The following article was excerpted and condensed from a more detailed article on snare buzz by Bart Elliott who is the founder of Drummercafe.com.
Eliminating Offending Snare Buzz
Many of us face an ongoing battle when it comes to removing unwanted buzz from our snare drums. This buzzing sound is almost a way of life for most drummers…but in order to resolve the issue we first need to know what is causing it.
Snare buzz is caused by what is known as sympathetic vibrations. Things such as your tom-toms and kick drum can cause the snare to “buzz”. The sympathetic vibrations can be reduced by changing the tuning of your snare drum so that its pitch is no longer close to the pitch of the offending drum(s). Sometimes the harmonics alone are enough to trigger this unwanted buzz…so even though the fundamental pitches may be different, the upper partials found in the toms and kick can cause your snare wires to vibrate.
It’s not only drums that can cause sympathetic vibrations. Any sound source that comes close to the pitch (including harmonics) of your snare drum can cause this buzzing nightmare. Bass guitars, electric guitars, piano, monitors…anything in the band’s sound system can cause a problem. Even the room you are in can reflect the sound back so that the snare itself seems to cause its own buzzing!
Many drummers (including myself) have found a way to deal with and remove this unwanted snare buzz…without having to rip your entire kit apart.
First you need to make sure that all the drums, especially snare, are in tune with themselves. Check each drum, batter and resonant side, to make sure they are in tune with themselves as well as to the related drumhead (top or bottom) on that same drum. If the buzzing persists, and you really like the way your snare drum is tuned (and don’t want to change it) see if you can tune the drum that is firing off your snare wires a little differently,
If you find that the sound engineers is giving you a lot of grief over the buzz, but you like it as is, here’s a little trick I do. When I’m doing a sound check at the session…I flip my snares OFF (aka muffled snare) after we check the snare, then proceed to check the other drums. Then when the engineers is ready to hear the WHOLE kit, I flip the snare wires back on. This way, no one hears any buzzing while checking individual tom-toms or kick drum. When you are actually recording…all the mics are up and running, so all the sound bleeds anyway….so what’s the big deal right?!
Lastly, as a last resort, you can always break out a little tape to dampen a drumhead. Place the tape on the snare head or the resonant head of the offending drum. If this doesn’t help, then go ahead and try dampening the batter head as well.
Be encouraged; snare buzz is a way of life for many of us. Many drummers just accept a little bit of buzz in the snare sound. It is, in fact, part of the drum’s natural sound, but we don’t want it to get out of hand!
Bart Elliott is a degreed professional musician and found of the Drummercafe.com. His 35+ years in the music inductry, over 100 albums to his credit, as well as his understanding of contemporary and classical music, makes him a complete and skilled master musician. A highly sought after drummer and percussionist, both live and in the studio, Bart is widely known as a top music educator and gifted teacher, appearing as a guest artist and clinician throughout the USA.