Snare Drum: The Versatile and Expressive Percussion Instrument

Snare Drum: The Versatile and Expressive Percussion Instrument

Are you a music enthusiast looking to explore different percussion instruments? Look no further than the snare drum! This versatile instrument is a staple in orchestras, concert bands, marching bands, and more. In this article, we will delve into the world of the snare drum, exploring its history, playing techniques, and unique features.

A Brief History

The snare drum, also known as the side drum, has a rich history dating back centuries. Its origins can be traced to military bands, where it was used to keep soldiers in sync during marches and battles. In Prussia, small and shallow snare drums were favored for their high and articulate sound, making them ideal for marching armies.

Over time, the snare drum found its way into orchestras, theater pits, and various musical ensembles. The “Prussian model” snare drum, with its shallow shell and rod tensioners, became popular for its versatility and ease of use.

Playing Techniques

The snare drum is typically played with drum sticks, but other beaters such as brushes and rutes can be used to achieve different tones. Its sensitivity and responsiveness allow for a wide range of playing techniques.

When struck with a drum stick, the snare drum produces a sharp staccato sound. The drummer can strike the head, the rim, or the shell to create different effects. Rimshots, a technique where the head and rim are struck simultaneously, are commonly used in contemporary and rock music.

By adjusting the tension of the snare wires, the drummer can control the snare drum’s sound. Tightening the wires produces a crisp and snappy sound, while loosening them creates a more resonant tone.

Snare Drum Features

The snare drum’s unique design contributes to its versatility and expressive capabilities. It consists of a drum shell, drum heads, snare wires, and a snare strainer.

The drum shell is typically made of wood or metal, providing a resonant chamber for the sound. The drum heads, one on the top and one on the bottom, are struck to produce sound vibrations. The snare wires, held under tension against the lower drum head, create the distinctive snare sound.

The snare strainer, mounted vertically parallel to the shell, allows the drummer to engage or disengage the snare wires. This feature enables the snare drum to produce a sound reminiscent of a tom-tom when the wires are disengaged.


  1. Q: What genres of music commonly use the snare drum?
  2. A: The snare drum is used in various genres, including classical, jazz, rock, pop, and marching band music.

  3. Q: Can the snare drum be played with hands?
  4. A: Yes, the snare drum can be played with hands, producing a softer and more subtle sound.

  5. Q: Are there different sizes of snare drums?
  6. A: Yes, snare drums come in various sizes, ranging from 13 inches to 17 inches in diameter. The size affects the overall sound and projection of the instrument.


The snare drum is a remarkable percussion instrument that offers versatility, expressiveness, and a wide range of playing techniques. Whether you’re a drummer in a band or an aspiring musician, the snare drum is a must-have in your musical arsenal. Its ability to produce sharp staccato sounds, thundering cracks, and soft vibrations makes it an essential component in various musical genres. So grab your drum sticks and explore the world of the snare drum!