Guide to Snare Drum

A snare drum, also known as a side drum, is a percussion instrument with a sharp staccato sound when struck using a drum stick. Snare drums are often used in concert bands, parades, orchestras, marching bands, drumlines, drum corps, and so much more. In this article, we are going to learn more about the snare drum.

What is a snare drum?

A snare drum is a type of drum or percussion instrument with a unique characteristic because it has snares wires built in it. The snares are thin metal wires stretched under tension inside the instrument that strikes the resonant head and themselves when the drum’s batter head is struck. That is why it produces the famous ‘crack’ sound.

Snare heads were initially made out of snare wires out of catgut and calfskin, but today, most snare drums are now made with plastic and metal.

Different Sizes of the Snare Drum 

There are several combinations of snare drums with different depths and diameters available in the market. Still, just like other things, there are sizes and models of the snare drum that are more popular than others. These popular models are common to most drum manufacturing companies, and these snare drums are usually given a name according to their depth or diameter.

That is why, if we are going to depend on the depth of the snare drum, we have these:

  • Piccolo – it has a depth range between 3″ to 4.5″
  • Standard – it has a depth range between 4″ to 6.5″
  • Deep – it has a depth range between 7″ to 10″

If we are going to depend on the snare drum’s diameter, we have these:

  • Popcorn – have a diameter of 10″
  • Soprano – have a diameter of 12″ to 13″
  • Standard – have a diameter of 14″

When it comes to the snare drum’s sound, most people might think that a deeper snare produces a lower sound while the shallower snare gives off a higher sound. However, this actually doesn’t seem right because the snare’s diameter affects the instrument’s pitch while its depth affects its fullness of the sound.

That is why deeper snares give off a fatter sound, particularly when tuned low. These types of snare drums are commonly used in rock, pop, and their sub-genres. While shallower snares produce that “crack” sound, they are widely used in funk, jazz, and other related genres. Shallow snare drums are also more responsive because they have a lower distance between the snare wires and the batter head.

What are the Materials Used in Making Snare Drums?

Like most of the elements of a drumkit, snare drums are made out of different materials that all contribute to shaping the sound of the snare. These materials are:

  • Wood – Snare drums that are made of wood produces the richest bass and mids sounds. Because the snare drum can be made of different types of wood, this type of snare drum is considered to be the most versatile.
  • Metal – Snare drums that are made of metal produces the brightest tone of all. Aside from that, it also has a longer sustain as well as an incisive rimshot.
  • Acrylic – which produces a “fatter” sound and a very loud crack.

Even if most drummers prefer to use snare drums made of wood, metal snare drums are not that uncommon, and it is often used by rock and metal bands.

When it comes to acrylic snare drums, it is no doubt much rarer than the other two variants because most drummers are not 100% comfortable playing them. Aside from that, not all drums manufacturers produce this type of drum yet.

Snare Wires

Snare wires are perhaps the most overlooked part of the snare; most drummers don’t really pay that much attention to them until something goes wrong and hear that cracking sound slowly become a dull boom.

That is why if the snare drum has several thin strands, the more sensitive it will be. This means that if you are into jazz music and you need a sensitive snare that can produce a sound to the slightest brush movement, choose a snare drum with thin strand snare wires.

On the other hand, if you happen to be a heavy hitter and you might need a snare drum that has snare wires that has thicker strands and withstand the roughest hits.