Drum Tuning

Posted: September 05, 2010 08:31 AM

Warren Wright

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Now here is a touchy subject that is very personal to each of us:  How we tune our kit~

In saying that, there are a number of “recognized” methods of tuning.

Both heads tuned to the same “tone or pitch”.
The Batter head tuned higher in “tone or pitch” than the reso head= Overall lower tone of the drum.
The Batter head tuned lower in “tone or pitch” than the reso head= Overall higher tone of the drum.
The overall tone of the drum tuned to one particular “Musical Note or Pitch”

Personally, I use a device called the Drum Dial but Tama makes their own version that reads in metric divisions and this is not about “hawking” any companies equipment…its just part of a professional method of tuning your kit that greatly speeds up the process and makes it “repeatable” anytime re-tuning is needed.

Taking the new head and seating it properly and then tensioning the tuning lugs so that there are no wrinkles is step one.

At that point I take the Drum Dial, attach the distance gauge and check the enclosed chart that comes with the Dial.  For my own snare, I use a tension of 84 on the batter and 74 on the reso.
Once I obtain the same reading on the batter head, I slightly muffle the center of the head and then lightly tap about an inch away from each tuning lug to hear the harmonic “Tone” of the drum at that point.  There will most always be a slight difference in tone between some of the lugs so I pick the one tone I prefer above the rest and tune them all to that one particular tone.

For those who prefer to tune their drums to one particular musical note, here is where you use your tuner to obtain the correct Note at each tuning lug and finally the overall tone of the head.

Flip the drum over and repeat the process.

Once thats done…you have your drum “in tune” with Your Ear~ OR with a Tuner.

As we know, unless we have Lug Locks of some sort, every drum will have tuning lugs that will “loosen off” from the vibration caused by hitting the drum, especially the snare drum.  Tuning as mentioned above will make re-tuning or rechecking your tuning a breeze.

I check my entire kit tuning (Minus the Kick Drum) at the end of each set to make sure all is as it should be and it takes a very short time to tap at each lug position and listen for the tone and re-adjust if needed.

This method is a precise and repeatable method of tuning and or re-tuning your kit. 

I wish I had known these tricks and had this tool way back when I first started playing…and so would the bands I worked with back then haha~

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Posted: September 05, 2010 09:12 AM

Dreeddrums

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Warren Wright - 05 September 2010 08:31 AM

Now here is a touchy subject that is very personal to each of us:  How we tune our kit~

In saying that, there are a number of “recognized” methods of tuning.

Both heads tuned to the same “tone or pitch”.
The Batter head tuned higher in “tone or pitch” than the reso head= Overall lower tone of the drum.
The Batter head tuned lower in “tone or pitch” than the reso head= Overall higher tone of the drum.
The overall tone of the drum tuned to one particular “Musical Note or Pitch”

Personally, I use a device called the Drum Dial but Tama makes their own version that reads in metric divisions and this is not about “hawking” any companies equipment…its just part of a professional method of tuning your kit that greatly speeds up the process and makes it “repeatable” anytime re-tuning is needed.

i use the same thing or very similar mines from drumdial inc. it was like $100 but its awesome, its got some weight to it so you dont have to push down on the head while you tune it and you can be precise, my only thing is what the heck do the numbers mean, it comes with a chart and i used it at first but once i fine tuned it to what i like i found where i like everything for my drums. im just not sure where they came up with their number ( also can someone tell me what the little meter is doin is it for finer tuning). i personally like a lower tone to my drums i love when they sound like cannons.

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Posted: September 05, 2010 08:47 PM

Warren Wright

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Dreeddrums - 05 September 2010 09:12 AM
Warren Wright - 05 September 2010 08:31 AM

Now here is a touchy subject that is very personal to each of us:  How we tune our kit~

In saying that, there are a number of “recognized” methods of tuning.

Both heads tuned to the same “tone or pitch”.
The Batter head tuned higher in “tone or pitch” than the reso head= Overall lower tone of the drum.
The Batter head tuned lower in “tone or pitch” than the reso head= Overall higher tone of the drum.
The overall tone of the drum tuned to one particular “Musical Note or Pitch”

Personally, I use a device called the Drum Dial but Tama makes their own version that reads in metric divisions and this is not about “hawking” any companies equipment…its just part of a professional method of tuning your kit that greatly speeds up the process and makes it “repeatable” anytime re-tuning is needed.

i use the same thing or very similar mines from drumdial inc. it was like $100 but its awesome, its got some weight to it so you dont have to push down on the head while you tune it and you can be precise, my only thing is what the heck do the numbers mean, it comes with a chart and i used it at first but once i fine tuned it to what i like i found where i like everything for my drums. im just not sure where they came up with their number ( also can someone tell me what the little meter is doin is it for finer tuning). i personally like a lower tone to my drums i love when they sound like cannons.


The numbers, as far as I can ascertain, are arbitrary numbers used for the purpose of doing what we do with it…without some type of numbers, you would have no point of reference.  I do know that machine shops use a similar measuring instrument for gauging surface abnormalities…is it flat or not flat…if its not flat, just how much is it not flat?  that sort of thing.  On the ones used in machine shops, the small dial does have corresponding numbers that indicate something like 100 thousandths of an inch or something like that. The bigger numbers are supposed to be reading in thousandths of an inch.  The Tama tool measures in metric decimals which make it a bit more tedious to set your head tension but a bit more accurate.
If I remember right, I picked mine up from an internet music outlet for around 60 bucks.  Well worth the expenditure~!

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I am a Drummer…its not only what I do…its also an integral part of who I am

Posted: October 04, 2010 05:52 AM

guarilio989

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Science Lesson! smile
Well since its measuring tension it falls under pressure. If the dial was in standard it would be pounds per square inch (lb./in.^2 or PSI). in metric I think it would be newtons per square centimeter(N/cm^2). No it would not be Grams because a gram is a measurement of density not weight. There is a difference lol so warren your snare would be tensioned to roughly 84PSI batter and 74PSI reso. N/cm^2 doesn’t make much sense since a newton is equivalent to a medium sized apple and you would basically have 84 and 74 of those per square centimeter. thats almost double the force of what it would be in PSI. anyway…84 PSI sounds about right since the tires on your car are inflated to probably 55 PSI so your drum is under more pressure than your car tires. double that force and you would crush your drum.
*Said with a lisp> Isn’t science fun?

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Posted: April 25, 2011 08:35 PM

Andy Doerschuk_1

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I believe learning to tune drums is like riding a bike – once you get the hang of it you wind up doing it unconsciously. To be honest, it’s frighteningly simple: 1) Find the heads you like for each drum on your kit (and don’t be afraid to use one brand for your toms, another for your snare, and a third for your bass drum, if that’s what it takes); 2) change them often; and 3) tension the heads evenly.

Don’t wait for a head to break. Use your eyes and ears. As soon as you begin to hear what I describe as a “honking sound” from your toms, it’s time to change them. When you begin seeing too much wear on your snare batter (especially if it develops a clear spot), it’s time to change it. You can eke a lot of usefulness out of your bass drumhead, but should change it periodically, especially if the sound become too deadened or you begin to see wear.

When you mount a new head on your shell, make sure it is completely seated on the bearing edge before you begin installing the counterhoops and tension rods. Screw each tension rod down until you feel it resisting the bearing edge. Once all of the rods are in the same position, tighten each rod by an equal number of turns (I have found it usually takes about 1.25 turns on my toms, more on my snare, and slightly less on bass drums).

I find that bass drumheads last longer than tom floor tom heads. Floor toms heads last longer than snare heads. Snare heads last longer than mounted tom heads. I change mounted my tom heads about every 1.5 gigs.

Almost everything else should originate from you. Muffling, brightness, tone, volume, tightness, looseness — it’s your call.

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Posted: May 16, 2011 12:59 PM

Rev.D.

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Andy Doerschuk_2011_05_11 - 25 April 2011 08:35 PM

I believe learning to tune drums is like riding a bike – once you get the hang of it you wind up doing it unconsciously. To be honest, it’s frighteningly simple.

I could’nt agree more.

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Posted: July 07, 2011 05:41 PM

RunForSafety

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Does anyone have any tips for tuning? Ive only been drumming for a year but that would really help. I can’t even tell when i should tune them again based on sound. The sounds around the drum(toms especially) never match. Now that i think about it, i dont think ive ever tuned my bass drum. Snare maybe once… Help?

Posted: July 11, 2011 11:13 PM

nesbite71

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Depending on the type of music you play, and the sound you are looking for, dampening the heads alone can do quite a bit for your sound.  I started using Evans E-rings (you can also use Moongel, or Aquarian Studio Rings) about 8 years ago and will never go back.  I even play them live.  They cut down on a lot of the overtones and round out the sound of any drum.  You can also trim the rings to provide less dampening (I do this for my snare drums).  Best $15 I’ve ever spent!

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Posted: August 07, 2011 10:29 PM

drumbri24

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Thanks to veryone for posting! This topic could probably be talked about, debated on, & analyZed forever w/ we drummers. My personal way of tuning that has been working for me for the last 6 years is tuning to a specific note. To do this, I use a Digital Guitar Tuner. B/f that, I just tuned to a specific pitich that was appropriate for whatever type of music I was playing @ the time! The primary reason that I switched up is b/c the kit that I bought in 2005 stamps a note inside the shell of every drum…the note that the manufactuer suggests.

W/ my students, I will make suggestions (of course), but as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is a drum sound!

Posted: September 28, 2011 08:09 PM

paradiddle

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Will you tell us which manufacturer stamps the pitch to tune to inside each drum? is it dw? Thanks.

Posted: September 28, 2011 08:31 PM

Andy Doerschuk

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That’s right — DW stamps the inside of each shell with a note from the musical scale. The company calls it “timbre-matching”

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Posted: October 12, 2011 12:28 AM

drumbri24

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Tuning is also a great part of our individual sound! Some examples that come to mind at once are Simon Phillips & his deep sounding toms. That has always been a part of HIS sound! Listen to Steve Gadd in the late ‘70s & early ‘80s when he used those Evans Hydraulics! Wow! The sound that resonated from his drums…a great example of this is his “Steve Gadd-Up Close” DVD (which is the 1st drum instructional/educational video ever!!!). & we all know how much a drumhead can change the sound & pitch of any said drum! Many of my fave drummers have gone through different tuning ‘phases’ over their careers. My personal hero, Neil Peart is 1 of them. His tuning method from his double bass days of the ‘70s & ‘80s, as compared to his tuning today is a world of difference (keep in mind that he dropped the concert toms starting in 1987-88’s “Hold Your Fire” album/tour & when he went w/ DW in ‘95, scaled down the # of rack toms used).
As I type this, I’m watching Mike Portnoy’s “Liquid Drum Theater” DVD set. I’ve always loved his tuning. From his 8” tom to the 20” gong bass drum, they sound like a complete set w/ the pitch seperation between each drum perfect (this is regarding his ‘Purple Monster’ kit on the DVD).
I’ve always tuned the resonant heads on my toms a bit higher than the batters. There’s no real method behind my madness, it’s just what I was taught to do when I began playing. Now, I just tune to the note that DW suggests, weather both heads are of equal tension, or 1 is a bit tighter than the other (usually the resonant head). Tuning is a personal experience, @ least that’s what I believe & have tried to impart onto my students over the years.

Posted: January 08, 2012 07:25 PM

randrums

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I agree with most people saying that it eventually comes to personal preference when tuning drums. I like knowing that no drums sound exactly the same in the long run. I made a very short video on how I like to approach tuning a snare drum - It’s kind of humorous, but it’s all good knowledge. I’ve tuned Mike Mangini’s drums and Marco Minnemann’s drums in the past (at a clinic) and they said I did very well. I felt so good that day because those are my favorite drummers!

The video is just me tuning my snare drum, but if you have any other questions about any drums, I will be happy to try my best to answer them. The snare drum that I’m tuning in the video is a Pearl Free floater maple snare. My drums are DW (Black Cherry Fade). Maybe I’ll have to do a video on how to tune fusion-sized drums sometime.

http://www.randomrandy.com/2011/11/he-can-tune-piano-but-can-he-tunahh-eff.html

Thank you for checking it out!

Posted: July 21, 2012 02:48 PM

SDdrumming

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paradiddle - 28 September 2011 08:09 PM

Will you tell us which manufacturer stamps the pitch to tune to inside each drum? is it dw? Thanks.

DW does timbre match their shells, but not exactly to tell you what to tune them too. They use it as a reference to pick out shells when they get an order for a kit. If all the shells were pitched at a “C” then it would be difficult to get any separation in your tuning. You would be tuning certain drums way out of their “sweetspots” to get any range. Some smaller diameter shells could technically have a higher pitch then a larger shell depending on the density of the wood they were using or how fast the glue dried.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9oRigifD6-g

Here’s a video with some basic tuning concepts to help get people going.

Posted: July 30, 2012 12:32 PM

drumbri24

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Hi all! Latley, I’ve been utilizing the ‘Peart’ methodology of tuning. I’ve always tensioned the resonant head a BIT (just slightly) tighter than the batter on both the toms (racks & floors) & the kick drum(s). Now, I’ve started to tension the resonant heads on my toms LOOSER than the batters, as Neil Peart has done for years ( since the “Hold Your Fire” album/tour days in ‘87-‘88). The sound that I am getting is not all that much different, being that my resonant heads weren’t that much tighter than the batters to begin w/. I’m getting a little more sustain from the drums, particularly the 14”, 16”, & 18” floor toms. As far as my 8”, 10”, & 12” mounted toms, there’s not much of a difference @ all really. A little more bottom end is noticable, mostly w/ the 8"x7” & the 12"x9” toms! Thanks & happy tuning!

Posted: August 25, 2012 06:28 AM

Elephant Drums

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LONDON DRUMMERS!! Anyway that needs help tuning or maintaining their drum kit please read Elephants Drums article on drum kit repairs

http://www.elephantdrums.co.uk/blog/guides-and-resources/drum-kit-repairs/

Thanks,

Elephant Drums