Drum tuning is certainly a form of art. It takes practice to get better. Tuning the toms is probably one of the more tricky components of the drum kit to get right. Once you’ve determined the sound you like, it will continue to get easier. Of course, the tone of your toms is a big part of the overall sound of the kit. However, I like to spend a little more time on my snare and kick drum. These two drums are what hold down the back beat and help drive the song forward. To me, the sound of the snare and kick is a make-it-or-break-it situation.
Listen to the Song
Remember, getting it right at the source is the most important aspect of recording or playing live. In a mix, the snare drum is what glues the entire song together. Instead of spending hours tweaking and eq’ing the snare, why not make sure it sounds awesome before you slap a mic in front of it?
There are many different types of snare drums and quite frankly, there isn’t a simple tip that is your golden ticket to a great sounding snare. In fact, with every song I’ve recorded drums for I have either tweaked the tuning of the snare or used a completely different one. Listen to where the song is headed. Try to understand the direction of the music before making your choice of a snare sound.
Batter Head Choice
Once you’ve determined the sound you’re aiming for, picking a snare batter head should be fairly easy. Do you need a wide open ring? Dry and flat? Fat and wet? Regardless, you’ll want to determine the answer to these questions before making your choice on heads.
My recommendation is to always go coated on the snare batter. From there, I recommend having two to three heads ready to go if needed. Or if you have several snares, try three different heads on each. This will give you a wide variety of sounds to choose from when the music calls for it. The three snare batters I tend to have on hand are:
● Remo Coated Ambassador - The Coated Ambassador heads are medium-weight heads made with a coated single-ply 10mil Mylar film to produce an open, bright and resonant sound with a warm attack.
● Evans Genera HD - The Genera HD yields an aggressive rim-shot and balanced response. This durable two-ply head (7.5 mil external, 5 mil internal) with a 2 mil overtone control-ring barks live yet is ideal for the studio.
● Evans Power Center Reverse Dot - The 10 mil single-ply Power Center offers durability and focus in the center via a 5mil patch. Unique slots in the 5″ diameter dot allow it to flex, keeping the head open at the edges and free to vibrate at any dynamic level. Moved to the underside, the dot is out of the way for brushes.
Again, depending on the sound you’re shooting for, the snare drum’s bottom head can dramatically alter the sound. For me, I like to have a very transparent snare response. The thinner the resonant head on the snare drum, the more articulate your rolls and ghost notes will be. Choosing a thicker head will have less response. My only suggestion here is to choose a head that is meant to be on the bottom of a snare drum such as the Evans snare side 200.
What about you? What have you found that works? Leave your comments.