What Is a Snare Drum Used For?

Written by: Zander Brooks

Snare drums are used for keeping the tempo in any band. They are a crucial part of the drum set. As a beginner at the drums, you might have noticed that your drum kit involves various components. These include the bass drum, crash cymbals, hi-hat, hanging toms, and various others. Each component adds a unique tone and pitch to the track, but nothing does it quite like the snare drum.

It is perhaps the most important and versatile part of any drum kit. There are various types of snare drums in the market, and each adds a flavor of its own to the character to the music. Musicians play them with a drum stick, but some also use other beaters such as rutes and brushes.

Artists use them on various occasions, such as playing in an orchestra, concert band, parades, marching or military bands and drum corps, etcetera. The snare drum seems to form the foundation of many musical tracks. As a beginner, you might wonder what it does exactly and what you can use it for.

What is a Snare Drum?

A snare drum is a part of the drummer’s kit that is used in orchestras and bands. It basically has two drum heads of varying materials. It is also known as the side drum as it is often placed to one side of the Hanging toms. In addition, it happens to be the smallest drum in the set.

When struck with a beater of any kind, it produces a sharp staccato sound. This means that the drum produces a definite pitch that many artists tried to avoid before, but today they seem to deem it necessary for various tracks.


The snare drum features several different components. This includes about 8 to 18 snares inside the shell that are stretched across the snare head. The snare head is the drum's bottom (or the resonant head), while the upper head is the batter head.

When you hit the batter head, the snares produce a terse sound as they vibrate. This creates a unique high-pitched sound. Usually, the snare drum is placed on an adjustable stand so the artist can easily adjust it to a more preferred height.

What Are They Used For?

Snare drums play a major role in a wide variety of applications. From leading marches and armies into battle to providing the perfect beat for ancient dances and military music. Snare drums have seen their fair share of use. They help set the pulse or the tempo for the rest of the instruments. Also, they act as a base to build up different drum patterns.

Beat refers to the pulse throughout the song. You can play the snare drums between each beat or on each beat. The drums add to the energy of the other instruments and help build the beat-up.

Types of Snare Drums and Their Uses


There are various types of snare drums in the market. All of them have their own specific use. Generally, they can be classified in terms of their sizes. The size of the drum determines the kind of stylistic appeal the specific snare drum will have.


Small drums are generally higher pitched. This is why they are most suitable and a popular choice for drummers in R&B, Drum ‘n’ Bass, and Hip-Hop music. Their sound is quite intrinsic to these styles.


The medium-sized snare drums possess the perfect balance between the body and the pitch. They help provide steadiness and rhythm to the music. It is usually a choice among drummers in Pop music.


Larger snare drums have much more body and are deeper. Thus, they create a deeper sound, introducing much more drama into the music. These are perfect for ballads and musicals.

These are simple generalizations. Various other factors determine the use of the drum, which can determine the specific type of the snare drum.

The Various Types of Snare Drums

Concert or Orchestral Snare Drums

These drums are mostly used for orchestras and concerts. They feature metal cable as snares and a calf skin-type batter head. Artists use these with a significant amount of muffling to produce truly unique sounds.

Drum Set Snare Drums

They are the most popular type of snare drums. They include a single-ply batter head and come with a wooden or a metallic shell. Moreover, they are perfect for all kinds of drum sets. Generally, they are about 14 inches in diameter, which lends them a fat sound at 5 to 6 inches deep.

Marching Snare Drums


Marching snare drums are, as their name suggests, used in marching bands. These produce much deeper sounds than the orchestral versions as they possess higher tension. Their heads include Kevlar construction, so they have a sturdy and durable design. This makes them perfect for outdoor applications such as a marching band.

Field Snare Drums

Artists prefer using these in concert bands, orchestras, and other ensembles. They are quite large in diameter with greater depths which lends them a deep and resonating sound. Furthermore, artists prefer playing them at lower tunings.

Piccolo Snare Drums

These drums are shallower and find their use in drum kits for R&B and Hip Hop. They feature a higher-pitched sound and a faster response time due to their shallow depth.

Pipe Band Snare Drums

These snare drums find their use in pipe bands and help accompany the pipe tunes such as those of the bagpipes. The music you might be required to play is difficult and requires a lot of practice and talent on your part.

Parting Notes

Snare drums are an essential part of any drummer’s kit. They add to the beat and help set up the pulse or tempo for the rest of the instruments. You’ll find artists and experienced drummers using them in all kinds of applications, including concerts, orchestras, ballads, hip hop, and even pop music.

Their wide variety of types allow you to choose the one that is perfect for the intended application. In the end, choosing the perfect snare drums is entirely up to your preferences. On the other hand, knowing their various applications can help speed up the process.

Written By:
Zander has been playing drums for over 20 years. He is passionate about music and uses his years of experience to teach his students. While he is a full-time instructor, he is also working on growing a YouTube channel where he shares his insights. You can see him playing there, or on Instagram where he posts daily videos.

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