Visual Encyclopedia

Snare drum

A snare drum or side drum is a percussion instrument that produces a sharp staccato sound when the head is struck with a drum stick, due to the use of a series of stiff wires held under tension against the lower skin. Snare drums are often used in orchestras, concert bands, marching bands, parades, drumlines, drum corps, and more. It is one of the central pieces in a drum set, a collection of percussion instruments designed to be played by a seated drummer, which is used in many genres of music. Snare drums are usually played with drum sticks, but other beaters such as the brush or the rute can be used to achieve very different sounds. The snare drum is a versatile and expressive percussion instrument due its sensitivity and responsiveness. The sensitivity of the snare drum allows it to respond audibly to the softest strokes, even with a wire brush; as well, it can be used for complex rhythmic patterns and engaging solos at moderate volumes. Its high dynamic range allows the player to produce powerful accents with vigorous strokes and a thundering crack (120+ dB) when rimshot strokes are used.

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The snare was used in the military from the time of the Crusades to the end of the Civil War. It was the main means of communication for troops and also contributed a lot of positive morale for soldiers. Because a lot of the soldiers, especially during the Civil War, were young boys who were susceptible to a lot of mistakes, a more experienced soldier was put in charge of all the musicians and was called a drum major (dromme majore). He would stand on a hill to see the whole battlefield and use hand signals to direct the drummers where to lead troops. This inadvertently led to the beginning of special operations forces because war officials wanted to take out the leaders.

Contributed by Mariessa MJ Robles

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