Care & Tuning of Your Snare Drum
good drum is pretty much indestructible, provided that you don't drop
it off the roof of your house, BUT you can take several steps to keep
it in good working order. If you bought your drum new (it's still
in the plastic bag), then there's a good chance that it's still clean.
However, if you bought the drum USED, you don't know WHERE its been!
Here's some spring cleaning tips that my percussionists do at least
once a year on my high school's equipment:
I: Maintenance & Cleaning
Start by taking off the top head. With the drum key (noooo, don't
use a pair of pliers!), loosen each tension rod & put it aside.
Pull the rim off of the shell & wipe it down with some Windex
or "Goo-Gone" (especially if you bought the drum from some
giging country drummer - there's probably a ton of cigarette ashes
between the head and the rim)!
Next, pull the head off the drum shell and wipe down the top
edge of the shell (this is called the "bearing edge"). If
you really want do it right, rub a little PARAFFIN WAX on the bearing
edge - just enough for a light coat, not so much that there are big
globs of it. The wax will help make the head slide smoothly over the
bearing edge as you tighten the head in the tuning process.
Before you put the head back on the drum, give it a good inspection.
Make sure that there are not cuts or small holes in the head. Usually
a drum head that has a few dents in it or is "spotty" from
the coating flaking off is still in good shape. If the head has a
major gash in it, you can buy a new one for $10 - 15.
Place the head on the drum. If you're into the visual thing, you might
want to line the drumhead "logo" (if there is one) up with
the snare strainer - sometime that helps when you want to quickly
identify where the snares are lined up on the drum. Make sure that
the bearing edge makes contact with the head completely around the
drum. If you have major problems puttin the head on the shell, check
to see if the head is warped (or "out of round") by rolling
it on the floor. If the head isn't bad, then you might have problems
with a warped shell - oops - that's a big deal (most of the pre-"free-floater"
drumcorps snare drummers know what I'm talking about!). Try to get
your money back!
set the counter hoop on the head & line up the holes with the
tension rod casings. Get close to make sure that they are EXACTLY
lined up - you can really screw up the rods or the casings if they
aren't. Make sure that the rim makes contact with the head ALL THE
WAY around the bearing edge. Is there even spacing between rim of
the head and the "lip" of the counter hoop? If not, you
might have a warped hoop - you'll be able to tell immediately when
you start the tuning process!
It's time to give those tension rods a good cleaning. Chances are,
they are black & coated with old grease and grime! A little bit
you can live with, but if you've got nothing better to do - give them
a quick bath with some "grease cutting" dishwashing liquid.
Remember to not use Mom's good towels - you WON'T be able to get the
stains out (I'd go with an old pair of underwear or socks). If you
want a quick cleaning job, just wrap your cloth around the bottom
of the lug and hold tightly while you "unscrew" it out of
your grip. Now inspect it closely: if all of the big chunks of gunk
are gone, then you're in good shape.
Before you put the tension rods back on the drum, give the rod
casings a quick inspection. Wipe the gunk from the OUTSIDE of the
casing, but be careful to not push any stuff INTO the receiving doohickey
(what's that called?). If you REALLY need to, you can take a Q-tip
with alcohol on it to swab some of it out.
Now that the drum is CLEAN, put the head back on and let's begin tuning
to Part II: Tuning Your Snare Drum