Snare and Side Drums

I have the following snare drum types requested in the score:


The logic seems to be the implied “voice” range, so I am trying to match them like this:

  • tamburo soprano = S = aka tamburo piccolo = piccolo side drum (with snares, 10-13")
  • tamburo alto = A = ?
  • tamburo = T = tenor side drum (14-16" with snares)
  • tamburo rullante = T = field side drum (14-16" no snares )
  • (tamburo gr = B = Cassa)

I’m a little unsure if a standard concert snare or some other type of drum is meant for tamburo alto, and would appreciate any suggestion.

And also, is there a better way to assign the drums in this setup? Many thanks.

(The piece is only for percussion and strings).

Tamburo rullante is a tenor drum with snares (from French Caisse roulante). I have no idea what he means with tamburo alto. Maybe just size of the shaft and tuning.

Thank you. Yes, Kolberg and others confirm modern tamburo rullante is used with snares.
Feeling lost now in this rabbit hole…

I am wondering if I should forget the actual drum names and simply pick them based on perceived pitch (to fill out the apparent SATB intent - unless I’m mistaken about that too!). Something along the lines of this: popcorn, piccolo, standard, field…


Appreciate any ideas/suggestions!

In this “Carmen-suite” usually two different sized snare drums are used for the tamb.sopr./alto. Soprano the smallest you have and for alto normal one.

Sounds like it’s time to “Take a percussionist to lunch”. You’re never going to be clear on any of this without some professional advice. Ask - people enjoy talking about their craft and are grateful that someone is interested.

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Never heard the term tamburo alto. I think you got it right the first time. Maybe use a deep concert snare drum for alto. Perhaps a 14"x6.5". . Here are some nice ones: Concert - PercuFrance

Jesper (former percussionist)

( I did play Carmen a few times, so maybe I saw “tamburo alto” there but forgot about it)

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what is the piece?
My guess would be :
1 side-drum
2 snare drums (2 pitches, or 1 with snare, the other without)
1 Caisse roulante
But really it depends on piece itself and on the perc available.

As far as I know, a Side drum is just another word for Snare drum.


Thank you everyone for replies and suggestions.

@queb The piece, as @Kari_Vehmanen mentioned, is Carmen Suite. It’s basically main numbers from the opera transcribed for the string orchestra and percussion. It was written by a Soviet composer in the 1960s and used as a ballet for his prima-ballerina wife. I have seen it live once and it is spectacular - plus the guy really knew how to write for orchestral percussion! That’s why I’m sure these snare drums weren’t thrown in at random and that all the different registers were thoughtfully considered…

Anyway, I tried finding live performances on YouTube but never managed to get a good enough view - usually the cameras seem to focus on only one or two percussionists and the rest is obscured.

The idea from @notesetter is fantastic. I’ll try to reach out to someone at our local orchestra here…

Hi Jesele,
I’m not English speaking, but for me a side drum is a smaller size snare drum. Cassa piccola o tamburo piccolo, petite caisse…

Oh it’s Shchedrin’s Carmen, isn’t? I just ask a conductor and a percussionist and yes it’s three sizes of snare, tenor drum (caisse roulante) and bass drum. Here’s an English translation of the percs setup.

First, a belated thank you to @Queb for providing this very useful chart!

And also, just to mention that working through the score I discovered there is a footnote about half way through with a specification: tamburo soprano and tamburo alto are to be tuned a third apart.

Thanks everyone for the help.

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