Need advice from drummers about snaresetup.

Nylon, wound, straight? What’s the diffs

Hi again !
We spent about 9 hours in total tuning the kit according to the tuning bible to be were we are now. It is really awesome and sounds worlds apart from what we had (a low budget ‘Thunder’). The kit is tuned to the 1st ‘resonant’ pitch of the lowest tom, and then in thirds up from that. (Turned out to be ‘F’. We are thinking of tuning it up to ‘G’, as the most songs we do in chruch when things start to quiet down is in G.) The snare is tuned to the same note as the second tom (a 12" - we got a fusion kit). We had it initially to a third higher than the 10" tom, but it sounded too high and sharp. We might go back to that again depending on what sound we can get from it. It sounds musicaly pleasing to have the snare and kick an octave apart with everything in thirds in between. The batter side is tuned at the 12" tom’s pitch, and the resonant side is a third up. (Drum tuning bible says that’s for a ‘top40’ type of sound)

Now for the question: The sound of the snare.

The snare sounds hellova crisp (like a ‘side drum’ marching band type of sound). We found that it starts to sound more ‘alternativey’ as we slide a piece of paper in between the snare unit and the resonant head. (Up to ‘shielding’ 10 of the 20 snares. After that it starts to sound too much like the ‘Saint Anger’ snare)

Do you think it is a good idea to put masking tape under 8 - 10 of the snares if we like the sound ? I know it’s like the rules of your guitar sound : ‘If it sounds good, do it’, but is there another way of getting that type of sound ?
Btw the snare is all birch and have an Evans G1 head on the batter side and the standard Gretsch resonant head, with the standard snare unit.

Then a question about the type of snare units on the snare.
What’s the difference between metal, nylon, coiled and straight snare units ?

Thanks again in advance for the answers !



i’m no drum tuning expert, but i’ve tried a few things that you are suggesting. i would tend to go for the “if it sounds good do it” approach… but i guess that’s not really the answer you’re looking for… maybe someone else will have some solid ideas to get a certain sound. some things i have personnaly tried with varying success:

- muffling with different kinds of tape
- muffling with a sock or other small piece of fabric on top
- double mic’ing the snare (one mic on top, one underneath)
- snare wire completely off
- the type of snare drum it is plays a big part (wood, metal, size) try changing it out for a completely different snare drum and compare.

Thanks for the reply !


but i guess that’s not really the answer you’re looking for…

That is excactly what I’m looking for !
I’m very happy to get 20 “ditto’s” to what you said.
At least I’ll know then I’m not missing something !

I just don’t want to miss out on more options if there are any.

Cheers !



Well, if it is too crisp and you want more fat, tune it down in pitch. Also, think about a differnt head. Most drums ship with a single ply coated head which are crisp. A double ply head or something like a pinstripe with a bit of muffle may sound better to you too. There is a huge difference small adjustments in tuning can have, especially in the ratio of the top and bottom head to one another.

As for snares, well, don’t mess with snares until you have the tuning under control. 85% of the sound is from tuning, snare tension, heads, and the drum itself. Types of snares is the last thing I would mess with to get a sound I want.

My choice is to use less stands instead of tape. I’ve used as little a 6 strands under a snare, cutting out the extra ones with wire cutters or buying snares not as wide when I can find them. This was a growth out of broken snares - I found I like the sound after a bunch had broken out. Standard was 14 years ago. I think the last snare I bought had 20 stand on it.

There are quite a few different snare types to chose from. Some sound drastically different but most are metal stretched spring types. They rest are specialty items in my opinion.

Of the metal there are still different types that sound way different. Most used are the chrome looking snappy snares. They are very tight naturally - bright. For a darker sound there are some that are more flexible - most I’ve see look gray and aren’t shiny, more like the color or solder. I actually like those a lot, but don’t have any at the moment…cheap snappy snares be me and they work just fine.

Snare head tension and snare strand tension itself goes a long ways. I really don’t know what is better for your use except to experiment with tuning the bottom head up and down until you find that post you like the best. And along the way adjusting the snare tension to find that sweet spot after each bottom head tweak. There will be a very narrow band of snare tension that the drum will open up. You can hear it as a lower resonance. Snares too tight will chock it off like muffling - too loose and the snares will rattle a lot. When just right the snares will still rattle some but won’t be a problem unless you are going for a super dry muffled sound.

There’s really no easy (or even hard) way to describe what tensions work best. Most snares will do a good job across more range than most folks think if the bottom head and and snare tension is adjusted accordingly. The bottom head is so thin that it’s hard to tell when it’s resonating and what’s the “best” tension except by experimenting. Top head tension is a determining factor into what tensions work for the bottom head as well.

As for tension, I just loosen the snares to where they are hanging and hit and tighten at the same time and stop once I hear the tone dial in.

Thanks Phoo and Bubba for the detailed replies.

Just for the (potential) benifit of the forum, I had a couple of PM exchanges from Bubba, and this was (imo) worth mentioning over here as well.


If it sounds crisp like it is a counter top or marching snare, you have everything too tight. I personally tune the top and bottom to pretty much the same note, maybe a tad higher on the bottom. But that is just my preference. I like that old school snare sound.

So here’s what I’ll do in experementing:

1: Dimmer’ sugestions to introduce foreign objects onto the snare :p
This is the easiest to find quick results.
I won’t leave it there if we get good results tho’, then I’ll test the rest, but at least i have something to compare it with.
1a: We won’t be bothering with different types of snare units then right now, but we will buy another one like what is on there so that we could bring in the sidecutter on one of 'em. I’ll also keep an eye open for the ‘darker colour’ ones. We can experiment later with different types of snares then.

2:Then we’ll undo what we did in #1, and start tuning down little by little (top and bottom) to get a feel for what happens.

3: The tention of the snare unit at the bottom is relatively easy to get my head around. There’s a fine balance between too rattley and too tight. We turned it up 'till it had a little bit of ‘tail’ - almost like reverb. That sounds pleasing to us.

4: The plan is anyway to buy a new head (double ply), but if we could play with the above we would know more of what we are comparing it with. Then we’ll do it and start from #1 again…

5: Bubba suggested also (if we can’t get it right) that we record the snare dry. Batter side with the snares off and the bottom muffled, bottom side with the batter muffled and snare off and then the whole snare with everything on. I’ll do just that if we can’t get what we are looking for.

Does the plan of action sound do-able ?

Thanks again Phoo, Bubba and Dimmer for taking the time to read through my lenghty posts and taking the time to give excellent advice !


Are your snares tuned in relation to one of the toms ?
If it is - wich one ?
If not, wich one is it closest to ?
Sorry for the questions, but I’m just trying to get a feel for how high/low yours are in relation with the rest of the kit. (ballpark)

I’m still wondering about this tuning, 'cause it sounds musicly pleasing the way it is now, but because it is tuned to another drum, I get a lot of sympathetic vibration on the snare when I hit the other one.