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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The drum kit
Drum set.svg

1 Crash cymbal | 2 Floor tom | 3 Toms

4 Bass drum | 5 Snare drum | 6 Hi-hat

Other components

Ride cymbal | China cymbal | Splash cymbal | Sizzle cymbal
Swish cymbal | Cowbell | Wood block | Tambourine
Rototom | Octoban | Hardware

The snare drum is a drum with strands of snares made of curled metal wire, metal cable, plastic cable, or gut cords stretched across the drumhead, typically the bottom. Pipe and tabor and some military snare drums often have a second set of snares on the bottom (internal) side of the top (batter) head to make a "brighter" sound, and the Brazilian caixa commonly has snares on the top of the upper drumhead. The snare drum is considered one of the most important drums of the drum kit.

Today in popular music, especially with rock drum kits, the snare drum is typically used to play a backbeat pattern[1] such as quarter notes on the backbeat or:

Popular backbeat pattern on snare drum[1] About this sound play

The snare is sometimes played with brushes as well as with drumsticks.



Snares on a drum
Snare Strainer

The drum can be played by striking it with a drumstick or any other form of beater, including brushes and rutes, which produce a softer-sounding vibration from the wires. When using a stick, the drummer may strike either the head of the drum, the rim, or the shell. When the top head is struck the snares vibrate against the bottom head producing a cracking sound. The snares can often be thrown off with a lever on the strainer so that the drum only produces a sound reminiscent of a tom-tom.[2] Rim shots are a technique associated with snare drums in which the head and rim are struck simultaneously with one stick (or in concert playing, a stick placed on the head and rim struck by the opposite stick), and rudiments are sets of basic patterns often played on a snare drum. [3]. In contemporary Pop and Rock music, where the snare drum is used as a component of a drum set, most of the backbeats and accented notes on the snare drum are played as Rim shots, due to the ever increasing demand for the typical sharp and high volume sound. The so called "ghost notes" are very light "filler notes" played in between the backbeats in genres like Funk and Rhythm and Blues. The famous drum-roll, is produced by alternatively pressing the sticks on the drum head striving for a controlled rebound. A similar effect can be obtained by playing alternated double strokes on the drum, or very fast single strokes. The snares are a fundamental ingredient to the drum roll as they help blend together distinct strokes that are therefore perceived as a single sustained sound.

Snare drums may be made from various wood, metal, or acrylic materials. A typical diameter for snare drums is 14 inches. Marching snare drums are deeper in size than snare drums normally used for orchestral or drum kit purposes, often measuring in at a foot long. Orchestral and drum set snare drum shells are about 6 inches deep. Piccolo snare drums are even more shallow at about 3 inches deep. Soprano, popcorn, and firecracker snare drums have diameters as small as 8 inches and are often used for higher-pitched special effects.[2]

Wood shell construction

Most snare drums are constructed in plies that are heat- and compression-molded into a cylinder. Steam-bent shells consist of one ply of wood that is gradually rounded into a cylinder and glued at one seam. Reinforcement hoops are generally needed on the inside surface of the drum to keep it perfectly round. Segment shells are made of multiple stacks of segmented wood rings. The segments are glued together and rounded out by a lathe. Similarly, stave shells are constructed of vertically glued pieces of wood into a cylinder (much like a barrel) that is also rounded out by a lathe. Solid shells are constructed of one solid piece of hollowed wood and they have small snares underneath.


The snare drum seems to have descended from a medieval drum called the Tabor, which was a drum with a single gut snare strung across the bottom. It is a bit bigger than a medium tom and was first used in war, often played with a fife or pipe; the player would play both the fife and drum (see also Pipe and Tabor). [4] [5] Tabors were not always double headed [6] and not all may have had snares. By the 15th century, the size of the snare drum increased and had a cylindrical shape. This simple drum with a simple snare became popular with the Swiss mercenary troops who used the fife and drum around the 1400-1500's, due to influence from the Ottoman Turk's use of the drum in their armies. The drum was made deeper and carried along the side. Further developments appeared in the 1600's, with the use of screws to hold down the snares, giving a brighter sound than the rattle of a loose snare. During the 18th century, the snare drum underwent changes that would improve its characteristic sound. Metal snares appeared in the 1900's. Today the snare drum is used in pop music and modern orchestral music.[7]

Much of the development of the snare drum and the drum rudiments is closely tied with the use of the snare drum in the military. In his book, The Art of Snare drumming, Sanford A. Moeller (of the "Moeller Method" of drumming) states that "To acquire a knowledge of the true nature of the [snare] drum, it is absolutely necessary to study military drumming, for it is essentially a military instrument and its true character cannot be brought out with an incorrect method. When a composer wants a martial effect, he instinctively turns to the drums."

Before the advent of radio and electronic communications, the snare drum was often used to communicate orders to the soldiers. American troops were woken up by drum and fife, playing about 5 minutes of music, including the well known Three Camps [8]. Troops were also called for meals by certain drum pieces such as "Peas on a Trencher", or "Roast Beef". A piece called the "Tattoo" was used to signal that all soldiers should be in their tent, and "The Fatigue" was used to police the quarters or drum unruly women out of the camp[9].

Many of these military pieces required a thorough grounding in rudiment drumming; indeed Moeller states that: "They [the rudimental drummers] were the only ones who could do it [play the military camp duty pieces]." [10] Moeller furthermore states that "No matter how well a drummer can read, if he does not know the rudimental system of drumming, it is impossible for him to play the THE THREE CAMPS, BREAKFAST CALL, or in fact any of the Duty except the simple beats such as THE TROOP." [11]

Heads originally were of calf skin. The invention of the plastic (mylar) drum head is credited to Marion "Chick" Evans[12] who (apparently) made the first plastic drum head in 1956.

The development of drum rudiments seem to have developed with the snare drum; the Swiss fife and drum groups are sometimes credited with their invention [13]. The first written rudiment was in Basel, Switzerland in 1610[14]. Rudiments with familiar names are listed in Charles Ashworth's book in 1812 such as the (single) paradiddle, flam, drag, ratamacue, the roll (a double stroke roll, also called the "ma-ma da-da" roll), among others.


  • Military drum: a snare drum, 15 inches in diameter, 9 to 12 inches deep, with a metal shell and the two heads stretched by tensioning screws. It has a snare release lever to activate (deactivate) a minimum of 8 metal, gut, or plastic snares. The term came into use in 1837 with the invention of the tensioning-screw mechanism. It is frequently placed on a stand.[15]
  • Side drum: British term for a snare drum.[16]

See also


  1. ^ a b Schroedl, Scott (2001). Play Drums Today!, p.11. Hal Leonard. ISBN 0-634-02185-0.
  2. ^ a b Pearl Drums
  3. ^ Vic Firth
  4. ^ History of the snare drum
  5. ^ Another short history of the snare drum
  6. ^ Definition of Tabor
  7. ^
  8. ^ Three camps played in a traditional (authentic) rudimentary style
  9. ^ Schedule of calls the musicians (drummers) made in the camps
  10. ^ Moeller Book, Page 10
  11. ^ Moeller Book, P. 69
  12. ^ History of Evans drum head
  13. ^ The development of Drum Rudiments, by W F Ludwig
  14. ^
  15. ^ Beck, p. 62.
  16. ^ Beck, p. 83.


  • Beck, John (1995). Encyclopedia of percussion instruments. New York: Garland Publishing. ISBN 0824047885. Google Books preview. Accessed 8 September 2009.

External links



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