Instruments | Snare Drum & Tenor Drum | Percussion

The snare drum and tenor drum both originated in the Middle East. Today, cylindrical drums like these are played in western classical music, and in pop, rock and jazz. They appear in marching and military bands, in the orchestra and as part of the drum kit.

Cylindrical Drums

The body of a cylindrical drum is usually made from a piece of flat wood, steamed and bent into shape and then lacquered and decorated. Played with sticks, these drums are double-headed and untuned, and come in a range of sizes. Those with calfskin or goatskin heads – like marching snare drums and tenor drums – are laced together with a zigzag of cords running up and down the body of the drum between the two heads, and tightened by leather or cloth ‘D’-shaped bracing sleeves. Plastic heads, like those of the orchestral snare drum and bass drum, are held in place by a metal ring and tightened by tension rods that are screwed to the body of the drum.

Snare Drum

The snare drum has eight to 20 stretched nylon, wire, silk or cat-gut snares held against the lower or snare head by a screw clamp, which holds the snares taut. The snares respond to the vibrations that occur between the two drumheads as the upper, or batter, head is played. The batter head is kept tight to help the bounced strokes that are essential for playing snaredrum rudiments. It also has an internal damper to keep the resonance of the drum to a minimum. An orchestral snare drum (35 cm/14 in diameter and 8–16 cm/3–6 in long) is lighter in tone than the marching snare drum, which is 25–30 cm (10–12 in) long.

The snare drum has been used in the orchestra since the beginning of the eighteenth century, but it was not until the nineteenth century that it began to develop a significant role there. At this time, various composers made use of the snare drum, including Gioachino Rossini (1792–1868) in La gazza ladra (1816) and Maurice Ravel (1875–1937) in Boléro (1928), where the snare drum plays an ostinato rhythm throughout the work. Carl Nielsen also used it in his Fifth Symphony (1921–22), in which the snare drummer is given the instruction to improvise a solo that will disrupt the rest of the orchestra.

Playing Technique

The traditional way of playing the snare drum – with the left stick held horizontally and the right stick extending from the thumb and index finger – originates from when it was played when marching, suspended from a harness and hanging over the player’s right hip. Many players now use the ‘matched grip’, where both sticks are held pointing forward. This grip is also commonly used for playing the xylophone and other keyboard percussion, and the timpani.

Sound Effects

Snare-drum technique uses single, double and bounced strokes to achieve a range of effects. Single strokes are played with alternate hands (Right Left) and doubles as RR LL....

To read the full article please either login or register .

Source: The Illustrated Complete Musical Instruments Handbook, general editor Lucien Jenkins


An extensive music information resource, bringing together the talents and expertise of a wide range of editors and musicologists, including Stanley Sadie, Charles Wilson, Paul Du Noyer, Tony Byworth, Bob Allen, Howard Mandel, Cliff Douse, William Schafer, John Wilson...


Classical, Rock, Blues, Jazz, Country and more. Flame Tree has been making encyclopaedias and guides about music for over 20 years. Now Flame Tree Pro brings together a huge canon of carefully curated information on genres, styles, artists and instruments. It's a perfect tool for study, and entertaining too, a great companion to our music books.

Rock, A Life Story

Rock, A Life Story

The ultimate story of a life of rock music, from the 1950s to the present day.

David Bowie

David Bowie

Fantastic new, unofficial biography covers his life, music, art and movies, with a sweep of incredible photographs.