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How to tune a SNARE drum - by Steven Chen

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Published on Nov 2, 2011

How to tune a snare drum (my approach at least)!

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The music in the background is a demo from my band, Chirality, called Sanctuary. Check us out at http://www.facebook.com/ChiralityBand !

Additional tips not mentioned in the video:
-Please note this video was made with rock drummers in mind - I would do a few things differently that are not mentioned in this video when approaching different genres of music.
-When using a tool as precise as the Drum Dial, ensure you are working on a surface as level as possible with the ground. Any tilt may result in an inaccurate reading from the Drum Dial.
-Single ply batter heads will give you more attack and crack, double ply heads give you more punch and tone
-Different heads may have different pitches even when tuned to the same tension. You can predict which heads will have a higher or lower natural frequency than others by tapping on them with your finger before even putting the head on the drum.
-Thicker heads are more likely to hold their tuning over time as opposed to thinner heads. This applies to resonant heads too.
-Thinner heads have a tendency to reach a certain tension threshold before they start reverting back to their holdable limit by stretching over time (and as a result, drop in pitch). This explains why sometimes after tuning a drumset then leaving it alone for a while and coming back the drum doesn't sound right to you. This is especially common after tuning the resonant head of a snare drum.
-The tension of both sides will affect the pitch, but you can loosen one side and tighten the other to maintain that same pitch and adjust the timbre of the drum, as well as the feel and sensitivity or snare response.
-Tightening the tension rods on the resonant side that are perpendicular to the snare bed can give a denser sound if you find your drum sounds too "thin"
-Harder woods or metal emphasize the tone of the drum more than softer woods like maple, which dries the tone out quicker.
-Softer material drums tend to have lower overtones as opposed to drums made of denser material.
-Detuning different tension rods on the batter head in the Benny Greb method I describe can also affect the timbre of the drum and control what overtones the drum head will resonate.
-Smaller diameter drums generally offer more punch (like the 13 inch) when compared to a wider diameter drum (like the standard 14 inch), which offers more snare response and attack. This is assuming you compare two different diameter drums of the same depth and material.
-You can stop most sympathetic snare buzz by making sure the snare wire is centered and evenly tensioned across the head (test by lightly plucking the snare wires on opposite ends of the snare itself. Try to get them to the same tension across the entire snare bed. If the tension is erratic as you test each strand, your snare wire may need replacing).
-The material and quality of the snares is largely overlooked by many drummers today. If you are unsatisfied with your snare sound, try changing out the snare wire, especially if the snare you own is made by a low-budget brand-name.
-Brass or softer metal wires are excellent for lower volumes, Steel or other hard metals are harsh and make the most sense in the context of heavier and louder playing. There are many other materials companies use to make snare wire that are in between these two examples as well, such as nickel and aluminum. There are also different styles of snare wire, although they are rarely used for drumsets. Gut snares for example were used for field drums centuries ago, and are still a popular option for many orchestral applications.
-Triple flange hoops are the most common and flexible hoops used today. They offer a very "open" sound with plenty of tone and punch.
-Die-cast hoops are common for many higher-quality drumsets, although that does not necessarily mean they are the best option for what you are looking for. They are made of cast metal, and are very rigid, and emphasize attack while mildly dampening punch and tone. They can also be very sensitive in terms of tuning because of their rigidity, whereas a triple flange hoop would flex slightly to compensate for any unevenness in tension.
-Wooden hoops are a mix between the tonal quality of triple flange hoops and the rigidity of die-cast hoops. They also have a unique characteristic ability to "warm up" the sound of a drum, although they are mostly found on vintage and vintage-style kits, as they are generally more expensive than its metal counterparts, and are also more prone to damage over time when compared to metal.

Video notes:
-filmed with a Panasonic DMC-GH2 with the f1.7 20mm pancake lens.
-sorry about the video being out of focus at times, I forgot to turn off the auto-focus

Please subscribe, comment, and ask any questions and I will do my best to answer!

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