A drum with gut, metal, plastic, or curled metal wires or strands stretched across and against the resonant drumhead (usually the bottom head). The snares vibrate or rattle against the resonant head when the batter head is struck, resulting in a brighter, cracking sound. Though snare drums are most commonly associated with drum kits, they are also used in orchestral percussion sections, in marching and miliary bands, and in fife and drum corps.
Snare drums have a long history, stretching back to medieval times and the “tabor,” a single- or double-headed drum that often had a gut snare. The snare drum developed, mostly due to its military use (for marching, for communicating orders, as a signal device, and more), through the 1400s and 1500s, reaching its modern form in the 1700s. Metal snares first appeared in the 1900s.
Today a snare drum can have either a wooden or a metal shell, and features a mechanism and lever for establishing and releasing the tension on the snares. Though snare drums are usually worn on a strap for marching band use, in most cases snare drums are mounted to stands for practice and performance use.
The standard snare drum has a diameter of 14 inches, typically with a depth of six inches, though various other depths are available. Variations include the marching snare, which may be a foot deep; the higher-pitched piccolo snare, which may be as little as three inches deep, and even smaller special-effects models, such as soprano, “popcorn,” and “firecracker” snares, which may be as small as eight inches in diameter.