Bright, hard, clear, precise, metallic, shrill, noise-like, sharp, penetrating, rustling, hissing, shuffling, rattling, clattering, dry, cracking.
The sound is dependent on a number of factors:
- The snares: if the snare drum is played snares off it sounds hard, dry, dead and lower-pitched.
- The sticks: if timpani mallets (or marimba mallets) are used the sound is dark and muffled.
- Head tension: if the batter head is braced more tightly, the pitch rises.
- The shell: the deeper the shell, the darker (lower-pitched) the sound.
- The striking spot: generally in the center; the closer to the rim, the quieter the tone.
- Snare tension: the tighter the strings are tensioned, the higher the sound (slight variations only).
The term ”tone” is used when talking about drums even though the instrument does not produce a definite pitch. The snare drum’s register is somewhere in the region of one octave above middle C.
Following the attack only a short tone sounds which can last between 0.5 and 3 seconds depending on the string tension. What is then heard, however, is only the vibration of the strings which usually takes the form of a single tone.
The snare drum can be played from very quietly to very loudly and is quite capable of leading an entire orchestra; it can always be heard.