The snare drum, also referred to as the side drum, has evolved over several centuries from other different types of drums. The term “side drum” was applied because this was originally a marching drum that was carried at an angle at the side of the player.
The standard snare drum has a diameter of 14″ and a depth of 6″. The shell of the drum is made from wood or plastic. This shell is a cylinder in which the heads are placed and stretched upon. The heads are made of calfskin or plastic and should be tensioned fairly evenly, with the top head tightened slightly more than the bottom head. On the side of the drum are tension rods, also called tuning lugs, which tighten or loosen the head to the musician’s tuning preference. On the bottom head lies the snare strands. Modern snares are made of metal, but they also can be made from nylon, gut, or silk. The tension of these snares can be adjusted. The snares rattle crisply against the bottom head when the top head is struck, causing the unique snare sound to form. A lever on the side of the drum, called the snare release, lifts the snare away from the head if the musician would prefer to have a tom-tom sound rather than a snare sound.
The drumsticks can be held using the traditional (also called orthodox grip) or matched (identical) grip. The snare drum is set on a stand that places the drum at about waist height while the musician is standing. Rolls on this drum can be either “buzz” rolls (in which the sticks are pressed on to the head and allowed to bounce) or “rudimental”, or double-stroke rolls (in which the stick strikes the head and then the hand picks up the end of the stick when the stick bounces creating another stroke).