If you’re like me, making any choice is hard enough, which means choosing snare drums is a living nightmare. I've taken a look at the sounds that different woods produce to help get you started with choosing the right snare!
Every element of a drum can dramatically change the character of the sound, and if you don't know how each element affects the sound, you won't know where to start! To start off a series looking at the features that affect a drum's sound, specifically snares, I've put together a simple guide to the sound that each of the most popular woods produce. The main woods you’ll come across for snares are Maple, Birch, Walnut, Oak, Cherry, Mahogany and Bubinga.
Maple - The one you’ll be most familiar with is maple. Maple is relatively multi-purpose, with matched high and mid frequencies with a slightly warmer low end. It projects well, and will have you sorted if you’re looking for something that can cover all bases.
Birch - Birch in some ways is similar to Maple, and unless you’re very familiar with your drums, you may not hear the difference very clearly. However, the differences are that Birch has slightly more higher frequencies, less mid than Maple, and stronger low end frequencies. This ‘scooped’ style frequency curve makes for a very dry and punchy snare that cuts through.
Walnut - Frequency-wise, Walnut is more similar to Maple than Birch, if not a little warmer. This added warmth gives the tone a punch that Maple doesn’t quite have, and a dryness which lends itself very well to rock, and even pop music.
Oak - If you’re looking for an all-pupose snare, but Maple doesn’t quite suit, Oak will be the next port of call. It has softer highs than the Maple and Walnut, a slightly boosted midrange and warm lows, but is still relatively balanced, particularly compared to Birch. It has a quick decay, and combined with the boosted mids, an Oak snare drum has impressive projection.
Cherry - Cherry is a dense, but softer wood, and this gives it a darker tone, but one that sits between Maple and Birch. The character of Cherry is a bit vintage, and quite sensitive, and it really does stand out. This does however mean that it is not as all-purpose as some other woods.
Mahogany - Mahogany is very original in tone. It leans very much to the low end of the frequency spectrum, and that gives it a warm and rich character, while still being very punchy. Like Cherry, it’s vintage in style, and lends itself very well to rock, and darker pop.
Bubinga - Bubinga is the hardest wood out of all described above, which gives it an aggressive tone. This wood projects particularly well, as while having the strong character that cuts quickly, it also maintains a smooth warmth similar to that in Maple. Naturally, Bubinga snares can be tuned lower than others and still maintain a full tone.