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How to Tune a Snare Drum

Learn how to tune a snare drum from drum teacher Jason Gianni in this Howcast drum video.


I have the snare drum here, and I would like to talk about the tuning of this individual drum. It's important to know how vital the tuning of the bottom head is, for a snare drum. This here is the bottom head with what's called the snare strainer, or the snares themselves, and this is what creates the snare sound. Right over here is what's called the snare throw-off, and when you pull this off, it's going to take these snares off, and you get more of an open or tom-tom sound. And, when you put it back on you have your snare sound again.

Now the bottom head is called the resonant head; it's supposed to resonate. And, I think in any style, for me at least, I usually tune the resonant head up pretty strong, pretty high. And what you would do is take your key, place it over the top of the tension rod like this, and just like any tuning situation or tightening situation, you would do righty-tighty or lefty-loosey. Now, I normally tune in what's called the star formation, which is, you would think, across the drum like this. A lot of times if you tune on one side, it sets one side of the room down too much, and you want to have an even tune throughout the whole drum. So you would start over here; move to this one. Go to this one; move to this one. And again, I'm tightening this pretty high to allow the bottom head and the snare to resonate. Now notice I have an Ambassador Hazy on here, which is a clear head. When I turn this over, I have a coded head. Coded heads are a little bit more popular on the front side, or the playing side, of the snare drum. Now this particular snare drum has what's called a black dot underneath, and it muffles the head a little bit, and gives a little bit more punch in a rock situation.

If you were in a jazz situation, you'd probably get a coated head without this dot, which is just a normal coated Ambassador Remo. What I'm doing is tightening these as well, same type of tuning motion, star formation, and I'm bringing it up in tune to prepare for a rock or a groove situation. And what you're going to get as I put this on the stand is a nice strong sound for the snare. Now if I was going to bring the dynamic down and play in a jazz genre, I would probably bring the tune down a lot. This is a little bit high pitch and a little too bright for jazz situations, so I would go back tuning. Is now I would loosen this in the star formation and bring it down to sort of a medium pitch, medium to maybe a medium-loose. I'm taking each one down about a, almost a full half turn to a full turn.

Now one last thing is you have a tension device over here, right at your snare throw off, which tensions the snares either tighter or loser. If for a tighter sound, you bring it up to the right. For a loser sound, you would bring it down and you find the desired position.

So try some different tensions, depending on what style you're playing, and see what works for you.

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