Following on from last week's look at wood materials in snares, I've taken a look at the sounds that different metals produce to help get you started with choosing the right snare!
The second in a series which looks at the different features that affect a snare's tone. I've put together a simple guide to the sound that each of the most popular metals produce. The most popular metals used for snares are Steel, Brass, Copper, Aluminium and Bronze. Metal snares are often popular as they’re thought to cut through more than wood snares, but that is a bit of generalisation depending on what metal, and what wood! Below are the characteristics of each of these metals.
Steel - Steel snares are very bright, and as such, are perfect to cut through the mix with their bright sound, powerful attack, and piercing rimshots. Steel snares are relatively cheap to produce, and so cheaper to purchase, but be aware, they do need a little more maintenance compared to other snares due to their susceptibility to corrosion.
Aluminium - Aluminium snares share similar qualities to steel snares, in that they have a penetrating tone, which is weighted significantly at the higher end of the frequency spectrum, but they have one very important difference; they are drier. This gives the snare a powerful bite, without the long sustain of a steel snare. Though traditionally a little more expensive than steel snares, aluminium snares are lighter, and therefore more ideal for travelling.
Brass - Brass snares are a perfect example of why metal snares cannot just be lumped together to be bright and cutting. Brass shells share a similar frequency curve to that of Birch, with boosted lows and highs, and slightly dampened mids. This gives Brass snares the punch required to be heard, while still maintaining a warm yet crisp tone.
Copper - Copper has become an increasingly popular material for snare production, and are even the more popular choice for orchestras. Though Copper snares have boosted highs, and share a similar curve to that of Steel snares, they have more bottom end than steel and aluminium, give the tone a rounder, more substantial sound.
Bronze - Bronze snares are the most expensive of metal snares, and though often used for cymbals for its projective qualities, this material is ideal for a snare. It is the darkest in tone of all the metal snares, and combines the benefits of a warm, round wooden snare, and the projection and clarity of a metal snare.