The following list is one man’s opinion of the ten best opening snare licks in music. It could be rock, fusion, pop or rap – but the following ten songs everyone is familiar with and the opening snare licks play a massive part in that whether you realize it or not. You can ask the pros at drumcenternh.com or your local drum superstore what snare was used on these tracks if you want to steal these drummers’ sounds, or if you want to find your own unique sound.
Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
If Dave Grohl’s flams and reckless take on the Muppets animal doesn’t make your plums swell then you should just give up the drums. Possibly one of the most iconic snare intros, it led countless odd teens to come out of their shell and pick up the drums. What more could you want from a drum intro?
REM “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It”
The two most memorable parts of this song are Bill Berry’s rat-a-tat intro he plays three times and the seemingly nonsensical mention of Leonard Bernstein. However, no one forgets those two parts which makes this song stuck in your head to this day.
Michael Jackson “Rock With You”
A forgotten treasure, Off The Wall was where Jackson experimented with combining sounds he would later use on Thriller. The snare intro confuses the listener into questioning if the song is disco, funk, or pop making it perfect for most music fans at the time. Whatever you call it, it was perfected on Thriller making it the bestselling album at the time.
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Rush “YYZ” and “Tom Sawyer”
Why are there two Rush entries? Simple, Neil Peart is GOD and if you disagree I am sure I can get a few thousand drummers to have my back. YYZ is the snare intro for the true lover of fusion who wants to show off he can play odd time signatures with the best of them.
Tom Sawyer on the other hand might be the most famous snare, bass, hi-hat rhythm ever. If you can play it properly, you can call yourself a good drummer.
U2 “Sunday Bloody Sunday”
There is probably no song that has the drums epitomize the song’s content than this one. U2, always political couldn’t resist making a statement about the troubles in Northern Ireland and in the process creating a masterpiece. Larry Mullen’s simple yet militaristic drum pattern evokes the Northern Irish hatred of the British Army yet he never goes overboard. It is a shame he never gets press except when he acts weird because Mullen is what all drummers should be; tight, meshes well with his bassist, and stays out of the way.
Weezer “Undone (Sweater Song)”
I will always believe 90’s post grunge slacker rock was a sad attempt to recreate the grandeur of 70’s arena rock and Weezer managed to pull it off to an extent. This song though kicks off with Patrick Wilson’s simple and understated two snare hits before toning it down on the rest of the drums. Some people may think it a joke but it was exactly what the song needed making it a megahit.
Bel Biv Devoe “Poison”
You can’t have this list without the intro to Poison. It is nothing but snare and tongue in cheek humor in the video. A million rappers could learn a thing or two from this song. Namely that you don’t have to use autotune or have guest rappers. Remember the adage “keep it simple stupid” and you will rarely fail. That is exactly what this song does.
A good snare intro can make a song memorable or not as the previous seven songs show. Done right and you may have a classic tune on your hand.