The Drums – How to Tune a Snare Drum

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 29,932
    Professional drummer Wes Crawford demonstrates how to tune 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 that we have our head on a drum and we've tightened it up, we want to actually find out if the head is in tune with itself and basically we're finding out did we actually tighten all the lugs equally because if we did, it is going to sound in tune with itself and the way we do this, is we can create somewhat of a nodal point on the drum by pressing in with an equal amount of tension right in the center of the drum and this helps to keep different parts of the head from vibrating as much when you strike a different part of the head. For instance, if I want to listen to the sound right here, next to this lug and I'm going about an inch into the drum head, it helps to keep the other side of the drum from vibrating as much, so you're hearing a little more truly what it is sounding like right here and then we can test opposite sides of the drum and see how they compare.

    Then we make adjustments as necessary. I felt that I needed to adjust particularly this lug, make it a little tighter, little higher (Music). I felt these are little higher. So, Ill actually loosen them a little bit, and again, what we're listening to is not so much the tone of the drum, but we're listening to these overtones, these little high rings and sometimes they are better indicator of how in tune it is with itself because you dont want to hit on different areas of the drum and get different sounds if you're like equally away from, far away from the edge. Again, I need to back these up a little bit. That's with the snares off, we are doing all of this with the snares off, that is the snare wires are not touching the bottom head, so we can hear the tone better and not get the in-appearance of the buzz of the snares. If you put the snares back on, you can see what it sounds like. When you tune all of your toms, you want to make sure that they not only sound good by themselves and that's in tune by itself on its own individual drum, each head, but you want to hear what they sound like as a set. I'm just doing a pop session, or a rock kind of session. I think that would sound pretty good for the drums, for the toms, snare has a lot of pop to it and some body. So, we would always trying to find in tensioning the snare drum, we want to find the right compromise between having some attack to it and some snap to it and still having some body and not sounding very thin. Those are some general guidelines for actually tuning your heads and making them playable for the situation you are in.