Snare and Tenor Drum

An unpitched instrument with an unmistakable sound, the snare drum has a surprising number of purposes.

Its military associations are indelible (the roll of a snare, say, accompanying a burial at sea). Where would jazz and rock'n'roll be without this two-headed drum with its "snare" made from rattlers stretched across the bottom head? The orchestral snare crisply snaps out rhythms for emphasis, at the same time being well equipped to create atmospheric sound effects especially when brushes are used as beaters. The snare came into its own with 20th-century composers such as Lutosławski, who finds unprecedented melodic finesse for the snare in combination with tenor and bass drums in Capriccio Notturno e Arioso.

Someone once said that if the snare drum is the strident sergeant barking orders, the tenor drum is the chaplain, less aggressive perhaps but no less insistent. Slightly larger than the snare, the tenor drum has a similar construction but no snares. Despite its more sombre quality, the tenor drum is ideal for conveying complex rhythmic patterns.

Fact File

Did you know?

Drumheads used to be made from animal skins, however nowadays they are more commonly made of cheaper polyester.


Snare drum: 10-14"
Tenor drum: 16"