Snare Drum Maintenance Part 5 – Installing Wires and Tuning

Welcome to the fifth and final post in our series on snare drum maintenance. Last time we discussed how to properly install new heads. Today we’ll finish the process by tuning the drum and reinstalling the snare wires.

Before we begin, it should be noted that unlike other instruments, tuning drums is a matter of personal preference. While there are general guidelines to tuning drums, every drummer will tune their drums differently depending on their touch, technique, equipment, experience, and the style of music they are playing. Here are our recommendations.

With the new heads installed, it’s time to begin tuning. Use the cross pattern we introduced in our previous lesson to gradually bring the up the tension on the top and bottom heads.

Use a drum key to turn each tension rod 90°, or a quarter turn. After turning all the tension rods, repeat the pattern several times until there is a moderate amount of tension on the head. Repeat this process on the bottom head.

After you’ve put a moderate amount of tension on each head, use the cross pattern as described above, but with much smaller adjustments to the tension rods to fine tune the drum. Make small adjustments until the drum is tuned to your preference.

I recommend tuning the bottom head significantly higher than the top head. This relationship will provide great snare wire response while limiting sympathetic vibrations.

After you’ve tuned up both heads, it’s time to reinstall the snare wires. Begin by setting the wires on the head. Insert the straps or cords to the butt plate and tighten them down.


Turn off the snare strainer and use the knob or lever to loosen it until it almost comes apart. Insert the straps or cords into the snare strainer then use your fingers to tighten them in place.


Turn on the strainer. With the straps held in by finger tension they will slip through the strainer as you turn it on. Notice the difference between the snare cord in the prior picture, and the picture below.


Finally, use your drum key to lock the wires into the strainer and adjust the snare strainer.

As we mentioned before, tuning a snare drum is a subjective process. The steps outlined above, and in previous posts, are recommendations based on our experience and preferences. You might have a totally different method, but that’s the beauty of tuning drums: there’s no absolute correct method. If it sounds good and works for you, it’s correct!

Please contact us with questions about tuning drums, recommendations on heads and snare wires, and with your own tuning methods. We look forward to hearing from you!

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