Changing and Tuning a Snare Drum Head
Maintenance of snare drum heads can easily be done at home. Unlike many other instruments you won't have to pay a music repair shop to do the work.
When the head of a snare drum becomes punctured or dented you will need to replace the head. Begin by placing the snare securely on a table or on a snare drum stand. You will need a snare drum key. Keys such as drum speed keys, ratchet drum keys and wrenches and high torque keys can also be used but they are much more expensive. An inexpensive, standard drum key will work well.
In order to remove the head, each of the nuts on the tension rods and lugs will need to be loosened.
Using the drum key, loosen the nut on top of the tension rods by moving in a star pattern around the head. By following the star pattern as opposed to going in a circular pattern, you will ensure that the tension is relieved evenly which will protect the rim and avoid it from becoming damaged.
Once you have loosened all tension rods remove the head and be sure to keep all rods inside of the rim. You can lubricate the tension rods with grease to keep them moving properly and to avoid any rust.
Dust can accumulate inside the drum through the side vent holes. Using a soft, damp cloth, wipe out the shell of the drum. You can also clean the metal with a damp cloth or with metal polish.
After placing a new drum head into the rim of the head, line up the logo on the head with two of the tension rods. Make sure that each tension rod is lined up and ready to be screwed into the lugs. Before tightening each tension rod, press down on the center of the head with your hands to stretch out the new head.
Again moving in a star pattern, use the drum key to turn each nut three times. You can also tighten each nut first with your fingers and then use a drum key. Once you have done each lug three times, go back and turn each nut once or twice, or more if needed (again following the star pattern), until you start to feel some tension. Do night over tighten as your drum head could warp. The key is to keep the tension of all lugs, even.
Some prefer to use a tool such as a tension watch to measure the tension when tuning a snare drum head. Others may use a torque key which makes tuning easier because it ensures that there is even tension throughout the head. Others prefer to tune the drum head by ear. To do this, tap on the head with a drum stick, at each lug. The pitch at each lug should be the same. You will need to either raise or lower the pitch of each lug by turning the lug nut slightly clockwise to raise the pitch or counter-clockwise to lower the pitch. Go around the head of the drum and continue to test the pitch at each lug.
Riley Gladstone is a freelance writer, who loves to play and write anything about music. If you're interested to learn how to play the drums, I would suggest buying a set at Long & McQuade.