1. Choose the right drum head
In order to bring the best sound out of our drums, it is important not only to keep them in tune, but also replace the heads from time to time.
Even good quality heads will eventually become tired and begin to sound dull. The batter head will tend to be replaced more regularly as, obviously, that’s the one you hit, but it is still important to change the resonant head from time to time in order to keep things sounding fresh.
To show you how to do this, we’ve changed a snare batter in our workshop. Follow our simple steps, below, and new heads will be a cinch.
Your choice of drumhead will have an enormous impact on the sound of your drums. Try experimenting between clear and coated heads or single-ply versus double-ply. Base your decisions on your stylistic needs and ultimately, your overall sound preference. Here I have a single-ply coated ambassador.
2. Unscrew the tension rods
Use your drum key to evenly de-tune the drum head, working no more than a quarter-turn at a time.
It is important to do this gradually in order to not put undue strain on the lugs, particularly on one side as this can warp or even completely buckle the hoop.
3. Remove the hoop
Once the tension rods have been removed and set aside, lift the hoop and drum head away from the shell.
We usually take them away together as there is often a collection of sawdust trapped between the head and the rim. This way it doesn’t all empty into the inside of the drum!
4. Ensure everything is clean
If any debris has managed to find its way into the drum, now is your chance to remove it and give it all a good sprucing.
We like to use a microfibre cloth to give a quick once-over around the inside of the drum shell and bottom head. Give the hoops a good rub-down too, getting rid of any fluff, dust and stick debris.
5. Check your bearing edges
Now is the perfect opportunity to check your drum’s bearing edges for any imperfections.
Place the drum on a flat surface and inspect for any raised points. It is possible to sand down any minor flaws but larger problems may require the edges to be re-cut.
6. Position the new head
Some people like to run around the bearing edge with some kind of lubricant – often candle wax.
This allows the drum head to move a little more freely over the bearing edge. If you’re at all like me, you’ll want to ensure that the logo is facing the right way in relation to the respective snare throw-off or tom mount.
7. Seat the head
After replacing the hoop and tension rods, the tradition is to ‘seat’ the head by evenly cranking it up to a very high tension in order to stretch it in.
If you hear cracking as you tighten, don’t worry, it’s just the glue in the drum head and this is perfectly normal.
You can then push down on the head to stretch and crack the glue further. Some people like to leave it for a few hours or even overnight.
8. Finger-tighten the tuning rods
Once the head is sufficiently seated, evenly loosen off the tension rods (as step 2) and then tighten them back up using your fingers. this will provide an even starting point for the tuning of the head.
9. Initial tuning
Tighten each rod by a small amount, gradually increasing the tension of the head.
You could start at a quarter or half-turn at a time, depending on how high you want to tune the drum. Most people favour the use of opposite tuning, although we personally prefer to move around in a clockwise direction, making small adjustments.
10. Fine tuning
Rest the drum on something soft to mute the reso, this way you’ll only hear the pitch of the batter head.
A towel or hoodie will work well if you don’t have a fluffy drum case like ours. Using a stick or mallet, play the head an inch or so away from each tension point, finely tuning each one up to the same pitch as the highest note.