The Number One Reason Your Snare Sounds Like Garbage

Daily Podcast for Drummers

If your snare sounds like trash, I bet I can tell you why (and how to fix it)…



Before we get started today I want to address something that just happened to come up this weekend and I noticed it in a few different places. I just wanted to make a note in case you’re wondering. I saw a guy commented on a YouTube video, and by the way my YouTube channel that I have is where I try to post, occasionally I post themed instructional videos. It’s not just like, “Here’s a sweet lick to add to drumming chops,” or whatever. It’s more of a, here’s a concept and a few different tips for going after the certain concepts, like here’s how to play more quietly without losing your feel or here’s some unique ways to add dynamics to add dynamics or build up and do a new section of a song without having to play louder, or just different things like that. So they’re kind of more conceptual, little longer form. They involve the drums a little bit.

I got a comment on there that was like, “Yeah,” something like blah blah blah, “Less talk, more playing.” Then I also got a comment, or I saw a review. On this podcast actually someone said, “It’s light on content, but heavy on consistency,” or something like that. Like, “I need more content,” and I don’t put enough content in the podcast or whatever and I talk too much or whatever.

I just want to tell you a few things. This is something I’ve noticed about drummers as kind of a culture. The culture of drummers and what we expect normally. I feel like as a whole as a community, us drummers, we have become so desensitized/used to “instructional” drumming experiences, whether they’re drum clinics or drum lesson websites or even YouTube videos that are trying to teach you something. We’ve become so accustomed to those different resources, really not teaching anything and just being a means for watching some other drummer play the drums, just watching someone perform, that we’re not learning anything.

But that’s like … Even at the most, it’s so funny because I go out of my way to teach and I make it clear I’m teaching something, and I talk on this podcast and don’t play for really two reasons. One is that it’s not practical to do a daily podcast with drumming in it, but number two is, most of the time, even if I were to talk about very specific drumming concepts and mouth them out or whatever, I know that most people listening to this podcast listen to this podcast in their car or listen to this podcast while they’re doing something else around the house. I’d say 95% at least, of the people listening to this podcast are not sitting behind a drum kit ready to play out whatever I’m playing.

I don’t listen to podcasts, I don’t listen to any podcasts except for when I’m doing something else. For me to try to give you concepts or specific exercises or playing on this podcast isn’t really practical. My job with this podcast is to inspire you and to give you ideas for things to explore the drums, not to give you specific techniques to try. I do because of the YouTube videos show a little bit of that, and my Facebook live videos that I do every week are definitely more playing related.

The podcast here is more to keep you motivated and keep you going on your journey towards being a great musician. But yeah, I thought it was funny that someone mentioned on the YouTube video where all of my YouTube videos are meant to teach something, the person complained that I wasn’t performing. I don’t blame the person for that. I actually just think that we as a drummer culture have just gotten so accustomed to wanting to be entertained and wanting to see somebody play something really cool and crazy, as opposed to actually learning something, thinking about something, listening to a teacher teach about something on the drums.

But that’s not what we’re here for today. What we are here for today is I want to just … This is a good one because there’s not a lot to go with this, but I just want to mention something to you and see how it sits with you. Today I want to talk about snare drum and specifically just in general. I’m talking about, I guess mostly and I know that some of you guys don’t, some of us don’t play in a situation where we’re mic’d up all the time. This isn’t about mixing or EQ or anything like that.

This is about just the drum itself and I’ve noticed this, I’ve done a few of these drumming instances, or quite a few of these actually in person with some drummers here in Nashville. Part of what we work on is tuning, specifically snare drum tuning. I haven’t done this with everybody, but I’ve done this a few times, and I’ve just said, if we work on tuning, I’ll say, “Hey, can you take this drum and just start tuning it?” I’ve done this with a few drum lessons as well, and this is what normally happens when someone sits down to tune the drums that I’ve watched. Sit down, they might say, “All right, this …” They might immediately start tapping around the different lugs trying to figure out what’s wrong and tuning it up or tuning it down, getting it right. They put their finger in the middle of the drum. They do all these different things trying to get it right. They do that for a few minutes at least and get it as close as they can. Maybe.

Some people will start from scratch. They’ll detune the drum completely start over some scratch, which a lot of times is a good way to start back from square one. But what I’ll see is, kind of a recurring theme either way is that drummers will spend five minutes trying to get the drum tuned back up the way they want it to be tuned and then throw up their hands and just say, “All right, whatever. Oh, this is as good as it’s going to get and I’m done.” I just want to contrast that with, I don’t know where I learned this, but I don’t think I necessarily learned … The method is a little different, but really it’s an approach to tuning snares and tuning drums in general.

That is, I remember very distinctly when I was in high school, we had a bunch of drummers in our drum line. We were in band class and we had a separate little room that we worked on things in, apart from the band so that we didn’t disturb each other. We were back there and this was during orchestra season. We got a new snare drum head for one of the orchestral snares that we had, and the drum teacher, she was like, “Hey, who wants to volunteer to switch out, to put the head on this new drum?” I volunteered and said, “I’ll do it.” I went about putting this new head on this drum and it took me the entire class period, which we had an hour and a half long classes. It took me probably a little less than an hour and a half to put this new top head on. My friends were making fun of me giving me such a hard time about how long it took me to tune this snare and get this snare head on.

But I kid you not, everyone lost their minds with how great it sounded from the very beginning and how great it sounded and how long the head lasted, how well it stayed in tuned, how easy it was to tune after that point. Just basically how great the snare sounded. It was a great snare, too. That’s part of it, but it’s just funny to me that people … Everyone else who had tuned these … She went through. She would always ask people to tune drums and this was the first time I had done it. Everyone else was taking like 10 minutes to put a head on and it sounded like crap. I put it on. I took an hour. Everyone’s making fun of me, but then it sounds great. It’s like, “Oh, wait a minute. Maybe the fact that I did something different than everybody else has something to do with the fact that when I tuned the snare drum it sounded different than everyone else’s.

All this is leading up to me just saying to you that the number one most likely reason why your snare drum sounds like garbage, if it does, is probably because you aren’t caring enough to spend real time tuning that drum. It blows my mind how small amount of time most drummers spend tuning their drums, especially the snare drum. The one that you hit a thousand times per song, and you spend five minutes once every three months trying to tune it. It’s like, where’s the respect for your own sound and your own instrument? I just want to encourage you, however long you’re taking, if you think you take long enough, double that amount of time and really spend time dialing in your snare drum sound. Top and bottom head.

But just in my own experience, that is the number one reason why your snare drum sound is garbage. Like I said, if you’re unhappy with your snare drum sound, chances are you didn’t spend enough time tuning it. If you spend more time tuning it, you’ll probably get somewhere good. Now, the head can be blown out. It could have not been seeded properly. It can make it harder to tune, but I have played a lot of crappy snare drums in my lifetime, doing a lot of back line stuff, you know showing up, flying in somewhere and they have a snare drum there for you, and you got to make due with what you have. I’ve played a lot of really bad snare drums in my life, and I’ve never been in a situation where I wasn’t able to get it to something reasonably acceptable with a little bit of time and effort if I had it.

So, I believe that your drum is not the reason why your drum sounds bad. It’s something else. The first place to go is probably how long you’re spending tuning your snare drum. All right, I hope that’s inspiring for you today. Like I said, I’m sharing information that you can then go take and work on your drums. I can’t give you a bunch of chops to work on, because you’ll forget them anyway by the time you get to your drum kit, but I hope you will remember this, spend more time tuning your snare drum. I bet it’ll sound better. All right, thanks for joining me today. I’ll be back tomorrow with more Drummer Daily. Thanks for joining me. Bye.


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[…] kick drums the same way we tune toms. We don’t tune either of those the same way that we tune a snare drum. All of that to say, the kick drum is no exception. We have to tune it uniquely compared to other […]

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