Tommy Igoe: Drum Setup & Tuning Basics

Fig. 8

Fig. 9

The bottom cymbal of your hi-hat should be above the top rim of your snare drum — the exact distance is a matter of personal taste. When I play rock music, I like my hi-hats a bit higher so I can get play with more volume, but I like them lower for jazz. Watch your favorite drummers and see where they set up their hats. Please remember that you must have air between your hi-hats to make the chick sound when you play the hi-hat with your foot (Figs. 8—9). So, when in the open position, there must be some space there, at least 2" to 3", if not more.

Tuning Like A Pro

Tuning is not a science but rather a matter of personal touch, feel, and sound. You must actually do it to understand it. The style of music you play has a huge part in what kind of tuning philosophy you use. For example, rock needs lower-sounding, more powerful drums than jazz, which demands a higher, more melodic approach. Like everything with music, trial and error is your best friend when it comes to tuning. Here are some basic concepts to help guide you on your tuning adventures.

Fig. 10

Fig. 11

First, I recommend using a crisscross method for basic tuning, which allows you to tune the drum and seat the head evenly by tightening the tension rods in a crossing pattern. Place the head and the counterhoop on the drum and then finger-tighten each rod so that it makes contact with the counterhoop. Then tighten each rod with a drum key (Fig. 10) three or four half-turns while tapping the head adjacent to each rod to make sure the pitch is the same at each tension point (Fig. 11). Once you have the head tuned evenly, you can fine-tune it by going around the drum circularly.

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