Side Drum

Date: 1694–1733

Geography: Dresden, Germany

Culture: German

Medium: Copper alloy, wood, various materials

Dimensions: Height: 23 3/4 in. (60.4 cm)
Depth: 20 7/8 in. (53.1 cm)

Classification: Membranophone-double-headed / cylindrical drum

Credit Line: Gift of William H. Riggs, 1913

Accession Number: 14.25.1618


This side drum bears a magnificent royal cartouche with the cipher of Frederick Augustus II. Known by his nickname, "Augustus the Strong," he ruled as elector of Saxony (1694–1733) and king of Poland (1697–1704, 1709–33). The cartouche consists of many royal and military symbols, including a large crown, shields, swords, banners, and drums.

This brass shell drum was certainly a military instrument that would have been used to signal troops in the field and to provide cadences for a marching army. The drum would have been worn on a sling to a player's side, and played with two large sticks. Across the bottom head are two cords—consisting of a single piece of twisted gut—that rattle against the head when the drum is played, giving the drum its characteristic "buzzy" sound. The player can adjust the tension on the snares with a wing nut that maneuvers a large j-hook snare strainer mounted on the shell.