How to Read Music Notes for Snare Drum

By Robin Raven ; Updated September 15, 2017

A snare drum is one that's usually small in size. It's often used in a marching band for a drummer to carry at his side. It's called a snare drum because it has snares that line the lower head, and they reverberate for sound effect. Reading musical notes is something that one should ideally understand before ever picking up a snare drum. However, learning through practice is often the most exciting--therefore, most effective--way of taking in the information about snare drum playing.

Understand that the snare drum is often considered the most important part of a drum set. The snare drum player has a big responsibility. He provides the back-beat of the band. He should take special care of playing all the notes at the appropriate time, or it can hurt the overall sound of a song in a big way.

Take an overall first glimpse at the sheet music given for a snare drum. The musical notation for a snare drum will be indicated as a simple musical note placed in the center of a traditional looking bar of music. It will be a simple note placed on the third line--in the center--of the bar.

Look for a cross-stitching note technique. It features an "X" within the otherwise hollow musical note as stated in Step 2. It will still be in the center of the bar of music.

Keep in mind that the snare drum is always indicated in the middle of the bar, on the third line from the top and bottom. This will help as other tom tom drums are indicated on the spaces nearby.

Observe the differences in reading piano sheet music and drum sheet music. If a pianist wants to play the snare drum, he may become confused, even though he reads music clearly. That's because there are no sharps and flats when it comes to drum sheet music, and each note line in the bar indicates a certain drum. For the snare, again, it's the center line.

Separate drum notation into blocks. From there, observe the rhythm pattern. Once those are mastered, a basic drum chart is an easy thing to decipher in order to play your snare drum.


Don't assume that you can read musical notes for the drum if you've mastered other instruments. Drums are unique instruments with their own sheet music and rules of play.

About the Author

Robin Raven was first published in 1998. She has contributed to newspapers, magazines and online publications, including "The Malibu Times," "Act'ionLine" for Friends of Animals, USA Today Travel Tips and the official Melissa Gilbert website. Raven specializes in travel, health, beauty, culture, vegan nutrition, joyful living, arts and entertainment. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in writing.