Snare Drum Development and History

Posted in: Drums by Pupsik22 on June 24th, 2009 | 4 Comments

Snare Drum Facts and Trivia and a timeline of its development.

How Old Is it?

The snare drum is about 600 years old. It originated in Medieval Europe in the early 15th century. The earliest form of the snare drum was known as the medieval tabor drum.


What Ancient People Used It?

The roots of the snare drum derived from an African drum called the Choke drum. It was used in ancient times in Angola, Africa. Angolans beat the drum using sticks. The actual origin date of the Choke drum is quite debatable and undecided so there isn’t an exact date of when the drum was created. Since percussion was the first family of music that came into this world, the snare drum has taken its roots from the ancient drum, the double-headed Choke drum.


How Was it Used in the Past?

The snare drum was first used in the Middle Ages and played symphonies  the three-holed pipe simply for entertainment or festivals. It later on became in use regarding the military. The drum was used in warfare, as a means of giving indications to the soldiers, to create noise and drive fear into the enemy. It also was used in ceremonies such as, victories and mourning’s. The snare drum later on was adapted into being used in entertainment. Today, it is used in various forms of music, such as jazz and rock. It provides an accented back beat to rock music, which is essential to a rock song.


 How Was it Made in the Past?

When the snare drum was first created in the early 15th century, it had a simple infrastructure. A cylindrical shaped hollow log was met with rawhide, concealing the open bases of the top and bottom of the log. It then went through polishing and a metal twisted wire or a gut snare was attached to the bottom of the drum. The whole drum was secured with a thin cotton rope. Sticks carved out of wood were used to beat the drum.

As it progressed through the years, it went through changes. It first came out as a tabor drum, which just consisted of one simple gut snare. Today, snare drums contain clusters of snares, which are usually curled metal wires, plastic cables, or gut cords.


How Is it Made Today?

The snare drum goes through a simple process today and is usually done mechanically, not manually. First come 2 round lids, which act as a base and a top for the drum. They are usually made out of synthetic material like fiberglass and various forms of plastic. The 2 lids are then acquainted with a cylindrical shaped carving of wood. They are fastened with a polystyrene rope. Finally, clusters of snares are stretched on the bottom of the drum and the drum goes through polishing and painting. The clusters of snares are usually made of stainless steel. The snare drum is then completed.


Aspects of How and Why It Makes Sound

The snare drum has a simple anatomy. It has a top, bottom and curved sides, just like a cylinder. When you would beat the snare drum with a drumstick, it would emit vibrations into the drum. These vibrations would cause pressure inside the drum, and then would release that pressure into the bottom of the drum, thus vibrating the clusters of snares and producing the unique snare drum sound.

The amplitude of the drum is measured by how hard the player strikes the drum using the drum stick/mallet. Frequency is affected by how tight the snares are secured on the base of the snare drum. The diameter of the drum head also highly affects frequency. (The bigger the head, the more lower the frequency)

This spectrogram shows what the sound waves look like when the snare drum is striked with a single stroke. Since the snare drum really can’t play a constant repeated pattern like a flute or clarinet, the spectrogram displays the sounds waves very loud in the beginning, and as they descend the sound deteriorates.

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