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I play the snare drum in an ensemble that plays a lot of classical music, and in order to avoid having the snare rattle during percussion rests, I make a habit of turning off the snare during long rests. However, when playing on the snare I most frequently have access to, the act of turning the snare back on creates a noise that's loud enough to be heard in recordings of the ensemble.

At times, though, I've had the opportunity to play on a different snare that's virtually silent when the snare is turned on, and I'm interested in trying to recreate this effect on other snare drums. What aspects of drum hardware and/or tuning are relevant to allowing a snare drum's snares to be activated as quietly as possible?

This question is related, but instead deals with the task of minimizing the snare rattle itself, rather than the sound of snare activation.

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To directly answer your question, you need to control the snare's lever arm so that once you get past the point of most resistance, you're not pushing it too fast. In other words, push on both sides of the throw-off lever while you're re-engaging the snares, and it helps to anchor your hand(s) on the drum itself for finer control. It also helps to have a good throw-off, since cheap ones tend to seize up. This style of throw-off has never given me trouble (unlike the more common vertical lever ones).

Image of snare throwoff

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Here's another indirect solution: I always preferred to rest my hand flat on the drumhead during rests instead of using the throw-off, if I didn't have to switch to a different instrument. It controls most of the sympathetic resonance, and I could avoid the sound of re-engaging the snares and the embarrassment of sometimes forgetting to re-engage them.

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  • I like your description of technique since it could be potentially applicable to any drum, including in cases where a physical hardware solution is not feasible. The aforementioned drum with quietly activated snares had a notably smooth resistance across its motion (no noticeable peak in resistance); that, plus the fact that I got different results on different drums with the same technique suggests that there might be relevant factors in the drum hardware itself as well. – redyoshi49q Feb 22 at 4:11

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