January 21

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10 [+] Answers: How is the snare drum played?

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Thanks for joining me this morning on Midnightdrummer.com!

Today, I would like to give an answer to a frequently asked question:

How is the snare drum played?

I know, for many the answer seems to be obvious, but I think there might be a few ways to play a snare drum which at least some of you haven't considered, seen or heard before.

Here are some insights of what the blog post is about:

Let's go.

How is the snare drum played?

If you are on the brink of buying new drums, here are some ideas for the best budget snare drums.

this pearl free floating snare drum wants to be played

This is a Pearl free floating snare drum

There are many ways the snare drum can be played. In many cases, the way drummers choose to play it depends on several factors:

  • Music Style
  • Loudness
  • Drumsticks
  • Experience

Music Style

The way a snare drum is being played depends a lot on the music style. Many genres, like Jazz for example, use a softer snare drum sound compared to Rock and Metal.

Therefore, the snare is being played differently using other "drumsticks" like jazz brushes like these, which are rather used in brushing movements on the snare drum than hitting the snare. 

Watch this video for a first impression on how to play the snare drum with jazz brushes.  

Subscribe to my YT-channel and get free drum lessons for beginners.

Of course, there's not only one way to play the snare drum in a particular music genre. Many drummers switch their tools from gig to gig and from song to song.

Loudness

There are occasions in which drummers need to play softer besides particular music styles like jazz. 
In these cases, there are several ways on how to achieve a softer snare drum sound: 

  • Using less force
  • Using the x-stick technique
  • Using jazz-brushes
  • Using rods

Using less force

Using less force when playing drums is a big challenge for almost every drummer I know. At least for my younger students, it takes a while to control the force when hitting drums.

The best way to get used to a less force approach is to practice every exercise in different dynamics.

Being able to play the snare drum more softly while all other drum set parts maintain the original loudness, is difficult. A good drummer should be capable of being able to play with dynamics and use it whenever it's appropriate.

Using the x-stick technique

What the hell is the x-stick technique?

Well, it's easy to explain, but not that easy to apply to your snare drum.

1st step
Switch your drumstick around and grab it by the head. That makes it a lot easier to create the sound you are looking for.

2nd step
X-stick the drumstick onto the drum head. Please notice that your hand and fingers also need to be placed onto the drum head to create the sound you are looking for.

3rd step
From that position, you only need to lift the bottom side of the drumstick and strike the snare drum hoop to create the x-stick sound.

Using jazz-brushes

As mentioned above, you can of course use jazz-brushes and play your snare drum softer with these. 

Especially while practicing at night, this can be a useful weapon in your arsenal! 🙂

Using rods

Rods are another great way to create softer strokes / sounds on your drum set. If you haven't seen this type of drumsticks, just click here.

Rods consist of several thin "sticks" wrapped in sticky tape. This creates a very soft sound on your drums. So whenever you need to play your snare drum softer, this is a must-have in your stick bag.

Drumsticks

Drumsticks are available in nearly all kinds of sizes, weight and wood types. Size and weight determine how loud one can play on a snare drum.

These are the best drumsticks I use.

A few of my personal best drumsticks

The heavier a drumstick is, the more difficult it will become to play softer snare drum sounds.

Sounds logic - right?

Still, many jazz-drummer use a thicker and heavier drumstick while some metal-drummers stick to thinner drumsticks which allow a faster speed.

I would recommend trying out many drumsticks. That's the only way to find the best drumsticks for yourself.

Experience

Of course, your technical skills as a drummer allow controlling how hard you hit your snare drum.

Therefore, your musical experience - which develops over time - is the crucial thing when hitting the snare and any other instrument on the drum set.  

How do you hit a snare drum?

I think we talked a lot about "how to play the snare drum", but there hasn't been an exact answer to "how do you hit a snare drum?" yet.

Here's how:

How do you hit a snare drum? Here's how

Different areas of a snare drum

If you wonder, how to hit a snare drum so that you get a consistent sound with every hit, you should think about the four cardinal directions; North, East, South, West and everything in between.

Left hand
In case you play the snare drum with your left hand, you should aim to hit it at the edge of the gray circle, slightly Northeast.

RIGHT HAND
With your right hand, you should aim a backbeat at Northwest at the edge of the gray circle.

Green Area
Hitting the green area on the snare drum will create a completely different sound in comparison to the rest of the drum head
Try to use this area when playing ghost notes or quiet rolls. You will get a "thinner" and softer sound.
If you use the green area for your backbeat, you will get a loud and very crisp sound in comparison to hitting the center of the snare drum.

How to create cracking rim shots on your snare drum

I use them always!

Rim Shots.

Rim Shots are the loudest hits you can possibly create on your snare drum.

Here's how

When hitting your snare drum as described above (Northeast / Northwest), you must also hit the hoop of your snare at the same time the tip of your drumstick hits the snare drum head.

Yes, it's easy as that!

But, it took me years to hit both every time I wanted to.
There's a lot you will learn when you practice this snare drum technique.

One thing is how to set up your snare drum stand and the angle of your snare drum.

How to create a rim shot on a snare drum

Creating a cracking rim shot on your snare drum

To create consistent rim shots, you need to use an angle like shown on the image above. 

Playing rim shots becomes more and more impossible, if you tilt your snare drum too much in any direction.

How do you play your snare drum?

So, how do you play your snare drum?
Are you able to control every hit you do on your snare drum? How long did it take to achieve and master that consistency?

Please let me know in the comments below.

Enjoy and talk soon!

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Keno Hellmann

Keno is a professional drummer & blogger from Hamburg, Germany.
In his career, he played drums for prominent artists like Elton John and popular German bands like Rosenstolz, Big Soul and others.
Since 2004 he's also teaching drums to students of all age-groups from beginners to advanced and semi-professional drummers.

He loves kitesurfing in Germany's North Sea & Egypt's Red Sea, cooking, and he is a big supporter of the HSV football team.

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