What Is a Piccolo Snare Drum?

Wanda Marie Thibodeaux

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.

Some drummers prefer the high-pitched pop of a piccolo snare.
Some drummers prefer the high-pitched pop of a piccolo snare.

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.

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