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How Do I Build a Snare Drum?

A snare drum is made of tight snares stretched across the head of the drum, and the location of these affects the sound of the drum.
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  • Written By: L. Baran
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 20 September 2014
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A snare drum is a musical instrument in the percussion family that features tight bands of snares stretched across the head of the drum. The location of the snares and the material used to create them affect the sound that results when the drum is played. To build a snare drum, first the ingredients are gathered and the shell of the drum is cut, sanded and coated. Holes are then drilled in specific locations for hardware and snare wires, then the bearing edge where the drum head and the shell attach is cut. Finally, the hardware and snare wires are attached.

To build a snare drum takes some practice, patience and time, but it is a relatively simple process once the steps have been mastered. The drum shell is made from a circular piece of wood or metal that is the same thickness all the way around. If wood is used, it must be sanded, dyed if desired, and then sealed with a urethane coat to protect the finished product. The shell is then glued into its circular shape using a heavy duty compound.

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Once the shell has been prepared, the drum needs to be marked for the installation of hardware. These are the screws and nuts that will hold the drum parts together. The hardware location will affect the sound of the drum, and pieces should be evenly spaced around the shell. Many drum makers choose to use a snare drum template, which is available online, to perform this step. A common method is to tape the drum at intervals to indicate where holes should be drilled.

When the holes are being drilled, hand drills or drill presses may be used. Care must be taken not to bend or warp the shell. The meeting point between the snare drum head and the shell is called the bearing edge. To build a snare drum that has a good tone, this step is very important. Typically, a router is used to cut the bearing edge at a 45 degree angle.

At this point, the major parts of the drum and hardware are assembled. The butt plates, strainer and hoop are attached to the top of the drum. Snare wires are held on the fixed side by the butt plates, while the strainer holds the wires on the other side with a switch that can release them. The hoop is a ring that creates tension on the drum and holds the drum head in place. Each piece is attached with metal screws through the holes that were drilled in the previous step.

The final step to build a snare drum is attaching the snare wires. These are the same width as the drum shell and are attached to the butt plates and strainer. Wires can be made from metal, plastic cable or gut fibers. Once this has been done, the drum is complete and ready to be played.

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