Tuning The Snare Drum

double bass man

Junior Member
Newbe to the snare drum. I am about to change the two heads my the snare drum. I have never tuned a snare drum. How do I get the right tension on the heads? I have read there is Low Tension / Medium Tension / High Tension--to a novice advice needed. Do you use the drum dial? If so what tension for the three tensions on the drum dial I mentioned? I realise that every drummer has their own ideas about tension of the heads. My style is jazz--Trio / Quartet style band-not loud. Your knowledge most welcome. Thanks.
 

Soulfinger

Senior Member
There are tons of videos out there - Rob Brown has a very good one:


No need for drum dials or any other gimmicks IMHO, just use your ears, you´ll get there.
 

motleyh

Senior Member
Very strong recommendation for the "Sounds Like A Drum" series on Youtube:


Everything from the basics all the way to the nuances.
 

double bass man

Junior Member
Great video by Rob Brown. Being a banjo player for many years I have tried many different heads--different sounds. Some banjo players --including myself--use the Drum Dial to tune. We tune each nut the same tightness on each nut. Do you do that on the drum heads?
 

IBitePrettyHard

Senior Member
Some banjo players --including myself--use the Drum Dial to tune. We tune each nut the same tightness on each nut. Do you do that on the drum heads?
Tuning each lug to the exact same "tightness" does not guarantee perfect tuning. It gets you in the ballpark, and in most cases will give you a totally passable result, but is usually not close to perfect. There are too many tiny variables like the roundness of the hoops.....roundness of the shell.....how 'centered' it is relative to the shell.....variations in the bearing edge.....and drum heads that stretch.

It's very important to learn how to tune by ear. But once you learn that skill.....a tool like a Drum Dial is good, but the most accurate tuning method is definitely a Tune-bot. It measures the frequency of each lug, not just the tension like the Drum Dial. You can have perfectly equal tension on each lug but still be off because of the other variables I mentioned.

The Tune-bot puts my own tuning skills to shame, and I think most people here would agree. It can filter out the unwanted undertones/overtones and hear the fundamental note much better.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
There are tons of videos out there - Rob Brown has a very good one:
Love it!!
"Go Get Two Drum Keys..... TWO!"

The only thing I would add for the sake of the OP is that on every snare I've owned.

The bottom (snare side) head typically has a range of 2.5 to 4 turns past finger tight
The top (batter) head usually has a range of 1.5 to 3 turns past finger tight. Maybe 4 if I'm trolling the audience with St Anger.

Granted, I've only owned but a half dozen snare drums, and four of them were Ludwigs.
 

gdmoore28

Gold Member
The bottom (snare side) head typically has a range of 2.5 to 4 turns past finger tight
Up to FOUR full (360 degrees) turns on the reso head? Wow. That's TIGHT!

I seriously doubt that I go ONE full turn past finger tight on my reso heads.

GeeDeeEmm
 

Jeremy Bender

Platinum Member
One final thought on resonant head tension is this: If you find that the snare wires aren't responding crsisply to your strokes even after tensioning the snare strainer to a medium/tight tension, there's a good chance that your bottom head is cranked way too tight.
The old saying of "table top tight on the botom head" isn't always correct for every drum (or every playing situation). In fact you can actually damage the head beyond repair that way due to it's thin characteristics.
Learn the characterictics of your individual drum and what it takes to make it sound it's best.
Let us know how it turns out for you!
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
If this is your first time tuning a snare drum with new heads, I recommend:
  • Evans Hazy 300 or equivalent for the resonant head. It’s 3 mil thick, clear.
  • Evans Coated G1 or equivalent for the batter head. It’s 10 mil thick, coated frosty white. This type of head is considered a standard and is used by drum manufactures when they design a drum’s sound.
  • Remove the snare wires completely so they don’t interfere while you fuss with the heads.
  • Remove both old heads, clean the drum shell, inspect it for signs of damage. Check the screws on the inside and snug them down if needed, don’t over tighten.
  • Wipe down the hoops. Remove dust & crust. If they’re grimy, use Nevr-Dull or equivalent to clean ‘em up.
  • Place new resonant head on drum, align snare-side hoop with the slots to the snare strainer & butt (how many of us have installed the reso hoop without checking alignment?).
  • When installing the tension rods, lightly lubricate them. I use a very small drop of light motor oil.
The snare drum is the primary voice of the drum kit and is by far the most used drum. Keep it in good shape.
 

markdrum

Silver Member
The "Sounds Like A Drum" series is the best that I've seen. Cody is very thorough. I like that he uses a ruler to measure the height of the rim from the top of the drumhead. This really helps to get the drumhead level. My original teacher taught me this trick decades ago. They had to use it on calfskin heads. Cody also use smaller turns on the drumkey when he's tuning. This helps to more finely tune the head at each lug and the opposite lug. The thing about just starting out with tuning is that you have to take your time and develop your ear. You might not have that gadget when you need it.
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
Counting your turns for each lug after finger tightening is a good place to start. It isn't perfect as stated, but gives you a good starting point. The tension at each lug will be fairly close.
 

STAXfan

Junior Member
One final thought on resonant head tension is this: If you find that the snare wires aren't responding crsisply to your strokes even after tensioning the snare strainer to a medium/tight tension, there's a good chance that your bottom head is cranked way too tight.
The old saying of "table top tight on the botom head" isn't always correct for every drum (or every playing situation). In fact you can actually damage the head beyond repair that way due to it's thin characteristics.
Learn the characterictics of your individual drum and what it takes to make it sound it's best.
Let us know how it turns out for you!
That's a very helpful pieced of advice. Tuning the snare side head is the only drumhead on the drum kit I've never been certain about.
 

beyondbetrayal

Platinum Member
A440 is pretty cranked too. But I agree a reso needs to be tight. Honestly, a tunebot once you learn to use it is SUCH a time saver. Honestly, the guys who call Tunebots, Drumdials, etc. "gimmicks" don't know how to use them properly. Every studio I go into has had one, and the engineers I have worked with when they first came out LOVED the tune bot when I showed it to them, but I digress as there are 100's of threads on them here.

I like my reso to sit about 380-395. My batter I tune to 300 and go up or down depending on how I want it to sound. Or I will tune to specific notes. I have a few videos on YouTube for this as well. It works great.
 
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