The snare drum is one of the most recognizable pieces of a drum set; and the way this drum is tuned can affect the overall feel of a piece of music. Some snare drums are tight and have a lot of pop while others are looser and carry a deeper boom. Snare drums used in marching bands have the tightest tuning of all and deliver a crisp-sounding crack when struck. A few of the best tips for tuning a snare drum include tightening the bottom, or non-batter, head first, using two tuning keys at once, and tapping near each of the lugs on the snare to ensure the pitch is uniform across the head.
Using the two-key method for tuning a snare drum allows the head to settle into its spot on the rim of the snare drum’s shell in a centered way. It is important that the head is centered initially so that the tuning process is as accurate as possible. The resonant head is the bottom head of the snare drum; it is the head that is tightened first, and should be much tighter than the batter head. The benefit of using the two-key method for tuning a snare drum is that the tension across the head caused by the tightening is uniform and does not produce a warped sound. The two-key method involves putting the drum tuning keys on diametrically opposing lugs on the snare drum, simultaneously turning both keys in quarter-turn increments, and working around the head until the desired tightness is achieved.
Once the bottom head is tightened as tight as possible, and the person tuning the drum has gently tapped the head with a drumstick or mallet to determine pitch, the batter head is placed on the top of the snare drum and the two-key method is employed there as well. With both heads securely and uniformly on the snare drum, the finer audible tuning process begins. By placing a hand, palm flat, against the resonant head to mute it, the tuner should tap about a quarter of an inch (about 0.60 cm) out from each lug on the batter head to listen for consistency in pitch. The area near each lug should have the same tone when tapped, however, if one area is higher or lower pitched than the one next to it, the tuner must adjust with the tuning key until each tap produces the same tone. When tuning a snare drum, any adjustments to tightening should be made to the batter head only at this point.