Firstly, make sure you know what type of sound you are searching for. If you don’t know, either stop before you start, or get to a pipe band contest and have a listen to see what you like. Nowadays, tone plays a pretty vital role in the overall performance, and in the end – the result.
Let’s start at ground zero.
When you receive your pipe band snare drum you should dismantle it. Yep, you read it correctly. Dismantle it. Why, you’re asking? Well, you cannot guarantee that the manufacture has correctly lubricated the drum. Therefore, if you just start to tighten the bolts, it will be metal on metal. Not ideal, and will also result in possible corrosion or jamming. You really want the drum to last you as long as possible.
1. Lower the height of the snare mechanism. Take the top suspension ring off using a tuning key. Remove the head. Take a cloth and wipe around the bearing edge (the rim of the wooden shell). Ensure there are no loose particles inside the shell. Take some lubrication (vaseline will suffice) and place it around the bearing edge where the head will sit. Also, generously lubricate all of the holes where the bolt will insert.
2. Lubricate in between each washer using an industrial oil. Again, this will prevent warping and friction. This is a pretty messy part of the set-up – but don’t skip it out!
3. Place the head back on the bearing edge (ensuring you have removed any stickers from the head) and then place the top hoop over it and set the bolts in. Using the tuning key, start slowly tightening the bolts so that they just initially “catch”. Then you will want to work clockwise from bolt to bolt and gradually bring the head down. i.e. increasing the tension.
4. Introduce the Jim Kilpatrick Tuning block. This little beauty is a saviour. It helps you to ensure that you are evenly bring the head down, and is WAY better than using a vernier caliper. Start at the largest portion of the block, and work your way down. I would say go at least half way or two thirds of the way on the block to start with. This will give you something half reasonable to play on (but still pretty tubby/flat). I have gone further, and tend to do so more often than not. Once you have got to a point where you are happy, only tighten the top head sing 1/8 turns clockwise. This doesn’t need to be done at every practice. Try to think of when you want the drum to be “at its best” – and work your way slowly towards that.
There you go, that’s stage 1 completed! Easy.
Check back soon for the next Stage on getting your pipe band snare drum set up.