VIDEO DEMO! Get the Most Beat for Your Buck: 4 Options for Building a Primo Snare Collection on a Workingman’s Budget

This excerpt is taken from the complete article that appears in the August 2015 issue, which can be purchased at:

Shop Talk

Get the Most Beat for Your Buck

4 Options for Building a Primo Snare Collection on a Workingman’s Budget

by Nate Bauman

As a single man in my late twenties with few commitments and even fewer resources, I spent a great deal of time and energy this past year recommitting myself to the drums and improving my skills. This meant way more practice hours, but it also meant putting more thought into the gear I was using. The first question I asked myself: What snare drum should I be playing?

The Scenario

I’d spoken with a number of drummers on the topic of gear selection, and the common denominator in all of the conversa- tions was that there was a clear lack of variety in my personal collection, specifically in terms of snare drums. I’d been using only a 1984 Yamaha 8×14 Recording Custom for the past fifteen years, but now it was time to branch out and expand my sonic palette.

It’s easy to be envious of guitarists. With the click of a pedal, they can change the entire sound of their instrument. I would argue that picking a different snare is the closest thing we have as drummers to changing our tone like a guitarist can do with pedals. Advertisement

The difference, though, is money. A guitarist can spend as little as $40 on a pro-quality pedal. Snares, on the other hand, cost much more than your average stomp box. If I wanted to build my collection without destroying my bank account, I’d need to learn as much as I could about the snare drum in general and about the various options out there.

Find a Sensei

Living in Chicago, my first thought was to head to Chicago Drum Exchange and start asking questions. Enter Rob Andre??. He has a fantastic re??sume?? in the Midwest for opening and operating drum shops, and this particular store may be his finest yet. I’d be at his counter after hours during the week, and I’d camp out all morning on the weekend. Our discussions of snare drums went back to basics, as if I were a brand-new drummer just entering the world of music. Some questions we addressed: What’s the difference between the various types of metal and wood shells? What’s the relationship between the weight and size of a drumstick and the attack and response of a particular snare? How do I properly tune a drum? Should I use a Remo Vintage Emperor head or an Ambassador X? The list went on and on.

Andre?? coached me on discovering the answers to these questions, while letting me try his 150-plus snares in order to build a mental database. After a few months of taking it all in, I had narrowed down my “dream collection” to a handful of drums that I knew were a bit out of my price range: a 6.5×14 DW smooth brass ($550), a 6.5×14 Brady jarrah ply ($799), a 6.5×14 Ludwig Black Beauty ($749), and a 6.5×14 Craviotto solid cherry ($1,500). Advertisement

Imitation Is the Highest Form of Flattery

The best thing about today’s drum market is that there are always affordable alternatives built to replicate the sound and shape of top-shelf instruments. (Guitarists have been enjoying replica models for decades.) After I had determined my top four ideal snares, Andre?? helped me locate some of the closest affordable equivalents, which ended up being a 7×14 ddrum Vintone nickel over brass ($349), a 6.5×14 Dixon Artisan Chris Brady rose gum ($499), a 6.5×14 Taye MetalWorks brushed black nickel over brass ($359), and a 6.5×14 ddrum Vintone solid cherry ($750).

Check out the video below to hear how these affordable alternatives sound. For more info on these snares, check out the complete article in the August 2015 issue, which is available at:

And shop for your own primo but affordable snares at

Learn more about the August 2015 issue