The snare drum is the center piece of the modern drum kit. Snare drums are made of a wooden or metal shell and are double headed. The snare drum’s batter head is stretched across the drum’s top and is the part struck with the stick when the drum is played. The snare drum’s snare head is stretched across the bottom and is usually thinner than the batter head. The distinctive snare drum sound is produced by wires, called snares, that are tightly stretched over the snare head.
In a typical snare drum, there are 8 to 10 parallel metal snare wires, set a millimeter or two apart. As the drum is struck, the snares vibrate across the surface of the snare head, and produce a sharp rattling sound that sets the snare drum apart from all other drums.
The snare wires have two types of controls. One is a lever that can completely disengage the wires, i.e. make them no longer touch the snare head, and the second is a knob that tightens or loosens the wires’ tension. Disengaging the snare wires effectively makes the snare drum sound like a tom-tom. Changing the tension makes the snare wires rattle differently.
The history and origin of the snare drum date back to the 15th and 16th century. It was first used as a percussion instrument for military bands, and is used in this roll until today.