The snare drum is a mutation of the ordinance drum. The rope was abandoned as a means of tightening because this tensioning system did not allow for the separate adjustment of the striking head and the sounding head. It is replaced by separate metal rods.

The first drum with tension by screws on rods was built by the Englishman Cornelius Ward in 1837. In France, on December 24, 1843, Jean-Nicolas Darche obtained a five-year patent for a new bass drum and snare drum. They are provided with iron straps and rods, copper nuts and buttons, calf skins, wooden or copper barrels or any other material according to the buyer's will. Inside these instruments harmonic strings produce a vibration. It was then Emile Boulanger, an instrument maker of French origin based in St. Louis, Missouri, who in 1883 developed the system of separate tensioning of the snare drum skins with tie rods fixed in the tub lugs.

The snare drum has a timbre made of twisted metal wires, unlike the drum, whose timbre is usually made of gut. It can be disengaged by means of a lever release and no longer be in contact with the head. This makes it possible to change from a clear, metallic sound to a natural, resonant sound. The term snare drum certainly comes from this brilliant sound.

Snare drums are generally 14 inches. However, there are also 15 inch snare drums like some old parade drums. Some are smaller in 13, 12 or 11 inches and are most often equipped with pressed or cast steel hoops fixed by 6, 8 or 10 tie rods. The first straps are straight, without a rounded edge which limits the wear of the sticks when they strike the rimshot on the circle and the drumhead simultaneously.

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