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How to Change a Drum Head

Change your drum heads between gigs or before you go into the recording studio to keep your drums sounding fresh and lively.


  • Step 1: Loosen first rod Attach the drum key to the screw rod at the 12 o'clock position when the drum is facing you. Turn it counter-clockwise a half turn.
  • TIP: Don't loosen all the screws on one side of the drum at once, because it might warp the rim.
  • Step 2: Loosen all rods Continue loosening every rod on top of the drum head a half turn at a time in this pattern: the one directly across from the last one you loosened, the one directly next to it as you go around clockwise. Repeat.
  • Step 3: Remove parts Hand-loosen and remove the screw rods, as well as any washers and adapter claws. Place them in a zipper sandwich bag and set them aside.
  • TIP: It's a good idea to return the ring hoop to its old position, so you may want to mark the 12 o'clock point on both the hoop and the side of the drum before you remove it.
  • Step 4: Remove old head Remove the ring hoop that holds down the drum head, then take off the old drum head.
  • Step 5: Lubricate screw rods Put a light coating of silicone spray or grease on your screw rods to help prevent rust and make tuning easier.
  • Step 6: Put on new head Put on the new drum head, and return the ring hoop and hardware to their old positions.
  • Step 7: Tighten screws Hand-tighten all the screws using the same pattern as before, then follow the pattern with the drum key until you feel a good, strong resistance at each point.
  • Step 8: Wait Wait at least 15 minutes after you crank it down -- the longer the better -- to let the stretched-out drum head get settled on the rim.
  • Step 9: Test sound Test the sound of the drum by hitting it with a stick, and adjust the tightness to get the sound you want. Loosen the rods for a deeper, rock sound.
  • Step 10: Adjust sound Tap gently and evenly around the outer edge of the drum head with a stick to see if the pitch is even at each rod. If it's not, make small adjustments until it is. And you're done.
  • FACT: Steel drums, invented in the 1940s, don't have heads stretched over a rim. So, except for the fact that these instruments originated from oil "drums," they are technically not drums but idiophones.

You Will Need

  • Drum
  • Tuning key
  • Sandwich bag
  • Sticky note or other removable marker
  • Silicone spray or grease
  • New drum head
  • Sticks

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