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Thu - Mar 26, 2009 : 09:54 pm
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Tuning My Snare Drum
Well...  Yesterday, a friend of mine had told me he had the privilege of being formally taught how to tune a snare drum.

I read what he had to say (he posted it on facebook, so if you're not his friend, I imagine you can't read it, but here's the link anyway)

So, today, I went and investigated a bit of whether I could get the proper tools or not, and it turns out that everything I needed was right here in Springville.  I'm gonna do this in a step-by-step fashion, so anyone else out there who's trying to do the same thing can follow along.  I've also posted a before-and-after sound-bite of my snare. Click here to download it, or click the play button in the upper-right-hand portion of this page.  Okay...  Here goes:

A little background - I'm replacing the batter head, not the resonate head.  I'm going to re-tune the existing resonate head, and replace the batter head with a new Evans genera coated batter head.  So, without further ado, here's what I did:

Go buy (or rent) a DrumDial.  Totally worth it, in my opinion.  Along with a nice quality drum head, and some cheesecloth (or felt).



Take a picture(s) of the old snare for reference.







Next, take off the snare from the resonate head by unscrewing both sides and removing the snare.





 Next, remove the batter head completely.





Next, loosen the resonate head, if you're re-tuning it.  If you're replacing it, take it completely off and put the new one on.  Loosen it one turn at a time at alternating ends of the drum.  That way the head is assured to not warp during loosening.



After it's loosened, the fun begins.  To start tightening, I hand-tighten the bolts until they're too tight to move manually.  After that, I go around the drum (alternating sides) and dial in each bolt 1 turn.



After you've dialed them in all 1 turn with your key, get out your DrumDial, and make sure it's zeroed-out by placing it on glass and turning the dial so the needle points to "0".  Once it's zeroed, then place it on the snare approximately 3/4 of an inch from the lug you're tuning.  Proceed to turn it until it reaches the desired number.  Then, place it on the opposite side of the drum, by the opposing lug, and do the same.  Continue this until all bolts have been tightened to the same number.  (I had to loosen the first couple of bolts I tightened after I finished them all.  They had jumped from 70 to 85 while tuning other lugs.  This really is more of an art, than a science)









According to the chart which came with the Tama DrumDial, (I rented this for $5.00-a-day from my local music shop) I followed the advice for my bottom resonate head, and tuned each lug to 70.  I'm fairly sure you can tune your drums to whatever sounds good to you.



After it's tuned, go around each lug with a drumstick and tap about 1 inch from the lug, and tune the drum up to the highest tone.  To be honest, I have the hardest time even hearing if the tones are different.  The way mine sounded, I thought I could hear two lugs which were lower than the rest, so I tuned up em', and ... well ...  I have no idea if it worked.  If you can hear a difference, then just be sure to tune up, and not down.  (I'll have a pic of this later on for the batter head)

So now, you have a drum with a resonate head that should sound pretty darned resonate when you hit it lightly.  Now, turn it over and get your cheesecloth ready to cut.

The cheesecloth I purchased came in a 4-square-yard size, so take it, and cut it so it'll fit as is pictured below



Now, stretch it as much as you can, and place the batter head over it.  finger-tighten the bolts, and then make sure the cheesecloth isn't limp by lightly stretching it under the batter head.

Make sure you finger tighten all the bolts so you can't tighten them any more with your fingers. The batter head should be solid in place, yet remain un-tightened for this next part.



Now, go get on your shoes.

As weird as it may seem, with the bolts finger-tightened in their lugs, get up on your drum and stand on it.  Yup - you read that right.  Stand on it.  It hurts with no shoes, so .... it's better with shoes on.

While you're standing on it, carefully shift your weight slightly and move around the drum.  You'll hear cracking.  This is not only normal, but very good for your drum's ability to maintain its tune over time.





Now, for those of you who study the above photo carefully, you'll notice that my bolts are not in their lugs.  I almost cracked my drum by doing this without finger-tightening the bolts, so please - make sure the bolts have been finger-tightened and are in their lugs before you stand on the drum.

After you've danced on the drum for a bit, and have heard it snap-crackle-and pop, carefully get off it, and tighten each bolt one turn, in the same fashion as before - each opposing bolt after the next.



Now, get the DrumDial, and do the same with the batter head as you did with the resonate head.  This time, I tuned it up to 75.  Not entirely sure why, it just felt wrong to have the resonate head tuned higher than the batter.  Again, tune it however sounds good to you.





After tuning all the bolts to your desired number, you should have a snare drum which sounds pretty darned good.  Feel free to cut any dangling cheesecloth, should you so desire.



Now, follow the same pattern as with the resonate head, by hitting each lug area and tuning up to the highest tone.  Have fun with that.



Then, after it's tuned to your satisfaction, put the snare back on, and play to your heart's content to your favorite Neal Peart tune.





Let me know what you think!  Can you hear the difference?  I personally think that the cheesecloth may be dampening my drum a bit too much....  Not sure yet.  I'll keep you updated if I figure out anything to make it sound better.
Comment by Sarah Jones on Apr. 03, 2009 @ 04:05 pm
That was very interesting honey.  Very informative.  I could definitely hear the difference after the tuning.  The second sound of the drum was very much more muffled sounding. 
Comment by PoeticIntensity on Apr. 03, 2009 @ 11:31 pm
Yeah...  A bit too muffled.  I ended up re-tuning it and taking some of the cheesecloth out.  I definitely put too much in.  Thanks, sweetheart!
Comment by Cameron on May. 23, 2010 @ 02:55 am
Lol. Very nice. I still refuse to stand on my brand new $400 snare.  Very nice though.
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