The Drums – Adjusting the Snare Drum

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 23,782
    Professional drummer Wes Crawford demonstrates how to adjust a snare drum.

    Wes Crawford

    Wes began his professional music career after graduating with a B.S. in Psychology at Virginia Tech. Soon thereafter, he began performing drumset with the extraordinary Jazz/R&B singer Jane L. Powell, a musical association that lasted eleven years and continues as a managerial relationship. The group toured throughout North America and the Caribbean performing at festivals, universities, resorts, nightclubs, and cruise ships. They opened for such acts as Ray Charles, Melba Moore, Freddie Jackson, Lou Rawls, The Crusaders, Joan Jett, Ernie Watts, and Paula Poundstone, and occasionally performed alongside artists such as Tony Bennett, O.C. Smith, and Dorothy Moore. The 1,300 colleges and universities comprising the National Association for Campus Activities voted the group Entertainer of the Year in 1990, their highest honor, and Jazz Artist of the Year for 1990-1992. During these years of touring, Wes also recorded two albums with Ms. Powell as well as for several outside artists. Wes also conducted electronic percussion seminars at VA Tech and at the Virginia Governor’s School for the Gifted. In 1992, Wes settled with his family in the Washington, DC area as an independent artist on drumset and percussion where he currently performs and records with acts such as Shahin & Sepehr (Higher Octave/Narada world music recording artists), Cocktail Nuts (aka “C-NUTS”- Jazz versions of rock classics, on Wildchild/Mapleshade Records), mrudangam virtuoso Umayalpuram K. Shivaraman (including a clinic at PASIC 2000 and a featured performance at Baltimore Drum Day 2000), Squeeze Bayou (1998 winners of the “Best Non-Louisiana-Based Cajun Band Recording” awarded by the Cajun French Music Association), and Night Life (high-energy show band). Wes has also regularly performed and/or recorded with Aisha Kahlil (of Sweet Honey in the Rock), Eva Cassidy, Catalyst Events’ “Beatswork!,” Zydeco Crayz, Mary Ann Borelli, “Oh Susannah!”, Sugar Jones, and Armadillo recording artist Daryl Davis. His other noteworthy performances and recordings include those with the David Bach Consort (2nd place winner in the 1998 BET unsigned band video contest), Hennesy Jazz Search regional winner Jerry Gordon, and performances with Milestone recording artist Ron Holloway. Wes considers education to be an important link to the future of the percussive arts and teaches drumset privately and at Goucher College in Baltimore, MD. He also performs in public school assemblies with Mosaic, which provided the musical instruction and curriculum for the 2000 Maryland Artist/Teacher Institute. Wes serves as the Director of the annual Drumset And Percussion Camp of the Goucher Summer Arts Institute and as Vice-President of the MD/DE chapter of the Percussive Arts Society. In 2000, Wes started, a site to feature his interactive educational media such as his popular “Drumset Play-Along DVD.” His latest “A Rhythmic Murder Mystery” interactive DVD features a solo electronic drumset concert, which he also performs live. Wes holds Associate Artist relationships with Maryland Drum Company and with Trueline Drumsticks, and he occasionally works as Music Consultant for the not-for-profit Sustainable Environments for Health + Shelter.

    Hi! I'm Wes Crawford and now we're going to discuss tensioning the snares. We've already put our heads on and assume that we have heads all tensioned the way we want with the tones and the pitches we want and now one adjustment that a lot of people dont consider strongly enough is how to tension the snares to the proper sound that you want. All snare drums are a bit different, but basically you're going to have some type of knob here that will adjust the tension of the snares and by this, I mean the actual wires, the strands of wire is on the bottom, you can adjust how tightly they are pulled against the bottom head and this will affect the sound to greatly, vastly different sound if they are very loosely touching the head versus very, very tight against the head and Ill demonstrate this. Ill tap the snare drum and that's what its going to sound like if the snares are very loose against the bottom head and I'm going to gradually now tighten by turning this knob clockwise as I hit the drum and you can see the difference in sound. What I did, I tightened this knob so that you could hear the difference between the snares very loosely against the bottom head all the way to what I consider to be too tight. When its too loose, its all rattling, it doesnt sound too good, when its too tight it sounds choked and just like bound.

    So, you want to find generally speaking, unless you're trying to get some kind of special effect sound, you want to get an in between position that's right for you. Also, I want to emphasize this, with tuning and particularly with this snare tightening topic, you want to get somebody sometimes to play your drums and you stand up front and hear what they sound like. Right there, you still have a nice snappy kind of attack sound with the snares, but you also have a little bit of body because the snares dont stop immediately after hitting the drum. It just gives a little bit of fatness. You can make it a bit fatter by loosening the snares a little bit more. By fat, I mean a wider sound, it doesnt go away quiet as quickly or you could actually make even more attack and snap here by tightening it up a little bit more and from my position and my ear, all those are acceptable sounds on the snare drum, but again you really need to see what it sounds like up front. I have also seen peoples snare drums up close that thought, wow, they really sound horrible but then miked up and out in a PA, they sounded really good. So, that's also a consideration just as much as what we're hearing right here with the tension of the head and the tightness of the snares themselves and interweaving variable is distance from the drum. You want to see what that effect has and being miked and going through a PA. So, all these are considerations for getting the snare drum to sound that you want.