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The Snare Drum

Fun Facts about the Snare Drum

    • The snare drum is a member of the percussion family of instruments.
  • A snare drum is constructed of a hollow cylinder made of metal or wood, with two drumheads stretched over it—one on the top and one on the bottom.
  • The drumheads are made of calfskin or plastic. The drumheads are held in place by metal or wood rims.
  • Orchestral snare drums are generally 14 inches in diameter and vary in depth from around five to six inches. Different sized snare drums are used depending on the sound that’s needed.
  • A snare drum makes its distinctive sound due to a set of wires that sit outside the bottom drumhead. These wires are called the “snare” and make a rattling sound when the drum is struck.
  • A musician plays the snare drum by striking the top with sticks, mallets, or brushes.
  • Two distinctive snare drum sounds are the drumroll and the rimshot. The drumroll is produced by alternately bouncing the sticks on the drumhead at a rapid pace; the vibrating wires of the snare help to blend the distinct strokes into a single, sustained sound. A rimshot is produced when the percussionist strikes both the rim of the drum and drumhead simultaneously. 
  • Drumrolls and rimshots are iconic sounds in popular culture. Drumrolls are used to convey anticipation, often before a big “reveal.” Rimshots are used to emphasize the punchlines of corny jokes! 

About the Percussion Family

  • Percussion instruments make sounds when they are struck, shaken, scraped, or rubbed. 
  • Many are played by striking the instrument with a stick or mallet.
  • Most are used to keep the rhythm and sometimes used to create special sound effects.
  • Percussion instruments have existed in cultures worldwide since the beginning of humankind.
  • Percussion instruments are the largest and most varied family of instruments, including everything from drums, rattles, shakers, scrapers, bells, gongs, chimes, xylophones, and a lot more!

Where do you find percussion in an orchestra?

    • The percussion section is arranged along the back of the stage, toward the 
    • conductor’s left side and behind the violins.

Listen to the Snare Drum 

Here are two wonderful pieces of music in which the snare drum plays a leading role! 

Ravel – Boléro


Ravel – Boléro (2:21)

All sound clips are from San Francisco Symphony performances and are used with permission of the SFS Players Committee.

A bolero is a dance from Spain. Listen to the way the snare drum rhythm repeats over and over, marking the steps to this stately dance, while the beautiful melody floats above. (For a demonstration of the snare drum’s rhythm in Boléro, check out SF Symphony Principal Percussion Jacob Nissly's video at the top of the page, starting at 3:35). 

As you listen, think of how you would dance to this music. Then, draw a picture of yourself dancing. Play the music again while you draw! Send it to us using the button below. 

Rimsky-Korsakov – Music from Capriccio espagnole


Rimsky-Korsakov – Music from Capriccio espagnole (2:38)

All sound clips are from San Francisco Symphony performances and are used with permission of the SFS Players Committee.

This magnificent parade of instruments is led by the snare drum! Listen as each instrument steps into the spotlight. You will hear the snare drum, the brass playing a fanfare, and then a solo violin. After a bit comes a solo flute, a solo clarinet, the oboe, and harp.
At the end, everyone plays together. 

After you listen, make up a fun story about the music and write it down. Play the music as many times as you like while you create your story. Send it to us using the button below. 

Click the button below to send us your drawing and story!



Connect the Dots

Connect the dots to draw a

snare drum!

Click the button below to 
send us your art! 


Be an Artist!

Color in the snare drum and add a fun background, or draw your own snare drum. You are the artist and can use whatever colors or designs you like to make it special!

Click the photo to print and draw


Click the button below to send us your art! We will add it to our online KIDS’ GALLERY, 
along with these other fine examples of kids’ art:  


Lesson Plan for Teachers

More Music Featuring Percussion Instruments


Carlos Chávez – Toccata for Percussion (1:23)

All sound clips are from San Francisco Symphony performances and are used with permission of the SFS Players Committee.

Can you hear the timpani, the snare drum, and the bass drum? Carlos Chávez, a famous Mexican composer, wrote this piece to be played using only percussion instruments.