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Drumline Cleaning & Maintenance Series: Marching Snares

Cleaning & Maintaining Your Marching Snare Drums

September 5th, 2019 by Miguel Guaderrama

In part two of our Drumline Maintenance Series, we’re looking at marching snare drums and the checklist of items that you (a director, percussion instructor, or student) should be going through at least twice a season.

Yes, cleaning your drums is important for aesthetic reasons, but it’s also important from a functional standpoint. Our instruments get put through a lot of wear and tear, so performing routine maintenance checks will ensure a much longer life out of your equipment.

The type of cleaning and maintenance we’ll be referring to is best completed when you’re changing heads at the beginning or at the end of a season. This is the best time to take stock of the condition of your equipment and to perform maintenance.

Over the course of the season, there are environmental factors that can contribute to the wear and tear of your drums. These include:

  1. Oxidation or rusting of metal parts from heat and moisture.
  2. Fading of the wood from the sun.
  3. Drying of the wood shells from the heat.

Transportation of the equipment will also be a major contributor to parts becoming loose, bent or even breaking over the course of the season.

If your battery equipment is at least 5 years old, we highly recommend following a checklist like the one below - it's a sensible choice to help protect your investment!

For the marching snare drum, the key areas you want to inspect will be unique to either the top side of the drum or the bottom side of the drum. After removing the top or bottom head, here is your step-by-step checklist for each area you'll want to inspect and clean.

Top Side of the Drum

The Hoop: Maintenance & Cleaning Best Practices

Structural Inspection:

Once all the lugs are removed, you’ll want to check the hoop for any cracks. This is likely to happen over time due to the high tension and the aging of the metal from extreme temperature changes. You’ll want to check the outside and inside of the hoop. If you do notice a crack, it’s best to replace it, because using a cracked hoop can damage your drum over time (and cost you extra in broken drum heads).

Cosmetic Cleaning:

If you notice any amount of dirt or cloudiness on the chrome, we recommend Pledge Multi-Surface Cleaner to clear away the dirt and to restore the chrome’s shine.

If you notice any pitting or rust along the chrome hoop, we recommend using a chrome polish to remove these blemishes. Addressing this sooner rather than later will prevent the deterioration of your hoop!

The Bearing Edge: Cleaning & Maintenance Best Practices

Structural Inspection:

One of the unique aspects of most marching snare drums is the fact that the top-side bearing edge is metal instead of wood. This is to enable the high tension tuning commonly practiced in the marching activity. Regardless of the material, the bearing edge is still one of the most critical components of your drum, so you want to make sure the structural integrity is preserved for as long as possible. This means no dents or other forms of damage.

In the event that this part of the drum is damaged, it is possible to replace this piece - that said, doing so is manufacturer specific. We recommend referencing your manufacturer’s parts list and giving us a call to make sure you get the right replacement part (see the manufacturer parts catalog below for product specifics).

Cosmetic Cleaning:

Typically, the bottom part of the bearing edge that scoops down to the bottom hoop gets the dirtiest. A lot of dirt and grease accumulates in this area, even when you’ve had a drum cover over the drum. The best time to clear all of this abrasive debris is when the top head and hoop is completely off. We recommend Pledge Multi-Surface Cleaner to clear away this dirt and grease along with the Turtle Wax Chrome Polish to eliminate any traces of oxidation or pitting of the chrome.

Tension Rods: Cleaning & Maintenance Best Practices

Structural Inspection:

Since these are always under such high tension, it’s important to check for bent tension rods. If you find any bent rods, it’s best to replace them. The same goes for any rusted tension rods.

Cosmetic Cleaning:

Since these are more openly exposed, greased tension rods will easily attract dirt over time. Best practice is to clear the lugs of old grease and dirt with a degreaser and toothbrush, then reapply new grease. We recommend WD40 brand Degreaser and White Lithium Grease.

Lug Receivers: Cleaning & Maintenance Best Practices

Structural Inspection:

Located beneath the top hoop, the lug receivers sit within the second hoop structure thanks to a single rubber o-ring fitted around the lug receiver.

The first thing to check is that your lug receivers have all of their rubber o-rings, then check that you have all of your lug receivers (if you are missing the rubber gasket, your lug receiver will fall out when the tension rod is removed). If you notice any significant rust or oxidation on the receivers, it’s best to replace them.

Cosmetic Cleaning:

If there is a significant amount of dirt and grease built up on the receivers, you’ll want to clear this debris with WD40 Degreaser and a toothbrush. You can then spray a new application of WD40 White Lithium Grease into the receiver or directly onto the tension rod (if you spray directly into the receiver you could end up having it all over your drum shell. We recommend spraying onto the lower part of the tension rods for cleaner application).

Bottom Side of the Drum

Snare Mechanism/Throw-Off: Cleaning & Maintenance Best Practices

Structural Inspection:

Being one of the more complex units on the snare drum, it’s important to visually review how your snare mechanism is set up before you remove any parts. Most brands have a horizontal adjustment to tighten or loosen the snare strainers that run across the bottom of the drum. Most brands also have a vertical pull handle to release the snare strainers. If you notice any parts of these units being additionally hard to tighten or loosen, you may consider applying a small amount of lithium grease to the hinging segments for smoother operation.

It’s also important to note how your snare throw-off is attached to the drum. Is it attached to the shell of the drum (standard attachment such as a Yamaha drum) or is it attached to the lug posts of the drum (free floating design such as a Pearl drum)? This will dictate where you check the screws to make sure that they haven’t rattled loose over time, which can make for a less stable snare mechanism.

If you notice any other issues with the function or structural integrity of your snare throw-off, we recommend referring to the manufacturer specific parts lists/diagrams as the inner workings of each brand can differ (and giving us a call to answer any specific questions you have).

Cosmetic Cleaning:

Depending on the brand of your drum, you may have a chrome-plated finish or a polished aluminum finish. If your throw-off is chrome-plated, we recommend cleaning it with Pledge Multi-Surface and following up with a chrome polish to eliminate any corrosive material. If it is a polished aluminum finish, we recommend only the Pledge Multi-Surface cleaner since a chrome polish could have negative effects on the intended finish of the polished aluminum.

Bottom Hoop: Cleaning & Maintenance Best Practices

Structural Inspection:

Just like the top side hoop, this heavy duty die-cast hoop usually withstands a lot of wear and tear. However, it is way more susceptible to damage from being dropped or even being repeatedly set down too harshly over time. Cracking can definitely occur, so when you take the hoop off, be thorough in your visual inspection.

Often attached to the hoop are some form of snare “legs” or “feet”. These help protect the bottom of the drum and are highly recommended to keep on for this reason. Check to make sure these are not bent or even broken. If they are, we recommend replacing them. Removal of these are manufacturer specific, however, they will either require a small crescent wrench to unscrew the bolt (Tama, Pearl, etc.), or a drum key, because the foot sits between the tension rod and hoop.

Cosmetic Cleaning:

If you have chrome hoops, and you notice any amounts of dirt, or cloudiness to the chrome, we recommend Pledge Multi-Surface Cleaner to clear away the dirt and to restore the chrome’s shine.

If you notice any pitting or rust along the chrome hoop, we recommend using a chrome polish to remove these blemishes. Addressing this sooner rather than later will prevent the deterioration of your hoop.

If you have polished aluminum hoops, we recommend only the Pledge Multi-Surface cleaner since a chrome polish could have negative effects on the intended finish of the polished aluminum.

Bottom Bearing Edge: Cleaning & Maintenance Best Practices

Structural Inspection:

Considering the bearing edge is one of the most critical components of your drum, you want to make sure the structural integrity is preserved for as long as possible. This means no dents or splitting of plies due to dehydration.

Cosmetic Cleaning:

Since this part of the drum is usually bare wood, you don’t want to use any harsh chemicals/cleaners that could dry out the wood. It’s best to clear any dirt or debris with a clean rag, and if you notice the shell looks dry, applying a modest amount of Old English Lemon Oil around the edge will rehydrate the wood.

Bottom Tension Rods: Cleaning & Maintenance Best Practices

Structural Inspection:

Since tension rods are always under such high tension, it’s important to check for any bending that may occur over time. If you find any bent rods, it’s best to replace them. The same goes for any rusted tension rods. You’ll also want to make sure you have the proper amount of washers that are always paired with tension rods. These can get lost very easily so keep a close eye on these!

Cosmetic Cleaning:

Due to their exposed nature, greased tension rods will easily attract dirt over time. Best practice is to clear the lugs of old grease and dirt with a degreaser and toothbrush, then reapply new grease. We recommend WD40 brand Degreaser and White Lithium Grease.

Bottom Lug Casings/Posts: Cleaning & Maintenance Best Practices

Structural Inspection:

In the case of a marching snare drum, the lug casings we’ll be referring to are the posts that connect to the top and bottom snare hoops. The specific design aspects of these are brand specific, but in general, you’ll want to be aware of how these posts are attached to the shell of the drum (Yamaha) or not attached to the shell of the drum. (i.e. attached to the hoops, such as Pearl’s free-floating design, or Tama drums). You’ll want to make sure these are still straight and sit flush with either hoops. If any of these are bent, we recommend replacing them (check the manufacturer parts lists to find the part you need).

Removing the Lug Posts:

Although some manufacturers may have more internal parts than others, the general design and mounting of these posts only require a hexagonal nut and screw. You’ll need two crescent wrenches for this part. One wrench will be used to stabilize and the other wrench will be used to loosen the internal bolt. If you have a free-floating drum like the Pearl or Tama Marching drums, then your work is done. If you have a standard attachment to the shell like the Yamaha Marching Snare Drums, then you will need to loosen the screw holding the post close to the shell. This can be accessed from the inside of the shell and removed with a Phillips head screwdriver. After loosening this, you’ll be able to remove the post and replace it.

Note: Doing this will also allow you to access the lug receiver for the bottom head.

Cosmetic Cleaning:

If you have chrome posts, and you notice any dirt or cloudiness on the chrome, we recommend Pledge Multi-Surface Cleaner to clear away the dirt and to restore the chrome’s shine.

If you notice any pitting or rust along the chrome post, we recommend using a chrome polish to remove these blemishes. Addressing this sooner rather than later will prevent the deterioration of your hoop.

If you have polished aluminum posts, we recommend only the Pledge Multi-Surface cleaner, since a chrome polish could have negative effects on the intended finish of the polished aluminum.

Bottom Lug Receivers: Cleaning & Maintenance Best Practices

Structural Inspection:

Located within the lug casing/posts, these are typically a little more protected from corrosive elements. Because they are downward facing, any moisture or dirt is likely to fall out thanks to gravity - however, excessive dirt and grease build-up should not be overlooked. If you notice any of the threading beginning to strip out, making it harder for you to maneuver a tension rod through there, then we recommend replacing the lug receiver.

To access the lug receiver, see the above instructions for removing the lug casing/post.

Cosmetic Cleaning:

If you do notice any excessive dirt and grease built up in the lug receiver, then we recommend spraying some WD40 Degreaser in there to knock out the build-up.

Outside of the Shell: Cleaning & Maintenance Best Practices

Structural Inspection:

Preserving the outer shell of the drum is a critical point for structural and cosmetic purposes. Fading from the sun is just a cosmetic problem, but too much sun exposure over the years can also deteriorate the protective barriers of the finish.

Moisture trapped between a 3rd party drum wrap can also be corrosive to the shell over time. Always having a cover around your drums in a non-performance setting is a good preventative measure.

If you have a free floating drum design like Pearl or Tama drums, accessing the entire shell without hardware is fairly simple. Once you remove the bottom head, you’ll be able to slide the shell out from the snare cage. If you have a drum such as the Yamaha SFZ, hardware such as the snare mechanism and posts are attached to the shell of the drum. Not only will you need to remove the bottom head, but you’ll also need to unscrew all of the mounting screws in order to access the bare shell.

Cosmetic Cleaning:

For any of the 3 finish types, we’ve found Pledge Multi-Surface to be a safe bet. Its chemical makeup won’t leave waxy buildup or dehydrate the wood shell from harsh alcohols. Another product we found useful for cleaning, protecting and even providing UV protection to the finish of the shell is Super Hard Shell Finish Liquid Wax from Turtle Wax. This is ONLY to be used on wrap finishes or lacquer finish drums. Don't use this on satin drums - it will have an adverse effect on the look of the finish. We recommend applying these to the bare shell (if possible) to provide a longer lasting protective barrier once the season is underway.

Final Steps:

Now that you’ve made it through this list, you can continue on with re-assembling your drum and putting your new head on.

And That's It!

We hope this detailed checklist will make your cleaning and maintenance process a lot more streamlined as you go from season to season. Be sure to check out the links below to manufacturer specific parts lists in case you have any specific needs, and please don’t hesitate to give a call regarding special situations. Leave us any questions or comments you have below, and be sure to post your before and after pictures so everyone can see the transformation!

Manufacturer Parts Lists

Miguel is one of our marching specialists. His experience as a performer and educator in the marching percussion community is second to none. When he's not at the store, you can catch him drumming at Disneyland or teaching one of the top indoor drumlins in WGI.



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