Drum Tuning

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Frequently Asked Questions...

What are some drum tuning tips?


Answer:

If you ask a hundred drummers this question, you'll likely get a hundred different answers. I'll just give you a few general guidelines that almost everyone agrees upon and you should be able to go from there.

First of all, you should buy the best drum heads that you can find. This is very important and often overlooked. I would suggest Remo or Evans heads, but there are other good brands as well. Personally, I use Evans Genera G2 heads on the batter sides of the toms and snare at and Remo Weatherking or Powerstroke III on the bass batter.

First of all, you need to lubricate the rim of the drum. A block of paraffin wax would be ideal (you should be able to find some at any arts and crafts store or sometimes at hardware stores). If you don't have any paraffin, then a plain unscented candle will word as well. All you have to do is rub the wax around the bearing edge of the drum (where the head sits) NOT on the drum, just a thin coat of wax will do.

Next, place the head on the drum, then place the rim on the head. Tighten all of the tension rods (in any order) as tightly as you can WITH YOUR FINGERS. (We call this, "finger tight"). After you have all the rods finger tight, you break out the drum key. Start with any rod...we'll call it #1. Tighten #1 a quarter turn ONLY. Then go to the rod directly across from #1 (which we'll call #2) and tighten it a quarter turn. Go, then, to the rod NEXT TO #2 (which is #3), tighten it a quarter turn, then go to #4, directly across from #3. Continue in this fashion...quarter turn, across, quarter turn, next to, quarter turn, across, quarter turn, next to...etc.

You will have to go around the drum several times. If you have wrinkles develop early on, that's ok. As you tighten the head more, wrinkles aren't good. Wrinkles mean that there isn't enough tension in the area of the wrinkle. All you have to do is tighten one or two rods in the area of the wrinkle (quarter turn at a time) until the wrinkle is gone.

Continue to tension the drum until you begin to hear a good tone. What constitutes a "good" tone? You'll have to trust your ears on this one. Keep tapping the drum with a stick periodically while tuning. When the drum starts to produce a discernable pitch (instead of a "thud") then you'll know you're getting close. If the head starts to sound "choked" (more like a toy than a drum) then you've gone too far and you need to back off on the tension, just like before you need to un-tension the rods a quarter turn at a time in the same pattern.

The key to tuning is experimentation. Experiment with different head and different amounts of tension. After you tune, set up all the drums on your set and fine tune them until you are satisfied. Bottom (resonant) heads also contribute to the overall sound of the drum, so you should experiment with those as well.

I hope this helps.

Good luck, and happy drumming!

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Drum Tuning

Bob Gatzen - Snare Drum Tuning

Drum Heads - Fitting & Tuning - Part One

I am constantly amazed at the amount of new pupils I teach at home who can play drums to a competant level, but cannot tune their 'kits. I don't know many Guitarists that can play, but not tune their instrument.

So, here are a few tips to help you through the 'mystical art' of drum tuning:

Firstly; The Drums ARE a tuned instrument. I've lost count of the number of people who've said; "I didn't know you had to tune them!". YES, YOU DO. If you want your drums to sound good, that is...

Starting off; What batter (top) heads you use is really down to personal choice and what drumkit/music you're playing (some are more resonant than others, depending on many factors; Age/Quality/Shell Material, etc.?). So, as a rule of thumb; If you're a hard-hitter - Use a twin-ply/pre-damped head (eg. Remo Emperor/Evans G2, etc.). If you're a lighter player - Use a single-ply head (eg. Remo Ambassador/Evans G1, etc.). Simple!

Next;

Fit the new heads to you drums by removing all the 'tension rods', with a 'drum key' and lifting off the 'hoop' that secures the old drum head to the shell. A handy tip before fitting a new head, is to rub candle wax around the bearing edge (the pointed part at the top of the drum shell that the skin rests on.). This will make life a little easier when you come to tuning.

Then, after you've tipped the drum upside down, to ensure the surplus wax shavings are out of the drum (!), place on your new drum head.

Replace the hoop and tighten the tuning rods until finger-tight all the way round the drum. (words: Glen Buck)

About the Author

Drummer, Teacher, Author and Columnist for over 15 years / founder of http://www.dansdrumlessons.com - The Online Drum School

 

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