Snare drum tuning question

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Strychnine Groove
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Post Thu Oct 19, 2006 9:21 am

Hi, My name is Robbie and I am new here. I have been playing drums for 20 years and I am playing with a band based in Greenville NC named Strychnine soul.

I have a question that maybe some of you could shed some light on. I have been playing a stainless steel Tama 6 1/2 x 14 stainless steel snare for the past 16 years. I recently purchased a Tama Starclassic G maple snare. Of course the sound of this drum is very different and I am having a hard time getting it to sound like I want it to. I am going for a Mike Portnoy sound from Train of Thought or Scenes from a Memory. The G maple is very similar to the snare that Mike uses, but I just cant seem to get mine to sound that way. Any tips or suggestions on tuning would be greatly appreciated.

By the way you can check out Strychnine Soul at www.myspace.com/strychninesoul These songs were recorded with the stainless steel snare.
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Post Sat Oct 21, 2006 10:05 am

I can only think of a few things that could help you out in your situation.

1. Make sure both your heads arent too thick so you can get that nice 'thwak" without many overtones following.

2. Get the heads screwed down a good 3 or 4 FULL turns for that quick attack ( be careful to watch for overtones the more you tighten your snare )

3. Make sure your snare wires are in good shape, if not, go get a better set. Perhaps upgrade to a 20, or even 30 count?

I hope this helps.
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Johnny Cat
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Post Sat Oct 21, 2006 10:08 am

Keep in mind as well that those are studio recordings. You may never get your snare to sound just like that because of the room, microphones, cables, mic pre-amp, console, processing, mixdown and mastering, etc. that were involved, and then on top of that the qualities of your own listening device and speakers.
Last edited by Johnny Cat on Sat Oct 21, 2006 1:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Strychnine Groove
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Post Sat Oct 21, 2006 10:48 am

Thanks for the tips. I do tune my snare really tight, top and bottom. I try to tune the top and bottom to close to the same pitch. I'm sure that sound he gets on recordings would be next to impossible to duplicate acoustically, but I have heard some clinics and live "unplugged" stuff and I really like that tone he gets. I will just have to keep playing with it until I am happy. It's really just a shock to go from what I was playing to a wood snare, which is not nearly as loud as the steel one.

One thing that I have noticed is that when I go see live shows, and the snare sounds awesome and then you walk backstage and tap on the persons snare it sounds totally different that what you heard mic'ed. I guess you have to keep that in mind. Thanks again.
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Post Sun Oct 22, 2006 10:05 am

Strychnine Groove wrote:Hi, My name is Robbie and I am new here. I have been playing drums for 20 years and I am playing with a band based in Greenville NC named Strychnine soul.

I have a question that maybe some of you could shed some light on. I have been playing a stainless steel Tama 6 1/2 x 14 stainless steel snare for the past 16 years. I recently purchased a Tama Starclassic G maple snare. Of course the sound of this drum is very different and I am having a hard time getting it to sound like I want it to. I am going for a Mike Portnoy sound from Train of Thought or Scenes from a Memory. The G maple is very similar to the snare that Mike uses, but I just cant seem to get mine to sound that way. Any tips or suggestions on tuning would be greatly appreciated.

By the way you can check out Strychnine Soul at www.myspace.com/strychninesoul These songs were recorded with the stainless steel snare.


I find it a little difficult to advise someone who's been playing for 20 years. I take it for granted you can tune drums. I think you must also already be aware that an unmiked drum in a room or outdoors is always going to sound unlike a recorded and mixed snare drum on a recording or live through a desk. My only suggestion would be to sample the sound you like and trigger it from your kit.
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TheRhythmest
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Post Sun Nov 12, 2006 11:08 am

Rob as well as the other advice you got so far<which is good advice> I have found by letting the bottom head have a little give.
For exampel On an 8 lug or 10 lug snare the head should have enough room for your thumbs to sink in a little bit around the edges. The 4 lugs <2>by the strainer butt<2>by the throw switch should have a tad more give. I know this is hard to explain.Im sorry
but http://www.evansdrumheads.com has good tips as well


good luck
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Post Sun Nov 12, 2006 6:30 pm

You need the right heads aswell as what everyone else said apart from triggering :roll:
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Post Tue Nov 14, 2006 12:41 am

I agree on the heads---find out what heads he uses..Muffle the bottom head & try to emulate the note he is in--then tune the bottom to the length(tone)(reverb)(sustane) you want! I hope this helped?
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tabbott23
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Post Sun Nov 26, 2006 3:32 pm

however, do watch that your bottom head isn't too tight because you want the head to have more conact with the snare strands for that sound. top head quite tight, though.
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quikstang2
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Post Sun Nov 26, 2006 3:35 pm

Dude, your steel snare on those recordings sounds nice! Good luck with the maple snare. Repost with all the stuff you try and how it sounds. I'd like to know because I'm getting a maple Mapex set soon (in an emerald green laquer too, nice color man) and I'm probably going to have the same problem. And you look like a heavy hitter, so I know you'll be using heads that can take a beating.
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PaulZILLA
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Post Sun Nov 26, 2006 3:47 pm

only thing i can say is. wrong drum. portnoy uses his 2 signature snares. they are a decent bit smaller than the one you have. and he has custom 3 position throwoff. so for his sound. i would go for his drum. its pretty impossibly to get that big snare to sound like his 2 small ones.
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Post Sun Nov 26, 2006 4:04 pm

Try finding the book "the Drummers Bible" it's full of great info.
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downshifter99
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Post Sun Nov 26, 2006 4:45 pm

Triggering drums? :shock:

Crank the top batter head down real good,standard tuning on the bottom head & crank the snare stainer REAL TIGHT.

Also,I use an Aquarian HI-ENERGY snare head...it sounds SICK!

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Steve@NDC
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Post Sun Nov 26, 2006 7:34 pm

Hi,
Trying to get a sound "just like I heard my hero in the studio" is definitely a tough thing to do.
There are tons of variables that go into getting any percussion instrument to sound a certain way. Of course, the studio, the equipment used to record, etc... the drum itself, head selection, tuning, and the way in which he hits the drum.
I've talked to a lot of drummers, read a lot of "studio setup" accounts, and tuned a bunch of drums myself. Here's my basic approach to getting a decent sound from a snare. More importantly though, it's how I get a drum to "sound like itself."
Looks like Mike uses Remo heads (a smart man), specifically coated Ambassador Controlled Sound batters, and hazy Ambassadors on the bottoms. PureSound makes very good snare wires. 16 or 20 strand sets are the way to go.
Start with the bottom head. Tuning in equal increments in the basic star pattern, tune this head up tight....real tight. Make sure the head is properly seated. Don't worry about the snap crackle pop sounds.
Next, do the same with the batter head. As a general rule of thumb, the batter head's lower pitch, in relation to the bottom head's higher pitch, should be around a perfect 4th. Sing "Here Comes the Bride". With the snares off, the drum should have a high, musical, timbale-like tone, but not sound choked.
Now, making sure your snare wires are fastened in the middle of the bottom head, flip on the strainer with hardly any tension set with the knob, and begin turning it up. This is where a lot of people go wrong, and kill the sound of the drum. As you turn up the strainer tension, lightly play the drum with a stick. Stop turning the knob when the "sloshiness" of the wires begins to become drier and more focused. You shouldn't need to go much higher than that.
That done, you'll probably notice some sympathetic buzzing set off by any of your smaller toms. You'll need to do some adjusting of the toms, so that their pitches are not occupying the same "note space" as your snare drum. However, don't be afraid of a little buzzing -- that's what gives the drum its liveliness in the mix. If needed, I like to focus the sound just a bit more with a square of Moongel. A very good product for muffling.
Hope that helps.
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Strychnine Groove
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Post Fri Dec 01, 2006 4:21 pm

Thanks for all the advice. I am working with it and getting used to the sound. The toughest thing is when you first swap out the drum and the sound is totally different.

I am trying the Aquarian high energy head. So far I like it. I was using the Remo CS batter head, but I just go through them so fast. The Aquarian seems to last alot longer, although I have been a Remo user for many years.

I know I'll never get the same sound that Mike gets in the studio, but I have heard many live recordings and I just like that warm but poppy tone. I have never played Maple before so it was just really a shock to the ears.

I have heard alot of drummers say to tune the top head tighter than the bottom. I have always tried to get close to the same pitch. I am experimenting with that on the new drum.

Thanks again for all the advice and Rock on!