We’ve discussed three basic principles for tuning the snare drum. However, dialing in the tone of the snare shell is only the first step. Here are a few tips to further fine-tune your snare drum sound.
Inspect and Install the Snare Wires
I love the snare drum’s complexity. The snare wire unit activates the drum’s sound and purpose. Once you’ve installed things correctly, you can quickly change the sound of the drum just by a few twists of the tension knob. If the snare wires aren’t installed properly or are damaged in some way, the overall sound and mechanics is lost.
One way to know if you need to replace the snares is lay the snare bed flat on the head. If there any noticeable sharp edges, missing wires, or if it simply doesn’t lay perfectly flat – it’s time to replace. Also, trying different widths and models of snare wires can dramatically change the sound as well.
To install the snare wires correctly, lay the snare wire bed flat and position it carefully in the center. Thread the cords or straps through the holes, keeping things as centered and even as you can. Any uneven tension will affect the mechanics AND the sound.
First, loosen the tension knob to the max. Then, carefully adjust the knob to be about in the middle. After the bed is secure, slowly bring the tension knob to the ―on position. Continue to experiment with the tension of the snare wires and the tension knob until a crisp snare sound is achieved. From here, you can adjust the tension knob up and down with ease.
Note: If you switch the tension lever to the off position and still hear a buzz, the wires are too tight. Re-adjust and try again.
Snare Stand Adjustment
Fine tuning the snare drum can take some time. Be patient. When you find that perfect balance between snare buzz, tension and tone, you’ll know it. When you’re ready to position the snare back on its stand, be careful with the adjustment of the stand basket. The sound of your snare drum can actually be dramatically changed by how it sits on the stand. If you tension the basket too tight, it can have too much tension on the shell. Also, be sure the stand is not touching the bottom of the drum as this can interfere with the sound as well as cause damage.