A snare wires is an essential piece in the snare drum and is what makes it sound with attack, with that “crack” and the characteristic “sandy” sound, depending on the tension that is given to it. There are many types of snare wires, and each of them changes the sound of the drum more radically than it may seem.
A few words about snare wires
A snare wires is one of the parts of snare drum that are less considered by those who start playing and do not have much experience. In reality it is a useful element, just think that without the snare wires a snare would sound like any other 14”shallow tom. It is a series of metal wires stretched over the resonant skin which, at each stroke on the beating skin, vibrate and produce that characteristic sound.
From there the snare drum has evolved and has changed radically over the years, creating a real metal snare wires and moving it to the resonant skin, whose tension can be changed with the aid of an instrument, called in jargon machine, place on the side of the stem. Argument difficult to summarize in a few lines, many argue that the wooden snare drum has a darker and softer sound, the metal ones lighter, bright and full of harmonics. The truth is that there are many types of wood and metal, also influencing the build quality and the rest of its components. In general, if you choose to buy a metal snare you can take these factors into consideration:
- Steel: quick attack, clear and bright sound covering a wide range of frequencies
- Aluminum: very similar to steel, generally with fewer harmonic
- Copper: less persistent sound, more precise and with less harmonics
- Brass: similar to copper but warmer and with a higher concentration of low frequencies
The information is very summarizing. But use it as a general guide to understand which way to go, when you have decided which sound you would like for your snare, listen: if you search well on the internet you can easily find an example of how it sounds and understand if it is the right one for you!
Models and typologies
A snare wires is composed of a series of metal spirals, called “wires” (twenty in the most common models), tensioned by a tensioning machine. The spirals run parallel to each other along the diameter of the drum, and are placed in contact with the resonant skin with a tension that can be adjusted, i.e. increased and decreased by means of a special screw (usually operated by a knob or a wheel). The increase in the tension of the snare wires corresponds to a reduction, in duration, of the vibration of the same: the sound will therefore be shorter and drier. A lever on the machine also allows the release of the snare wires, removing it from the skin and then canceling the effect on the sound. This is useful… Because sometimes you prefer the “cordless” snare drum or when you want to play different sounds and timbres when you play with sticks or other knockers.
There are some things that define snare wires:
- Number of wires
- Wire material
- How the wires are “spiraled”
- Plate material
- Cable ties or cords (to fix them to the snare)
The shape of the tailpiece bed is very important for a snare, which allows the snare wires to adhere perfectly to the surface of the resonant skin. Sometimes it happens that at the point where the wires are welded there is some sharp protrusion that ruins the skin. If you cannot adjust by filing the welding you can always opt for a thicker skin or the model equipped with reinforcement at that point while maintaining a thin weight of leather. The diameter-depth-skins ratio of the snare drum is a factor that must be taken into consideration. The choice of skins, especially the sound of a snare drum, is very sensitive to this factor. The choice of thickness is also determined by the other dimensions of the drum.
Number of wires
The standard of snare wires is oriented on twenty wires and steel (steel or stainless steel). There are also 42 wires on the market… and in different materials. With that number of wires you get the most balanced sound. Wider tailpieces, unlike those with fewer wires, have more volume and are much more sensitive. Obviously this could cause problems in controlling the noise. For some this does not bother, also because it tends to be often hidden from other instruments, but others this feature does not like at all. It depends a lot on the genre played, on the volumes, on whether or not you use the brushes, on the tension and on the resonant skin pattern. There are some types of tailpiece that have an empty space in the middle. This type of snare wires guarantees a fuller and drier sound than standard ones.
The most common wires are made of steel or a steel/carbon mix. The latter guarantee a brighter and “sparkling” sound (It is specified that the steel always contains the carbon, in the models defined “steel-carbon” there is a greater quantity of this material that gives greater rigidity to the alloy giving more brilliance to the sound). There are also wires made of synthetic gut, less common and with a much less brilliant sound. Some use synthetic gut to decrease volume a little when they play in small rooms.
How the wires are “spiraled”
The spiraling affects the volume and how much the sound is articulated. The greater the coiling of the wire is therefore the greater the volume. The wires that are less curled have less volume but a more articulate sound (a less curled spring has less surface, less surface = less mass, less mass = less inertia, less inertia = less volume). An example is the cord-shaped cable lines which have less sound quality but a greater volume.
Cable ties for the tailpiece
The clamps are usually more reliable than the cables, both in terms of tension and resistance. The fact remains that if you break the wires, you can fix the fly quite easily, while finding a band cannot be easy. Fortunately, many plates allow the use of both systems.
To maintain the tone of the drum it is preferable to use a maximum 10-wire. The more the surface is covered the more you will have a sound of the tailpiece and less of the note, especially with little surface covered you will get more note of snare and a right cordial sound varying perhaps on the materials.
The Best Snare Wires
Some of brands such as Sabian manufactures snare wires straps exclusively, and has many different models.
Sabian SBPB42 42 Strand Phosphor Bronze Snare Wire
- Bronze secret alloy developed specifically for snare applications (Phosphor Bronze alloys with a high content of phosphorus and tin; the phosphorus present in the material binds to the copper, making it difficult to oxidize and thus increasing its resistance to wear).
- A higher tension provides greater contact with the skin of the snare drum.
- Both the spirals and the wind have been designed to maximize the attack.
It is simple and obvious: the more wires, the more the sound of the snare will be influenced by it. If you put a snare wires with many wires the sound of the drum does not change, but its nuances vary, what is the characteristic sound of the snare wires varies.
If you had to ask 10 different drummers when it’s a snare sounds good, you’d get 10 different answers. First of all, you need to understand the genre you must play. It is obvious that a very nice snare drum in a rock situation is not exactly what you need in a jazz situation and vice versa. The snare sounds good depending on many things such as the skin, the shaft, the rim, the tailpiece, but also depending on what sounds, but above all depending on who plays it. It seems a banality but it is not. Do not focus maniacally on the number of wires in the retina, but to begin with, if you do not know where to find your way, choose a standard. From there you can make all the adjustments you want and the proofs you want. Dismantling it and reassembling it often does not create damage to the snare and indeed it will make you gain experience, as well as try different types of skins and wands.
PureSound Super 30 Series Snare Wire
While many companies struggle to find combinations of woods, edge angles, types of rims and skins, PureSound focuses exclusively on the snare wires.
It is really true that it is the attention to detail that makes a product a great product. And if by definition we mean the element that has always determined the classic sound of the snare, well we have identified the object of attention of a company that has decided to focus its attention exclusively on this element.
- Designed 12 “, the Super 30 Series Snare Wire have 30 wires of medium gauge, which ensure a good balance between the sound of the snare wires and that of the drum.
- 30 wires of medium gauge to guarantee an acute sound presence of the snare drum
- The strands are positioned at equal distances between them to ensure a consistent sound response of the snare drum
- Model with multiple strands allows the snare drum to have more control over the handling of sound
- The strands of the tailpiece are positioned at equal distances between them to ensure a consistent sound response of the snare drum
PureSound Equalizer Snare Wire
Among the many wires produced by PureSound, one of the Equalizer Series immediately catches one’s eye. This line is characterized by a very particular design: the wires are collected in two parallel bands that leave an empty space in the middle of the drum. This peculiarity changes the sound of the snare favoring the natural acoustics of the same. The result of all this is a sharper but dry sound. We add the advantage of being less affected by the sympathetic resonance determined by other instruments. Simplifying the concept, we can affirm that sympathetic resonance is an effect by which an element that vibrates brings one close to doing the same thing even if with lower intensity.