No matter what type of music you are playing, getting a great drum sound is crucial. The snare drum is arguably the most prominent and important part of any drum kit or percussion ensemble, and an out of tune snare drum will sound terrible when played live or recorded. Proper tuning takes some practice, but it's not very complicated and anyone can learn how to do it.
Things You Will Need
New drum heads (if needed)
Pencil with an eraser
Soft piece of cloth
Step 1Remove the drum head -- if you are replacing/tuning both the resonant head (bottom) and beater head (top), remove both and set aside.
Step 2Clean each rim gently with a piece of dry or slightly damp terry cloth. This will remove any dirt or dust particles and let the heads sit nicely on the drum.
Step 3Starting with the resonant (bottom) head, place your new head on the rim, and put the metal or wood ring on top of it. Tighten each lug as much as you can by hand. The order in which you tighten the lugs is important -- start at the top, and always move on to the opposite lug. Never go around the drum andn tighten the lugs in order (one after another).
Step 4Now that your lugs are hand tightened, use your drum key to tighten each lug 1/4 turn, always moving in oppsing order. Repeat this until your desired pitch is reached.
Now it's time for fine tuning. Place your drum on a soft surface (like carpet) with the head that you're working on facing up. Use the eraser side of your pencil to siftly strike the drum one inch away from each lug. You need to listen carefully to find and correct any differences in pitch. If one lug sounds higher than the rest, turn it counter-clockwise 1/8 turn. Repeat this process until each lug is exactly the same pitch. This is absolutely vital!
Make sure that you are hitting drum the same distance from each lug. There's a big difference in tone as you get closer to the center of the drum. One inch away from the rim is a good rule of thumb.
If you are replacing both heads, repeat the previous two steps for the beater head (the top head). Again, make sure that you fine tune the head so each lug is in tune with the others. If you like a nice crack or popping sound, tune it up nice and tight (tighter than you think...it won't break!).
Step 7Put your snare drum on it's stand and play it. If you have a drum kit, play the whole drum kit and see how your snare sounds amongst all of the other tones. Make any minor adjustments and tighten or loosen the snares to your liking.
This process can be used to tune tom toms as well as kick drums. With any drum, the most important thing to remember is that the head has to be in tune with itself. If any one lug is out of tune, you will lose that professional ring that we all love.
Tips & Warnings
When tuning the beater head, make sure to place the snare drum on a soft surface with the resonant head facing down. This will prevent the resonant head from ringing and allow you to hear the head that you are working on.
The type of head that you choose will influence the sound your drum produces. I prefer Remo or Evans for snare drums. Use single ply for the bottom head and double for the top. Experiment with different ns brands and types until you find your perfect combination!
You can use a drum stick to fine tune your snare drum, but a pencil eraser works best because it's nice and soft.
Drum tuning takes practice. Tune your drums often. Tune your friends' drums. Just keep doing it until it becomes second nature. I promise, it gets easier, and there's nothing more fulfilling that playing a freshly tuned drum kit!