How to Write a Better Snare Rhythm • Music Theory from Matt Sassari & Tony Romera "Snare Thing" 


How to Write a
Better Snare Rhythm.



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includes MIDI + WAV file examples


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While it’s normal to hear at least a few different kick patterns and hi-hat patterns in music nowadays, it’s rare to hear an interesting snare pattern. The rhythm assigned to this neglected element of the drumkit is almost always an afterthought. In 4|4 (which most music is in), the snare is usually one of these three rhythms:


  1. Regular backbeat (beats 2 and 4): used in most songs
  2. Half-time backbeat (beat 3): used for a slower vibe
  3. Double-time backbeat (beats 1+, 2+, 3+, 4+): used for a faster vibe


So, when listening through to the new releases on Spotify, it was rather shocking (pleasantly so) to hear something completely unusual. The collaborative single “Snare Thing” by French producers Matt Sassari and Tony Romera is a refreshing celebration of the drum that almost always plays the most boring rhythm!


With these PDF tutorials, we usually have to make an educated guess as to what the creator’s intention and process was behind the song. But, based on the less-than-subtle title of their track, it’s safe to say that the duo were intentionally showcasing the snare drum’s creative potential. So, inspired by “Snare Thing”, here’s our 4-step method for writing creative snare patterns. But first… Tea!




Step 1. Motif


Set up two bars of 4|4 with your grid on 1/16 notes, and your tempo at 126 BPM. The first thing we need to do is write a motif, which is a short idea that’s repeated to give the music structure and make it more memorable.


As we’re writing for the drums, our motif will obviously be a rhythmic motif (when using pitched instruments, you can also write melodic and harmonic motifs). The motif that Matt and Tony use is a couple of 1/16 notes followed by a 1/16 rest. They then repeat this motif to create their snare rhythm.


Motif repeated to create snare rhythm



As you can see, their motif is three 1/16 notes long. Having a motif that’s an odd duration (like three, five, seven, etc.) will make it far more interesting, because each time the motif is repeated it’ll start on a different 1/16 note beat (e.g. 1a, 2+, 3e).


A motif lasting four (or eight) 1/16 notes will repeat on the same beat, so it’ll get repetitive and boring extremely quickly. Therefore, avoid using an even-number motif here. For the record, though, they can sound great when played on melodic instruments, because you can repeat the same rhythm while changing the pitches.


Right, when you’re happy with your motif, copy and paste it into the first three 1/4 note beats of bar one. You wanna leave beat 4 open for now, as that’s where you’re gonna write a variation. Next, copy and paste your rhythm into bar two.


Snare rhythm copied and pasted into bar two (highlighted)



Now it’s time to write your variation in beat 4 of bar two. This variation will prevent the snare rhythm from getting boring, by turning it into a two-bar rhythm:


Two-bar snare rhythm created by adding variation (highlighted)




Step 2. Swing


With such an unusual snare rhythm, it would be completely acceptable to move on and write the kick drum pattern now. But, Matt and Tony have one more brilliant snare trick up their sleeves. Instead of using the regular straight grid that you hear in almost every song, they use a swing grid. This is a game-changer! Download the PDF to read the rest of this tutorial…




Download PDF Tutorial 





Lastly, are you new to music theory? Or are you experienced, but you want a refresher? Then download our FREE BOOK (link opens in new tab). It only takes 30 minutes to read, then you’ll have a solid theory foundation that you can instantly apply to your songwriting and producing. Enjoy!





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Ray Harmony
Multi award-winning college lecturer