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Snares on a C17th military drum



I am commissioning a replica of the surviving C17th military drum (thought to be Dutch) currently in the care of the Royal Armouries, Leeds, UK. It’s a fascinating process but the more I study this very rare survivor, the more questions that it throws up.

The bottom drum hoop shows two rough snare beds but there appears to be no evidence as to how the snare was held in place and tensioned. “Modern” drums of this type (typically produced for re-enactment and living history groups) nail the snare in place on one side and add a wooden plug to the shell on the other…but there’s no evidence for this on the original so we are wondering how to proceed.

Any advice or suggestions would be most welcome!

Thank you,

Howard Giles,




Posted on 1 year ago
Posts: 5291 Threads: 226

What a beautiful drum!! Sorry, I can`t offer assistance...


1976 Ludwig Mach 4 Thermogloss 26-18-14-14sn
1978 Ludwig Stainless 22-22-18-16-14-13-12 c/w 6-8-10-12-13-14-15-16-18-20-22-24 concert toms
1975 Sonor Phonic Centennials Metallic Pewter 22-16-13-12-14sn (D506)
1971 Ludwig Classic Bowling Ball OBP 22-16-14-13
1960's Stewart Peacock Pearl 20-16-12-14sn
1980`s Ludwig Coliseum Piano Black 8x14 snare
1973 Rogers Superten 5x14 & 6.5x14 COS snares
1970`s John Grey Capri Aquamarine Sparkle 5x14 snare
1941 Ludwig & Ludwig Super 8x14 snare
Posted on 1 year ago
Posts: 346 Threads: 31

It occurs to me that this drum has been fixed up a bit for presentation.

The ropes and ears look relatively new and the heads don't have that weathered look.

I would ask if the museum has any photos of when the drum was found.

Another idea would be to research 17 century art for a clue to general construction.

Bear in mind that the number of snares would probably be less than what is now considered normal.

Let us know of your progress!

1974-75 Rogers Starlighter IV New England White 13/16/22 (w/Dyna)
1964-67 Rogers Blue Glass Glitter 12/14/16/20
early Oaklawn Camco Blue Moire 12/14/20
1926 Super Ludwig 5x14
1960-ish Ludwig COB 5x14 Super Sensitive
1960-ish Ludwig COB 6.5x14 Super Sensitive
1970 Ludwig COB Cut-Badge 5x14 Supra Phonic

Looking for a Camco Aristocrat SD in Blue Moire!!
Posted on 1 year ago

The few antique rope tension drums I have experience with utilized long strips of twisted rawhide strands extending across the bottom head for snares. There is a possibility that your drum could have been used as a tambor style drum without using snares. But presuming that it was indeed a snare drum it is likely that twisted rawhide strands (or gut) were actually tucked under the wood hoops on either side of the drum and stretched across the bottom head in a "fixed" position so that they were always engaged and not expected to be released. The notched bed in the shell would then allow the strands to seat themselves against the head. This is just an educated guess on my part. Further research on your part will likely provide the answer.

Posted on 1 year ago

I agree completely with Buckie's reply above and can add that the gut snares from this time period tended to be large diameter and looped from one side. The looping is accomplished by use of a small rectangular piece of leather that has a series of holes in a line in the center (precursor to the snare "butt"). The snares are dampened and then looped through the leather to their center. So a snare strand travels from the opposite side (no piece of leather) across the head, through the leather piece, and back again. The total number of snare strands is fewer than modern drums, some have only four or six stands. The opposite side of the drum (where a strainer is later added) just has the loose snares placed between the bottom head and the wooden counter hoop. You can pull them tight before they lose all of their moisture and then tighten the head using the buffs or ears to hold them in place. They may also have been tied (bundled) with a piece of small rawhide that shrinks when it dries. You can get more information on early drum design from some James Blades books and also two books by Jeremy Montagu (Making Early Percussion Instruments, 1976, and Early Percussion Instruments from the Middle Ages to the Baroque, with Blades, also 1976 both by Oxford University Press). You can contact Potter's of Aldershot and the Company of Fifers and Drummers in Ivoryton, Connecticut. Thank you for preserving history and good luck with your project.

Posted on 1 year ago