Snare Drum Maintenance Part 3 – Removing Heads

Welcome back to our series on snare drum maintenance. In the previous posts we discussed how to identify and replace worn snare wires. Today we’ll address the first step in replacing drum heads: how to remove worn heads.

Believe it or not, all drum heads will eventually wear out. Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to remove and replace them. Follow this procedure to replace the heads on your drums.

Before we begin you’ll need to know the name of your drum’s parts. Your drum heads are held in place by the rims, the circular metal or wood pieces. Tension is applied to the rim and heads by the tension rods, the bolts with a specialized square end. The tension rods are screwed into lugs, the metal pieces attached to the drum shell.


You will need a drum key to remove the heads. Keys are inexpensive, and readily available, but I recommend the larger keys designed for marching drums. They are more expensive, but the extra leverage makes changing heads much easier.


Begin by gradually releasing the tension from the rim. Using the pattern illustrated below, loosen all the tension rods a quarter or half turn.


Repeat this pattern several times until there is no tension left on the head. By removing tension gradually you prevent damage to the rim, which can be warped by uneven pressure.


At this point you can use your fingers to remove the tension rods from the lugs. There’s no need to remove the tension rods from the rim. Simply let gravity hold the tension rod in the rim.


To remove the bottom head, remove the snare wires and repeat this process. We’ll discuss setting and adjusting the snare wires in an upcoming lesson.


Once you’ve removed both heads consider taking the opportunity to clean your drum. Take a paper towel and remove any dust and pieces of drum sticks that might have collected between the head and bearing edges.


With the old heads removed, and the drum cleaned, you are now ready to put on the new heads. Stay tuned, we’ll cover that in our next lesson!


Need new heads or a drum key? Stop by or give us a call!

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