brown Griffin snare drum mounted on a metallic stand

The snare drum is an essential part of any drummer's kit and is used to create a range of sounds in various musical genres. 

However, the heart and soul of the snare drum lies in its shell. The shell produces different tones, projections, and volumes depending on its build materials and construction methods.

Whether you’re playing in a marching band, rock band, jazz ensemble, or recording studio, the shell is the foundation of the snare drum that creates a distinct voice and sets the tone for the entire performance.

So, it’s important to understand the various materials used for a snare drum’s shell construction and the playing styles and genres each one is suited for.

Geek Stands is the ultimate online store for drummers looking for the finest snare drum shells. We stock affordable musical instruments, including snare drums with various types of shells, from top brands across the globe.

Today, we’d like to help you choose between wood and metal snare drum shells. We’ll explore:

  • The two main types of snare drum shell materials
  • Discuss how wood and metal snare shells compare to each other
  • Explore the advantages and disadvantages of each
  • Provide practical tips for choosing the best snare drum shells


Types of Wood Snare Drum Shells

Wood is one of the most common drum-building materials used for creating shells because of its excellent acoustic properties. This explains why we have a huge inventory of snare drum shells made of different woods.

Many famous drummers have embraced the unique tonal characteristics of wooden snare drum shells to add depth and character to their performances or recordings.

Some that we must mention include the late Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones and Questlove of the Grammy-winning hip-hop band The Roots.

Surprisingly, these drummers don’t use the same shell or snare drum across their performances. Different wood shells produce unique degrees of power, warmth, depth, and clarity of sound. 

Here are some of the common types of wood used in the creation of snare drums:

  • Maple: The most common type of wood used to make snare drum shells. The Tama SLP 7X13 G-Maple Snare is an excellent example and produces warm, smooth, and well-balanced tones that can be utilized in various musical genres, including jazz, rock, pop, and fusion.

    Tama SLP Maple Snare
    Image from: Drummer's Hangout

  • Birch: A harder and denser type of wood compared to maple, which results in a brighter drum tone with a more pronounced attack and sustain. Snare drums with a birch shell, like the Yamaha Stage Custom Birch, are associated with a snappy sound and quick decay.

    As such, they’re great when you’re looking to add a subtle crack when playing genres like punk, metal, and progressive rock, where fast, articulate snare drumming is key.

    Yamaha Stage Custom Birch Snare Drum
    Image from: Chicago Music Exchange

  • Mahogany: Snare drum shells made of mahogany, like the Ludwig Legacy Mahogany 6.5” x 14” "Van Buren" Snare Drum, produce a warm, fat, and deep sound that makes them best suited to soulful, vintage music genres.

    Their rich, dark tones add a touch of character and elegance to your music while evoking memories of classic jazz, blues, and R&B.

    Ludwig Legacy Mahogany Van Buren Snare Drum
    Image from: Drum Forum

  • Oak: Its sturdy and reliable nature brings power and outstanding projection to snare drum shells.

    This makes oak snare drum shells, like the Oak Wood 13” Piccolo Snare Drum by Griffin, perfect for genres that demand authority and impact, like hard rock, metal, and punk.

    Oak Wood Piccolo Snare Drum by Griffin

  • Poplar: A hidden gem among the popular hardwood choices that pack a punch like no other. We love to stock snare drums with a poplar wood shell, such as the Popcorn Snare Drum by Griffin, for pop, rock, and funk drummers who are looking for a higher volume with a beefy crack.

Popcorn Snare Drum by Griffin

Some snare drum shells are made of a combination of different wood types. In most cases, the inner wood ply determines the sound quality, while the exterior ply is used for aesthetic purposes.

Here are some of our other snare drums with shells made from wood. 

Griffin Snare Drum Birch Wood Shell 14” X 6.5” Poplar Wood Snare Drum by Griffin Griffin Firecracker Snare Drum

“I love this snare drum for its looks and feel, sounds awesome and feels like a subwoofer. Had a deep fat open sound with short sustain. It punches!” — Betsy Akankwasa, Verified Buyer

Advantages of Wood Snare Drum Shells

  • Produce a warmer and more resonant drum tone compared to metal shells, making their sound more natural
  • Used in almost every type of music genre at different tuning levels
  • Are aesthetically pleasing and available in different finishes
  • Have a natural ability to dampen overtones, resulting in a smooth sound
  • Allow for a consistent tone across various playing styles and dynamic ranges


Disadvantages of Wood Snare Drum Shells

  • Have a longer sustain, which might cause problems when playing fast-paced music
  • Their density and stiffness are affected by humidity and temperature, so their sound characteristics may change from time to time
  • Are high maintenance compared to metal shells, especially if they’re exposed to moisture and varying temperatures
  • May not project as much as metal shells, making them less suitable for live performances or playing with a big band

Expert Tip: To protect your wooden snare drum shells, avoid exposure to direct sunlight, extreme temperatures, moisture, or harsh chemicals. These conditions can damage wooden drum shells.

Types of Metal Snare Drum Shells

Metal snare drum shells produce a sharp, crisp, and aggressive sound with an undeniable edge. 

They’re perfect for metal drummers and punk rockers looking to deliver a precise, cutting, and metallic sound. Their sound commands attention and leaves a lasting impression.

It comes as no surprise that they’re the preferred snare drums for celebrity drummers of iconic heavy metal bands. 

Ludwig's Black Beauty is a brass snare drum that holds a special place in the hearts of famous drummers like Ringo Starr of The Beatles and Alex Van Halen of the rock band Van Halen.

Like wooden snare drums, metal drum shells are made of different metals, including brass, aluminum, and steel, which produce a wide range of tonal variations. 

At Geek Stands, we offer numerous snare drum options with shells made of the best metals to pack up that punch you desire.

Let’s take a closer look at the various metals that can be used to build snare drum shells:

  • Stainless steel: Produces a bright and articulate sound with a long sustain, making it ideal for heavy metal, hard rock, punk, reggae, or pop music.

    Because stainless steel is like a polished mirror, it reflects sound with pristine clarity and precision. The Metal Shell Snare Drum by Griffin is a good example of a steel snare drum with a distinctive sound and appearance.

    Metal Snare Drum by Griffin

  • Aluminum: Snare drum shells are made from aluminum, like the Pearl Sensitone Elite Aluminum Snare Drum, produce a dry and focused sound, making them suitable for a wide range of music styles, including punk and metal music.

    The sound is also versatile and has a sweet balance of warmth, projection, and brightness.

    Metal Snare Drum by Griffin
    Image from: Reddit

  • Brass: Shells made of brass have a warmer and more mellow tone, making them suitable for jazz, funk, and blues. The sound commands attention and authority by radiating warmth and richness.

    A good example is the Ludwig 5” x 14” Hammered Brass Snare Drum—it boasts a wide playable range and a high pitch.

    Ludwig Hammered Brass Snare Drum
    Image from: Reverb

“I completely love the new snare drum, absolutely love it! Has the best sound I was looking for in my band and I love the quality it has and the potential it gives. The hardware is good and really durable and well worth the money.” — Tasneem Ndhlovu, Verified Buyer


Advantages of Metal Snare Drum Shells

  • Metal shells are durable and resilient. They’re less prone to warping, cracking, or other forms of damage, making them the ideal option for touring drummers or those who play frequently. 
  • They produce a bright and crisp sound with excellent projection, which makes them a great choice for performing in outdoor venues or large arenas.
  • Their versatility ensures you get variations in sound with different types of metals, allowing you to select the one that complements your preferred sound. 


Disadvantages of Metal Snare Drum Shells

  • Metal shells are typically heavier than wood shells, which is not ideal for drummers who prioritize portability.
  • They can produce overtones which can be challenging to control, leading to a cluttered or excessive sound that doesn’t lend itself well to some musical styles. 
  • The volume produced by metal shells can be too loud sometimes, making it difficult to balance with other instruments in a band.

Pro Tip: Instead of hitting the metal snare drum with full force, use a lighter touch or incorporate ghost notes to add texture and depth to the groove without overwhelming the other instruments.

one component that ensures the snare drum is powerful is the shell

What Else Should You Consider When Choosing Snare Drum Shells?

While the material of your snare drum shell is a critical element in the sound quality it’ll produce, so is its construction, thickness, and angle of bearing edges. 

Normally, thinner shells, regardless of the material used, produce a deeper and more resonant sound with a wide variety of tones and overtones. Thicker shells, on the other hand, produce a brighter, more responsive, and articulate sound with fewer overtones and less sustain. 

Thinner shells have more sensitivity and openness, so their sound has a warmer tone and deeper pitch with a wide dynamic range, making them preferable for playing jazz, fusion, and pop.

Contrastingly, thicker shells are louder and project more, meaning the sound they produce is drier, louder, and of a higher pitch. Ultimately, thicker shells bring the desired umph and projection to reggae, heavy metal, and punk music.

Expert Tip: Wood snare drum shells are generally thinner than metal shells, which are rigid and require thicker construction to maintain structural integrity.

When it comes to plied wooden shells, the number of the plies determines the thickness as well as the sustain and resonance of your snare drum’s sound. 

Shells made up of fewer plies (one-ply or two-ply) produce a more pronounced resonance and articulate response. Conversely, multi-ply wood shells (6-ply or more) generate a focused, sharp, and direct sound with less resonance.

Thicker wood shells have a lower frequency response with more sustain due to their increased mass. 

The bearing edges, or point of contact between the drum head and the shell, also affect the sound quality of a snare drum. A sharper edge results in more resonance and overtones, while a rounder edge has a more focused and controlled sound.

The table below summarizes the characteristics of wood snare drum shells and metal drum shells.

Property Wood Snare Drum Shells Metal Snare Drum Shells
Sound Produce a smoother, softer sound with less overtone Produce a louder, brighter sound with more overtone
Projection Less projection; good for studio recordings or small gigs Excellent projection; suitable for large performances or open venues
Weight Generally lighter Heavier, which may impact portability
Impact of temperature and humidity Sound characteristics may change; can warp or crack More resistant to temperature changes; less prone to warping and cracking
Durability As they are affected by humidity and temperature, they require high maintenance Durable, resilient, require lower maintenance

Elevate Your Drumming With the Right Snare Drum Shell

man drumming Griffin’s snare drums

Geek Stands is every musician's dream discount gear shop and sells a variety of snare drums built with different materials as well as stands and other hardware.

Our catalog includes snare drums with both metal and wooden snare shells that are versatile and suitable for almost any drumming style. We offer great music gear discounts on all our snare drum shells, despite the instrument's building materials.

Before choosing your snare drum shell, we recommend you consider your musical style, performance venues, and experience level. 

This way you’ll be investing in a snare drum that complements your style.

Check out our expansive snare drum collection to find the material, size, and design that’s ideal for you.

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