The 5 Best Snare Drums for Jazz: Ride the Blue Notes

February 26, 2024

Jazz drumming is very unique, and it requires a distinct drum kit sound. 

Thus, to achieve those high-spirited, powerful jazz sounds, you’ll need a drum kit made for jazz purposes, and of course, such a drum set would contain a snare drum made for jazz.

After exploring and comparing more than 20 snare drums, I compiled a list of the top 5 best snare drums for jazz. These are the snare drums that jazz masters like Peter Erskine play.

Best Snare Drums for Jazz – Quick Overview

What I look for

Tone and Responsiveness

I prioritized snare drums known for their warm, articulate tones and exceptional responsiveness, ensuring they could capture the subtle nuances essential in jazz.

Build Quality & Materials

I focused on snare drums made from high-quality materials, such as fine maple or brass, that are renowned for their durability and impact on producing either warm or bright sonic qualities.

Tuning and Pitch Range

I sought out snare drums with a broad tuning range, capable of delivering both the high, crisp sounds of bebop and the lower, rich tones characteristic of traditional jazz.

Size and Depth

I looked for snare drums with a 5-inch depth, balancing the need for a focused, tight sound with the versatility to adapt to various jazz styles.

vintage snare drum made for jazz

1. Ludwig Legacy Mahogany Jazz Festival 14x5

Best for Vintage Look & Sound

FEATURES

  • Mahogany/Poplar/Mahogany Shell
  • Triple-flanged hoops
  • Baseball Bat damper lever
  • 8-lugs

CHECK PRICE

REASONS TO USE

REASONS TO AVOID

The Ludwig Legacy Mahagony Jazz snare drum is the perfect snare for anyone who wants to add little elegance to their drum set thanks to its incredible Vintage Blue Oyster finish. 

You also have the Black Oyster Pearl finish, which can be extremely expensive – from $5000 to $25000. Crazy, right?

However, the new version of Vintage Blue Oyster finish can be found for $750 at the time of writing- May 2023, which is far more acceptable. 

The shell is crafted from 3-ply Legacy Mahogany, which gives you that more open and less contoured sound – great for Jazz music. 

The only downside that I noticed was that tuning was a bit challenging. Not something I would skip buying this snare for, but they could make it a bit easier.

The snare also features maple re-rings to create tones of warmth and roundness that modern shells usually lack. 

I noticed that it has excellent focus and dryness, assuming that’s because of the internal damper feature. As for the sound, it’s just beautiful – it really reminds me of that old, vintage Ludwig sound.

jazz snare drums

2. Peter Erskine’s Signature Snare by Tama 4.5x 14

Best Budget Option

FEATURES

  • Spruce/Maple 4-ply Shell
  • 2.3mm Sound Arc Hoops
  • Linear-Drive strainer
  • Interior sticker individually hand signed by Peter Erskine
  • Super Sensitive Hi-Carbon snare wire

CHECK PRICE

REASONS TO USE

REASONS TO AVOID

This beautiful signature Jazz snare drum, made in cooperation with Peter Erskine is not only articulated but highly responsive. It features a six-ply shell with 4-ply Spruce and 2-ply Maple. 

The ply contributes to the price being pretty affordable; spruce is a softer, less dense wood that produces a warm and resonant tone, while Maple is always the best choice to have on your drum kit, including snare.

This fantastic snare drum features Remo coated Ambassador drumhead. 

This is because this drumhead has a specific sound that differs from calves, sounding a bit brighter in general, is more open, and producing a totally distinctive, lovely brush sound.

I couldn’t find anything that I didn’t like, honestly. For this price point, it is more than a fair snare drum. 

Thanks to the bright snap and high focus, the drum simply produces excellent sound. 

Last but not least, its short depth provides sensitivity, which is tempered by the 8-lug design, which allows for a low fundamental body of sound.

best vintage jazz snare drums

3. DW Collector's Jazz Cherry/Gum Snare Drum - 6.5 x 14 inch

 Best for High Tuning

FEATURES

  • Cherry/Gum shell 7-ply Shell
  • True Hoops
  • MAG throw off
  • 3-way butt plate
  • True-Pitch tuning rods
  • True-Tone snare wires

REASONS TO USE

REASONS TO AVOID

The first thing that I noticed when I played this snare was that it was super punchy and warm. The gum is a new material that I haven’t discussed yet in my reviews. 

Overall, it is a softer, porous wood very well-known material of the highly-prized sounds of Gretsch, FIbes, and other American companies, mainly popular in the 70s and 80s.

The snare came with a smooth, robust, and simple-to-use MAG throw-off with a magnetic lever. It also features the 3P three-position butt plate that allows you to switch between different snare tensions. 

When playing the snare, it produces warmth and a round tone, and I was really impressed by that. It also delivers a crisp and dense crack which is perfect for all Jazz lovers. 

The only downside that I noticed is that it might not get the depth that I hoped for, but it is not a big deal. 

As for the price, you can find this snare drum for about $960 at the moment of writing – May 2023, which is a pretty high price, but still acceptable if you want a quality snare drum in your drum kit.

When you tune the snare to medium or high tuning, you will get a hint of ringing that makes this snare really sound alive. 

When you tune the snare all the way up, you can hear that very open and very ringing sound – an excellent combination for jazz!  

best snare drum for jazz

4. Sonor Vintage Series Snare Drum - 14 x 6.5 inch

 Most Versatile

FEATURES

  • Hand Selected Premium Beech Drum Shells
  • Redesigned Superprofil Triple Flanged Hoops
  • TuneSafe Lugs
  • 16 Square Head Screws Tension Rods
  • Rounded Bearing Edges

REASONS TO USE

REASONS TO AVOID

Another vintage, 60s snare drum that looks and sounds incredible. The first thing I noticed is the two-lug system – one for the bottom and one for the top. 

Once I got to tune it, which was very easy to be honest, I was blown away by how versatile this snare drum sounds! 

The drum also includes Sonor’s dual-glide snare strainer system, allowing for precise snare tension adjustments and enhanced snare response. 

It is equipped with 18-strand steel snare wires, which produce a crisp and articulate snare sound. It is a 9-ply/6mm beech snare drum which means that you will get that deeper, warmer sound.

The price of the Sonor Vintage Pearl is $969 at the moment of writing – May 2023. 

It is not such a budget-friendly option, so you need to prepare your pocket for it. I could say that the price justifies the quality, so you won’t regret buying this snare drum.

Once I added the TuneSafe lugs, I noticed that rich vibrance and high stability with a bit of dry sustain in the sound, which I liked a lot. 

And also, the tension rods, which are square-headed, let me tune the snare more accurately, which is always a plus!

best snare drums for jazz

5. Craviotto 14x5.5 Private Reserve Timeless Timber Birch

 Best for Professional Jazz Players

FEATURES

  • Birch Solid Shell
  • Reinforcement Hoops
  • 45 Degree Bearing Edges
  • 10 Tube Lugs
  • Double Flanged Hoops
  • Craviotto 3-Point Throw-Off
  • 20-Strand Snare Wires 

REASONS TO USE

REASONS TO AVOID

One of the best snare drums for jazz, but at the same time, the most expensive snare drum on my list is Craviotto Private Reserve Timeless Timber Birch Snare Drum which reaches a whopping $5000. 

And now you are about to see why. 

The Cravitto snare drum is crafted from 600-old timeless Timber birch, wooden hoops, and abalone inlay on the shell and on the maple wood hoops. 

With such a combination, you will get a rich sound with peaks at high and low frequencies. 

This beautiful, again pretty vintage snare drum is extremely expensive. And you can obviously see why. 

However, if you are a professional Jazz player, then this drum is a like a dream come true!

Unlike the previous drums, this one has ten tube lugs which means that you will have greater control and easier tunning session. 

It also has the new hybrid bearing edges, which are rounded from the outside with 45 degrees down at the apex. This means that it seats better, allowing the drummer more flexibility when tuning the drum.

Snare Drum Heads for Jazz

To have that perfect jazz snare sound, we need a good set of snare drum heads. 

Seek for heads that have that brighter sound, are pretty open when playing with less control, and have a bit of that brush sound that matches Jazz music just perfectly. 

Here’s my list of my favorite top 8 drum heads for jazz music. Bear in mind that the following list has no particular order.

  • Remo Ambassador Coated;
  • Remo Diplomat Coated;
  • Remo Powerstroke P3;
  • Evans EQ4 Calftone;
  • Evans G1 Coated 3-piece Tom Pack;
  • Aquarian Texture Coated;
  • Remo Fiberskyn Diplomat
  • Ludwig Weathermaster Mediums

Wood or metal snare drum for jazz?

Wooden snare drums are usually picked by jazz drummers that prefer a warmer, more rounded tone which is popular for jazz. 

The most popular woods are maple, mahogany, and birch. Maple has a warm, polished tone, mahogany snares provide a richer tone, while birch has a well-balanced, focused sound.  

Metal drums, on the other hand, provide a crisp sound that cuts through the overall sound of a band and is very loud, making it perfect for rock and metal music.

Bronze or brass snare drum for jazz?

The choice is totally up to you, but I would recommend Brass Snare for Jazz over Bronze.

Brass has a loud, crisp, breaking sound with mellow overtones. They are usually covered with nickel and chrome to produce distinct tones, which comes to popular term – chrome over brass.

Bronze’s sound, on the other hand, is warmer and darker in tonality, but it also has additional resonance and ringing overtones. Overall, the tone is deeper than that of brass snares.

In Conclusion 

This list of the best snare drums for Jazz aims to help you find your perfect match for your next practice or gig. 

All of mentioned five snares have a lot of pros and a few cons. Bear in mind that if you want a quality snare drum, you have to prepare your wallet – long story short, you get what to pay for.

If I had to choose my favorite one, it has to be Craviotto Private Reserve Timeless Timber Birch Snare Drum. 

Call me “modest,” but I just love everything about this snare, from looks to the sound. Okay, not the price, but it so justified!

As a drummer and percussionist with over 15 years of experience, I’m deeply passionate about drumming. My insights and writings have earned recognition in Drum Magazine, reflecting my commitment to the drumming community. 

I focus on providing authentic advice and well-researched recommendations, drawing from extensive hands-on experience. My aim is to deliver relatable and informative content that supports drummers of all levels in their musical journey.

Denis Loncaric
Denis Loncaric

My name is Denis. I am a drummer, percussionist, music enthusiast, and blogger. Drums have been my passion for 15 years now. My idea is to write about the things I like and I am interested in. I want to share my drum passion with fellow musicians who walk, talk, and breathe drums.

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