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How the Snare Drum Works

    Snare Dimensions

    • The snare drum and the bass drum are the two signature drums of a drum kit. The snare distinguishes itself from the other tom drums in a number of ways. The first major difference is the dimension of the snare drum. The snare is usually at least half as deep as normal drums and this shallowness provides some of the signature high-pitch sound of the snare drum. Common dimensions of a 13- or 14-inch tom would be around 11- to 14-inch deep where a snare is often around 5 1/2 inches deep.

    Snare Wires

    • Snare Wires

      The next and arguably most important aspect of the snare drum versus regular tom drums are the snare wires that run underneath. There is a lever, called the throw-off, on the side of the snare drum that tightens these wires and allows them to touch the bottom resonant head of the drum. When you hit the drum, the vibrations incite the wires. This produces the signature cracking sound of the snare drum. With the throw-off flipped off, the wires won't vibrate and the snare will sound similar to the other tom drums.

    Coated Heads

    • The last major difference that makes the snare drum work slightly differently is the use of coated heads. On the tom and bass drums, a simply clear head is used but the snare drum uses a head that is coated with a slightly rough material. When struck, this coating absorbs some of the vibrations producing a partially muffled sound. When the sound of the wires, coating and shallow depth of the snare drum are all combined, you get the unique sound that only a snare drum can produce.

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