as secondary snares to place around their kit. You can get very high tones with them.
These short drums will work well for modern jazz drumming, but they won’t give you the classic tones that fit so well in traditional jazz styles. That’s why they’re not considered versatile.
The type of shell a snare has is the biggest determining factor in how it sounds. You have an option of getting a wooden or metal snare.
With wooden snares, the different shell types are poplar, mahogany, maple, birch, beech, and oak. With metal snares, the different shell types are steel, aluminum, brass, and bronze.
All those shell types tend to work well for jazz, so you should just learn about their tonal qualities and choose which ones you like the most.
However, some metal snares sound far too loud and aggressive for soft jazz gigs. So, I’d only recommend getting a metal snare drum if you play jazz that is loud and energetic.
If you’re playing traditional laidback jazz, you will do better with a wooden snare drum that has warmer tones.
Number of Lugs
The number of lugs a snare drum has determines how easy it is to tune. It also widens the tuning range on snare drums that are inexpensive.
The reason why more lugs make things easier is that they create less room for error. If one lug is a bit out, you’ll still have several lugs that will hold the tuning. With snares with fewer lugs, one off lug may affect everything.
You’ll most commonly find snare drums with either eight or ten lugs. If you want to have an easy time tuning your snare, I’d suggest getting one with ten lugs.
The snare wires interplay with the resonant drumhead, giving you the classic snare drum sound. The more wires there are underneath the snare, the more sensitive the snare will be.
When it comes to playing jazz comping patterns, high snare sensitivity is always better. So, look for snare drums that have a large number of snare wire strands underneath.
If you find a snare drum that you love, but it doesn’t have many snare wire strands, you can always buy snare wires separately to increase the snare’s sensitivity. You’ll just have an easier time if you get a snare that already has excellent sensitivity.
Snare Throw Offs and Other Design Features
Finding a snare drum with a good throw-off system is vital for jazz, considering that jazz drumming requires you to turn your snares on and off very regularly.
If the throw-off is smooth, it will allow you to do that very easily. If a snare drum has a low-quality throw-off, you’ll get very frustrated when trying to turn your snares off in the middle of a song.
Some snare drums take a step further with their design and allow you to adjust the tone of the snare mid-song as well. That’s another feature that would be extremely useful when drumming in a jazz environment.
Internal mufflers are another excellent feature to have with a jazz snare drum. These let you dampen the snare with the flick of a switch, and that will come in handy when exploring different sounds in jazz tunes.
Jazz Snare Drum FAQs
How are Snare Drums Used in Jazz Drumming?
Snare drums are used for both comping and playing solid backbeats in jazz. Comping refers to when you lightly tap the snare drum to subtly imitate the rhythms that other members of a jazz group are playing.
Your comping patterns should be heard very clearly, and that’s why you need a snare drum that is sensitive to subtle strokes when playing jazz.
Some jazz tunes require solid backbeats, the same way rock and funk tunes would. So, a jazz snare should have a strong rimshot sound as well.
What are the Best Brands for Jazz Snare Drums?
Over all the years that jazz has been around, Ludwig and Gretsch have been two of the most prominent brands being used. However, all the major drum kit brands have created some amazing snare drums that sound wonderful in jazz setups.
So, you can get a good jazz snare drum from DW, PDP, Gretsch, Ludwig, Sonor, Mapex, Yamaha, Pearl, Tama, or any other brand with a long line of drums on offer.
Many jazz drummers also love using custom drum brands, such as A&F, C&C, Craviotto, and Pork Pie.