Instruments | Snare Drum | Modern Era | Classical
The snare drum is cylindrical. It has a wooden or metal frame with parchment stretched across either end. Stretched across the lower of these is a metal ‘snare’ which rattles when the drum is beaten. Another name for snare drums is ‘side drums’ because they were carried at the hip by army drummers.
Snare drums are often used in Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks (1749) and contribute to a bright, martial sound. They act in agreement with the rest of the ensemble. Although the snare drum does act as part of a team in Ravel’s Boléro, it is far from providing a brief roll for local effect. Here, the drumming builds gradually to a climax through 300 bars of the same rhythm. In similar relentless mode, Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony, the ‘Leningrad’, takes a two-bar pattern on the snare drum and repeats it, gradually reaching a climax over the course of 176 bars, before fading into silence. His Twelfth Symphony, ‘The Year 1917’, scores timpani, snare drum and bass drum playing in unison over 95 bars. Bridging the first and second movement, this combination advances from very quiet to violently loud, before receding once more into silence.
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