Here I’ll give you a brief history of the snare drum, this snappy instrument that a drummer can’t do without has had many different variations through the years and has consistently progressed as needs changed in sound and what the drum was used for.
The modern snare drum originally started out as the Tabor drum, this had a single gut snare across the bottom and was used in wartime played with a fife/pipe, most of the technology advancements in the snares history is due to its use in the military, the tabor was suspended by a strap from the forearm, the strap was placed somewhere between the elbow and wrist, this was so when played, the shell was parallel with the ground, the Tabor was also hit on the snare side of the drum.
These early snare’s were not always double headed and not all that were used had the snare across the bottom, also during the 15th and 16th centuries the size of the Tabor had increased and had a long cylindrical shape, this meant they were deeper and were carried on the side of the soldiers using them, following in the 17th and 18th century there were many changes in the drum, these include the use of screws to hold down the snares which gave a brighter sound, slowly but surely the drum sound improved with changes and the modern metal snares appeared in the 20th century.
In the early days of the snare it was used to communicate orders to soldiers, this included wake ups and meal times as well as in the field orders too.
The early Tabor heads were originally made of calf skin, the invention of the plastic drum head didn’t happen until much later obviously and is credited to Marion Evans who was apparently the first man to manufacture the plastic drum head in 1956.
From there advancements keep coming, the characteristics that have stayed the same over time in the construction of the snare is the cylindrical shape and the snare is on the bottom un-played head of the drum, the things that have changed over the years is the size of the drum and also the hardware and where it is used, the way they are tuned etc etc, today there is also piccolo snares used which have a shorter body again than that of the normal snare, I used to play in a band with a drummer with one, the snap is incredible and the sound is a lot different than a normal drum kit snare.
Today the modern day snare drum is used in bands, orchestras, marching bands, concert bands and drum corps, it can be held or carried and also in bands sits on a stand inbetween the High Hats and the Kick Drum.
So there you have a brief history of the snare drum that makes an essential part of the sound of most bands today whether live or recording.
You can read more about drums and drum kits here :: What is Drumming?