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A piccolo snare drum is a percussion instrument. It is similar to other snare drums and is made from the same basic materials, but its dimensions are smaller. This creates a different sound that is recognizable to the trained ear. Piccolo snare drums are not quite as versatile as larger snare drums but are desirable to create particular percussive effects.
A piccolo snare drum measures between 3 inches (7.6 cm) and 4.5 inches (11.43 cm) deep. Comparatively, the orchestra or band snare measures 6 inches (15 cm), meaning the depth of a piccolo snare is only about half the depth of a traditional orchestra or band snare drum. Additionally, a marching snare typically is around 12 inches (30.48 cm), so the piccolo snare has only about a quarter to a third of the depth of a marching snare.
The smaller depth compared to other snare drums means that the piccolo snare usually has a higher pitch. It has a more cutting sound and a very loud, distinct "crack," making the piccolo snare a good choice when a drummer needs a big effect.
The distinct sound of a piccolo snare drum generally translates to drummers using larger snares for the majority of their playing. When a person has a choice between a larger drum and a piccolo, the advice is to get the larger drum because it can be used in more types of music and settings. Players who can afford a piccolo in addition to the larger drum use the piccolo as an "accent" drum, using it mainly for key moments or special effects.
One down side of a piccolo snare is the instrument has a tendency to "bleed" more. Bleeding refers to microphones and other audio equipment intended for one instrument picking up the frequencies of another. Bleeding is not desirable with a drum because it makes mixing of tracks for a recording more difficult.
Some confusion is present about what constitutes a piccolo snare drum due to the fact drums can be classed either by depth or diameter, which can be mixed. When looking at diameter, a player can find drums of 10 inches (25.4 cm), 12 to 13 inches (30.48 to 33.02 cm) and 14 inches (35.56 cm). The 10-inch snares are called "popcorn" snares, while the 12 to 13 inch snares are "soprano." The 14-inch snares are "standard." As an example of confusion, a 12-inch diameter snare with a depth of 3 inches could be classed either as a piccolo or a soprano, depending on whether the player looked at diameter or depth first.