How To Get Eight Sounds From One Snare Drum

By Wally Schnalle

Suppose you had only one snare drum, tuned only one way, and one pair of sticks. How many sounds could you get out of it? Probably a lot more than you think. The following suggestions are only a handful of the hundreds of nuanced possibilities you can coax from such a sensitive instrument, but it’s a great start.

1. Clean Center Stroke. Don’t choke it. Instead, give it a direct center hit using a good grip that lets the stick rebound. It really opens up the sound of your drum.

2. Edge Dynamic/Timbre Control. Low strokes at the edge of the drum yield a quieter, thinner timbre sound.

3. Dry Rimshot. These are great for fat backbeats and provide tonal interest to rhythms and accents. Strike the drumhead with the tip of the stick and the counterhoop with its shaft in a single stroke.

4. Overtone Rimshot. For a ringing rimshot that would sound at home in a New Orleans drumming groove, use the same technique in Fig. 3, but move the tip of the stick near the edge of the drum.

5. Rim-Click. Rim-clicks (or cross-sticks) are effective for quiet play that requires a backbeat or clave. Reverse the stick, so the butt-end is at the playing  side. Pinch it with your thumb and index finger while your other fingers rest on the batter head. The stick tip and back corner of your palm should contact the drumhead. Lift the stick as if it’s hinged to the head at the tip and bring it back down for a clean stroke.

6. Rim-Click Flam. This technique is a modification to the rim-click that approximates the sound of a drum machine handclap. Strike your left stick with your right stick immediately after the butt-end of your left stick hits the hoop. It will create a flam sound that combines wood and metal tones.

7. Dry Dead Stroke. Mute the snare drum’s overtones by placing your index finger on top of the stick to apply pressure when you strike the drum. This keeps the stick from bouncing off the head and creates a drier sound.

8. High Angle. You can play active patterns quietly by using a severe stick angle in relation to the drumhead. While this technique is easier with traditional grip, it can also be performed with matched grip.

This article originally appeared in the August 2015 issue of Drum! magazine.