Updated on February 14th, 2020
Every percussionist dreams of playing center snare in a marching ensemble. Often gifted with the title “drum captain,” the center snare position means the percussionist has reached the summit of the battery, that is, the marching component of the percussion section.
The other snares in the snare line are looked upon as topflight musicians, as well, and are afforded intricate parts in the overall percussion score.
Known for offering complex, soprano elements to percussion literature, marching snares serve as the nervous system of the marching ensemble, ensuring that that the entire band continues to stay on time and instep throughout the duration of the performance.
Given this vital role in the ensemble, the snare must be durable and transportable while offering a crisp (staccato) and consistent sound at the center of the full score.
As is the case with all instruments, snares are produced in a variety of sizes, shapes and finishes by a plethora of providers. While no one snare can rightfully claim the title “best on the market,” a few snares continually distinguish themselves as topflight models.
Often featured by notable DCI ensembles, the top snares are typically determined by hearty marketing and name recognition.
- 1 Dynasty
- 2 Yamaha
- 3 Pearl
- 4 Final Thoughts
Since 1999, the Dynasty Band Corp has produced American-made percussion options for a growing audience.
Featuring sturdy maple construction, stainless steel framing and a variety of snare possibilities, Dynasty drums are quickly rising to the top of an already competitive marching percussion market.
With drums offering consistent quality through a variety of price points, Dynasty drums are beginning to saturate the scholastic, competitive and summer ensembles with an assortment of models.
Designed by Paul Rennick who brought the Santa Clara Vanguard percussion line to the top of the DCI world, the Dynasty MS-XZ14 Custom Elite Marching Snare is a world class offering.
Featuring handcrafted shells of 10-ply maple, the MS-XZ14 is designed with dynamic range in mind. A versatile instrument, the MS-XZ14 offers ample projection for rapid, forte portions of the band score.
When warmth and quiet are called for in marching ballads, the 14 is equipped to provide this sort of dynamic contrast in a jiffy. Customizable, the MS-XZ14 can be finished in a number of colors and coatings.
For decades, Yamaha’s drums have been among the favorites of percussionists from all types of ensembles. Recognized for consistent craftsmanship, Yamaha’s offerings span a wide range of sizes and shapes.
Designed for noncompetitive or lightly competitive outdoor ensembles, the MS-6300 Lite Series offer quality craftsmanship in a relatively light package.
Made with a birch plywood body, steel frame, zinc lugs and metal snares, the 6300s are especially appropriate for smaller performers who need a good instrument that will not weigh down the percussionist.
With three retractable feet on the base of the snare, the instrument can be lowered to the pavement or grass without concern about damaging the snare system.
On the high end of the snare continuum, Yamaha offers a dynamo named the MS-9300.
Featuring the same kind of maple construction featured in competitor’s lines, the 9300 also offers the advanced student-performer cast aluminum framing, individually tuned fiber snares, Kevlar heads, and gorgeous chrome finishes.
Designed to be used in a high-impact contest setting, the MS-9300 is structured with easily replaceable snare and head assemblies that can be quickly removed and replaced when time restraints are pressing. As is the case with other Yamaha models, the 9300 has three retractable legs.
A word about Yamaha’s piccolo model. With a 9 inch shell depth and a 14 inch head, the MSS-9300 is an affordable option for ensembles wishing to highlight a piccolo sound in the snare line.
The MSS comes with maple construction, Kevlar heads and a “tightly wound” structure that produces an explosive rim shot.
Field tested by DCI groups – most notably the renowned Cavaliers’ Battery – the MSS is well equipped to handle the demand and rigor of a hearty rehearsal and performance schedule.
All Yamaha offerings are customizable. In consultation with Yamaha’s dedicated professional staff, directors and percussion caption heads are able to select colors and finishes that match the show design and uniforms of the particular ensemble.
The Pearl Corporation, headquartered in Japan, has a massive percussion manufacturing facility in Nashville, Tennessee.
Long recognized as the gold standard of marching percussion, Pearl’s snares are used in ensembles that seek topline performance and do not have rigid budget restraints.
Two Pearl lines in particular continue to dazzle performers and audiences with great, resonate and consistent sound.
Pearl’s Carbon Core line fuses innovation and top end design into one sleek, beautiful package. Wrapped in a rugged, time-tested maple exterior, the Core’s interior circumference features light, tough, state-of-the-art carbon construction that provides incredible strength to the instrument without compromising sound.
In fact, the carbon interior enhances the snare’s projection capabilities while making articulation even crisper. The Core also features air vents below the snare head, allowing for fantastic touch and response.
For the marching snare purist, Pearl’s FFX model provides traditional maple construction and world class sound production. FFX models are preferred by a host of drum corps because they are designed to hold up to a variety of temperature and moisture extremes.
With aircraft-quality aluminum used for the rim and frame of the instrument, the FFX is well equipped to handle the high tension heads used by today’s top marching ensembles.
All Pearl models use woods that are hand selected for premium airtightness and durability. When a percussionist purchases a Pearl, she knows that only the finest materials have been used throughout the manufacturing process.
It is impossible to thoroughly describe the abuse marching percussion instruments endure through the course of a season. Snares, especially, must be able to tolerate a full range of climatological and playing extremes in order to be effective contributors to the marching arts.
It is important for the “purchasers” in an ensemble to do their homework before bringing home new snares for the battery. While brand tends to be especially significant in this corner of the percussive arts, a “name” does not necessarily mean the model is right for the ensemble.
Experiment with a variety of options, ask good questions, and be patient when selecting marching snares. Happy playing.