Small drum

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Metropolitan Opera drummer with snare drum (1917).

The snare drum , tenor drum , Parade drum , marching drum , snare drum and snare or snare drum is a bilaterally-covered with fur cylinder drum with snares the resonant head. The strings form the snare carpet. The upper skin (batter head) of the drum is hit with two sticks ( drum sticks ) or occasionally with brooms (light metal brooms).

The German terms are used more in classical music, folk and march music, the English names more in rock music and jazz.


Materials and dimensions

Audio sample: snare drum
14 ″ snare with wood shell

The cylindrical body of the small drum is made of metal (mostly steel or brass ) or cross-glued, often with reinforcing rings (metal pressure rings) or rarely solid wood , also made of acrylic glass . The material of the frame has a strong influence on the sound: a drum with a wooden body produces a warm sound that goes well with "softer" styles of music. A metal kettle, on the other hand, produces a “metallic” sound that is louder than a wood kettle. B. is in demand for heavy metal , marching music or samba .

The diameter usually varies from 30 to 38 centimeters or 10 to 15  inches ; the classic standard snare drum has a diameter of 14 inches and measures 5.5 or 6.5 inches in depth. As the drum becomes flatter or smaller in diameter, it tends to produce a sharper and shorter sound. These are mostly called piccolo snares . The skins are stretched tightly by means of mostly drawn, in the case of more expensive models also cast metal or rarely wooden hoops and 8 to 12 tuning screws, with very old models (linen drums) with tensioning lines.

More unusual dimensions are also more common, e.g. B. 13 x 7 inches or 15 x 4 inches. Large stirring drums, as they are occasionally used in orchestras , even reach dimensions of 16 × 16 inches.


There are different systems in which the snare carpet consisting of several removable snare strings is clamped. In the majority of conventional snares, the snare carpet is firmly clamped on one side in the so-called "butt end", while on the other side there is a lever with which the carpet can be pressed against the resonance head or released from it again. This eliminates the rasping sound.

Fine adjustments are usually made using a small wheel that can be used to set how close and how firmly the carpet should lie against the fur.

In order to refine the sound possibilities, there are so-called parallel take-offs, which are usually attached to higher quality instruments. With this system, a frame is built into the boiler with which the precise placement of the carpet on the resonance head is better guaranteed. The carpet is mounted on this frame from the outside.

Spiral carpet ("snare carpet") on the resonance head under a drum

Snare carpet

The snarling effect that is typical for this drum is provided by a carpet of 8 to 48 (20 are common) metal spirals or nylon strings lying next to one another, also known as tremors ; earlier this was out of gut strings (the snares or snares made). The more strings the "snare carpet" has, the wider and more flat the sound will be. The carpet rests in the snare bed - a few millimeters deep and several centimeters wide, diametrically opposite depression in the boiler ridge - and is stimulated to vibrate and rustle along when it is hit by the usually very thin and therefore very sensitive resonance head transmits the vibrations of the batter head. The carpet can be detached from the resonance head with a mechanism or the contact pressure can be varied. Tight tensioning reduces the sustain and leads to a sharp, dry to “dead” sound, which stands out particularly from the overall sound, as is desired, for example, with orchestral music , marching music or samba. With pop music , a weaker setting that is more sensitive is common. (Drummers speak of the "carpet address"). Too loose tension on the snare carpet can lead to the strings or the resonance head picking up resonance from other instruments and the carpet making undesirable humming noises. The snare carpet must not bend either, otherwise the result is a rusty sounding aftertaste.


The top head, i.e. the batter head, is identical to those used on the other drums. Because of the carpet, however, the selection is more important than with other drums. If you want a sound that is as precise as possible, which transmits all vibrations, you have to use a single-layer head, which is particularly indicated when playing the snare with a jazz broom . If you use double-ply heads, this reduces the precision.

The lower skin, under which the snare strings are located, is called the resonance skin. It is made of plastic or comes from a calf or goat. Unlike the heads of most other drums, the resonance head of a snare is extremely thin, mostly transparent, because of the carpet and the transmission.


American snare drum, about 1780

The snare drum corresponds to a double-headed frame drum . Since it originally comes from the long drums of military music, it is not counted among the frame drums. The military drums were influenced by the instruments of the Turkish Janissary Music (Arabic generally Tabl ). The snare drum can also be traced back to the medieval tabor , which was usually played with a flute .

From around the middle of the 19th century, the snare drum was also increasingly used in orchestral music. The snare drum was integrated into the first combined drums through the marching bands , which also came from military music and from which the first jazz bands emerged.

Today the snare drum is also used as a solo instrument. Well-known composers are u. a.


The snare drum belongs to a marching band that a drum major is advancing. In military music , marching bands and drum corps , the snare drum is played standing or marching. It is still common to carry the drum with the help of a bracket on the left in front of the hip; newer straps make it possible to do without this bracket.

In the drum set the snare is the heart and is played sitting in a central position between the knees.

Playing technique

Simple rhythms are just as easy to learn on the small drum as they are on Orff instruments , which is why the instrument is in principle also suitable for smaller children. Due to the high volume, however, it is advisable to use hearing protection .

Even older children, adolescents and adults can - provided they have a reasonably good sense of rhythm - quickly achieve success on the small drum and accompany pieces of music without lengthy lessons with a little practice. For (semi-) professional playing in groups or orchestras, like any other instrument, appropriate training is required.

Different attack techniques enable special effects. If the skin is struck with the tip of the stick and the tension ring is struck with the stick shaft , this is called a rim shot , it is mostly loud and cracking and mostly sounds metallic. Hitting the hoop with the stick on the skin is called a side stick or rim click , e.g. T. also cross stick .

Snare played with a broom

The choice of drumsticks, especially their head shape, also influences the sound . In general, the smaller the head, the sharper and shorter the sound. Especially in the orchestral music are drumsticks used with very small heads. Heavy sticks with large heads are very popular in music genres such as rock, samba or marching music; they allow a very loud game. The use of brooms (brushes) in jazz allows a softer, no less expressive game, whereby the brooms are wiped in circles or lines over the skin or played like drum sticks. For this purpose, a roughly coated batter head made of plastic or a natural skin made of animal skin is used, which is very sensitive to fluctuations in humidity.

Viennese peculiarities (classic)

In the classical Viennese orchestras the design differs. While plastic fur is standard on the small drum, Viennese orchestras often use goatskin , which is stretched onto a skin-wrapping hoop. The vibration properties are not tuned to one pitch like the Viennese timpani, but to softer noise components. What is striking is the often special arrangement of the small drum, which is placed at a slight angle on a wooden armchair or wooden frame. This should give the drum a free and sustaining sound , which should not only be radiated from the lower membrane to the floor. The Wiener Schlagwerkschule attaches great importance to the doctrine: "The snare drum should sound free, and not just be struck." (Richard Hochrainer)


The film Drumline covers playing the drums and the snare.

See also


  • Guy Gregoire Gauthreaux II: Orchestral Snare Drum Performance: An Historical Study. (Dissertation) Louisiana State University, 1989.
  • Wieland Ziegenrücker: General music theory with questions and tasks for self-control. German Publishing House for Music, Leipzig 1977; Paperback edition: Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag, and Musikverlag B. Schott's Sons, Mainz 1979, ISBN 3-442-33003-3 , p. 178 f.

Individual evidence

  1. Wieland Ziegenrücker: General music theory with questions and tasks for self-control. 1979, p. 178.