Hey Kids, It's a Snare Drum | History, Fun Facts, and More

from the Meet the Orchestra Index

Hey Kid's, It's a Snare Drum

Learn snare drum history, how it's made, how it's played, and about the percussion family.

The Snare Drum is a non-pitched instrument that serves an important part in the symphony orchestra, both as a supporting instrument and sometimes a solo instrument. The snare drum's characteristic "buzz" sets it apart from the other instruments of the orchestra. A person who plays a drum is commonly referred to as a percussionist.


The original snare drum was called a tabor, and was used with the fife (like a piccolo) in the Swiss military. These instruments originated in Europe as far back as the 15th century. The snare drum joined the symphony orchestra almost 200 years ago in the early 19th century.

How It's Made

The snare drum is typically made of wood or metal with a drum head stretched across the top and bottom of its hollow metal frame. Strung across the bottom of the drum you will see a set of curled metal wires or catgut which is called the "snare". When the drum is struck, the snare rattles, producing the snare drum's unique sound.

How It's Played

A percussionist produces a sound on the snare drum by striking it with a wooden drumstick. The percussionist may strike either the head of the drum, the rim, or the shell to create a variety of sounds. To make a softer sound, the percussionist may play with wire brushes. The snare may also be turned off if a tom-tom effect is desired.

The Percussion Family

The snare drum is a member of the percussion family. The percussion family includes the timpani, snare drum, bass drum, xylophone, glockenspiel, chimes, gong, cymbals, and many smaller percussion instruments.

Watch a Video

Watch a How It's Made - Snare Drum video that will offer your kids a virtual field trip to a drum factory.

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