The Woodwind & Brasswind | Care and Tuning of Your Snare Drum

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How to Tune and Take Care of Your Snare Drum

Author - Woodwind & Brasswind

Knowing Your Snare Drum

A snare drum is often cited as the most important part of your kit, as such, it requires the most care and attention. Its unique “snare” sound is produced by snares on the underside making contact with the thin snare head. Make sure you don’t allow any objects to come in contact with your snares, and if one strand becomes bent or kinked, cut if off immediately. Keeping it on can cause a rattle and buzzing that is definitely uncomplimentary to the drum’s sound.

Snare Strainer

The strainer places the snare under strain or tension. To use the strainer, first locate the snare tension adjustment screw. In the included diagram the adjustment screw is in a position where there are more threads above the fastening bolt than below. This position offers more than enough room for adjustment. If your snare cord is stretched to its limit, loosen this tension screw to take up the slack.

Cleanliness

Frequently cleaning your snare is crucial to maintaining the quality of your drum. As with anything, when you use your drum, dust and dirt can become lodged between the snare and drum heads. This can affect the sound of your drum. Clean the shell and tension casings with a dry clean cloth. Occasionally, you should use a good grade of metal polish to clean metal shells and wood wax for wood shells. To clean the snares, throw the snare strainer off and use a dry cloth on the snares, taking care to not damage them. Also, be sure to clean the snare head when you do this.

Lubrication

Use an oil such as Three in One Light Oil about once per month on the threads of the snare strainer tension screw and the collar screw tension rods. This will ensure that your strainer throw-off and-on operation is smooth and noiseless.

Drum Heads

One benefit to having plastic heads is that they are not affected by humidity. This means they will respond equally well in damp or dry weather. All you really need to do is tune these heads to your desired tension and then they are set. To clean your drum heads, remove them from the drum and scrub them to remove dirt and film. This can be done with a stiff brush, warm water and kitchen cleanser. With a towel, dry the head immediately after and remount.

Tuning the Heads

The tensioning and tuning of your drum heads will go a long way in determining the “sound” and “feel” of your snare. Of course, the right sound comes down to personal preference, with each drummer having their own wants. In recent years there has been a serious trend towards a resonant, crisper, higher pitched sound that can be described as “cutting through” the band. The following procedure, if followed carefully, should help you achieve that sound.

Seat the head and then mount the counter hoop with the same even tension on the collar screw rods. With the full palm of your hand, depress the head in the center. Do not be afraid to apply pressure, as the whole reason for doing this is to “seat “ the head firmly against the counter hoop. Doing this will eliminate slack tension points. With the snare tensions released, tune each tension point, then tune these rods in a criss-cross manner around the entire circumference of the drum. While doing this, tap lightly with a stick about two inches from the edge of the head to ensure each point has the same pitch. This provides the drum with a distinct clear tone.

The procedure listed above can also be applied to the snare head. Remember that the snare head is thinner and thus must be handled more carefully. Currently, there are two popular schools of thought on the subject of tensioning batter and snare heads. The first states that the batter head should have a slightly tighter tension than the snare head. The other takes the exact opposite view on the subject. It is recommended that you try both methods to determine which works best for you. One final thing to keep in mind is that over-tensioning of either head will reduce snare action by choking the tone.

Over time, your drum heads will naturally lose their resilience and tone and will need to be replaced. When this time comes, make sure your replacement heads are top quality. Drum heads are most commonly damaged by mishandling and careless treatment by inexperienced players. Keep these points in mind to prolong the life of your heads:

  1. Do not write on your heads.
  2. Do not store your drums close to a heat source.
  3. Do not over tension the drum heads.
  4. Do not place sharp, pointed, or heavy objects on your drums.
  5. Clean your heads only when necessary.
  6. Cover your drums when not in use.
  7. Make certain that your drum, as well as drum stand, is properly locked and in the right position while you’re playing.

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