How to Tune Drums? – TECHNIQUES AND TRICKS
All drummers sooner or later have that moment when they need to tune their musical instrument. Here’s a complete guide to tuning a drum set for tuning drums, toms, and bass drums, including general tuning rules, how to tune each part of the drum kit, note-tuning, using tuners, tips on how to achieve a particular sound, and much more.
What You Need to Know Before Setting up the Drums?
Features of a drum’s structure that affect its sound
1. The percussion plastic is responsible for the attack and ringing, while the resonance plastic is responsible for the aftertone and overtone composition. When playing, the drummer hears the percussive side, and the listeners (especially if the stage is higher than the audience), mostly a combination of both plastics, with this mixture sounding times worse. The microphones that back up the drum kit help to remedy this situation a bit.
2. The most important thing in drum tuning is the proper “fit” of the plastic. To do this, make sure that the hoop sits on it the first time you install the plastic while forming the proper relationship between the edge of the shell and the plastic.
If the plastic is stretched tighter on one side or has lost its circular shape, it becomes diverted, hence the vibration is disturbed, and the build along the rim begins to be distributed unevenly, that is, the plastic itself ceases to build.
3. If you tune the drum wrongly from the start, or “seat” the plastic improperly, it is very likely that the plastic will be ruined, and it will not sound decent anymore.
Even when you tune the drums strictly according to the measuring instruments (tuners), there is still no guarantee that the plastic will “fit” evenly.
If the rims and/or edges of the shell are wrinkled, the plastic can take on an irregular shape, and consequently, it will deteriorate and not sound good anymore.
4. There is a difference between terms such as timbre and tuning note. The first term refers to the general coloring of the sound, and the second refers to the basic tone at which the drum sounds open and tight. When tuning, the tuning tone can be changed, but the resonance of the shell cannot.
Let’s say a drum sounds from “G” to “D-sharp” during tuning, even so, the true sound will be around “A-flat” (that tuning note). The difference between characteristics such as “bright” or “warm” sounds will be the timbre.
5. Clean and tight sound of the drum is influenced by the edge of the shell. If it is smooth, flat, and has a correct profile, even an inexpensive drum will sound very decent.
And, on the contrary, if the edge of the shell has any defects, damages, or simply is made poorly, the sound of an expensive drum will be, to put it mildly, not very good.
6. Depending on what material the shell is made of, the sound of the drum will vary
7. The taller the snare, the louder and more powerful the drum will sound. The shorter the snare, the more explosive the drum will sound and the better the articulation.
8. A distinction is made between cast and stamped rims, wood and metal. Cast ones allow you to tune the drum more evenly. Stamped ones are harder to tune (especially thin ones), but their advantage is the ability to produce a “warm” and “fat” sound. That’s why drummers like to put them on toms.
Aluminum rims give the highest tone compared to steel rims, which is why they are mostly put on snare drums, as they give a clear “click”. Copper rims give the drum a more musical sound.
The advantage of wooden rims is that, depending on their thickness, they come in either rigid or flexible. Rigid ones have similar characteristics to cast ones and thin ones to stamped ones.
However, since the rim is a kind of extension of the shell, the sound of the rimshot will be different: more resonant and brighter.
9. The fewer ears a rim has, the fatter the sound of the drum and the more complex the overtones. If the distance between the lugs is large, it will make it difficult to set the plastic flat.
Measuring instruments (tuners)
Almost all drum tuners measure tension or torque. These are really useful devices that appeared in our time of technology but do not blindly trust them, do not forget about your own ears, only they will tell you whether the drums are well tuned or not.
Here are a couple of examples. If your tuner is measuring torque, it will be misled by drums that have lugs on the rim that are elastic and springy. Tuners that measure plastic tension can give incorrect readings if you tune plastics of different thicknesses.
Sometimes when tuning the drums by ear, it may appear that some of the screws are loose. When tuning plastics, the main thing will be the tuning at each screw, not the tension and torque.
Nevertheless, tuners help to save time in the following way: having planted the plastic by ear by hand (you should always plant the plastic by hand) and then having detuned it, take a tuner in your hand and write down the figures of the line change depending on the tension.
Be sure not to forget to make sure that each screw has the same tuning.
The next time you tune this kind of plastic, the numbers you wrote down earlier will save you time. It is better to record several variants of measurements: for studio and for concert playing, as it is preferable to make the tuning higher on big stages.
It is important to know that when you change the brand of drums, the brand of plastic, the thickness of the plastic, and if the manufacturer has changed the technology of plastic production, you will need to reseed the plastic by hand and then record the numbers.
When do I need to change the plastic?
1. When the coating of the plastic is badly worn.
2. If there are dents in the plastic.
3. When you try to tune the plastics low after pre-setting them, you end up with a rattling sound that is not in tune. This indicates that the plastic is being stretched out and its contact with the shell is broken. Two-layer plastics are most often affected by this phenomenon. In such cases, do not immediately get rid of the plastic, you can use a hair dryer to try to replant it or to realign the drum higher.
4. When you have changed your drum room. What is meant here is that your studio or concert venue has become larger or smaller in size.
All of this will affect the sound, and, therefore, plastics for different venues will also be desirable to use different ones.
5. If you just want to compare the sound of different plastics.
The drum tuning intervals are individual for each musician.
Tuning of Any Drum (General Rules)
Tuning the percussion and resonance plastics.
Now let’s proceed to the direct tuning. This procedure is suitable for all drums: snare, toms, and bass drum.
Below we will describe the process of tuning the percussion plastic. Do the tuning of the resonant side in the same way as the percussion side. The only thing is that when tuning the snare drum, remember to turn off the sub-string and press it down with a drumstick or remove it completely.
1. Remove the percussion and resonance plastics. To do this, unscrew all the bolts and remove the hoops on each side of the drum. When tuning the percussion plastic, it is not necessary to remove the resonant plastic if you know the relative tuning range beforehand or, if you do not plan to change the resonant plastic, you can simply place the drum’s bottom side on your knee or on something soft, like a rug.
2. Place the new plastic on the drum so that it fits evenly and snugly against the edge of the shell.
3. Then use the bolts to screw on the hoop. First do this by hand, making sure the bolts hit the threads. Next, use a wrench for the hoop. And it is very important to torque the bolts using the crosswise pattern shown below.
Do this first 1/4 turn on each side, then 1/8 turn. If you have two wrenches, you can speed up this process by tightening the opposite bolt at the same time.
During this process, tap near each bolt with your finger, wrench, or drumstick. The sound opposite each screw should be the same. If you hear a crackling sound when the plastic is stretched, don’t worry, it’s normal.
4. Tighten the plastic until the “wrinkles” disappear and until you achieve a sound that is slightly higher than you want to extract.
5. Now proceed to the important point described above, the “seating” of the plastic. To do this, press the center of the drum with the palm of your hand. Probably, you will hear another crackle, and this is also normal.
The main thing here is not to overdo it; you should start from light pressing, and little by little you can increase the force, otherwise, you risk tearing the plastic. “Shrinking” helps the plastic hoop fit snugly into the rim channel and helps it fit better against the edge of the drum.
It is possible that after shrinkage, the pitch of the plastic will decrease. This will only confirm that it needed shrinkage. In this case, it will be necessary to re-tighten the plastic and “seat” it again.
6. To remove extra overtones, you can use a damping ring or special gel “velcro” (mongrel damper pads), placing them near the edge of the shock plastic.
Tuning the Plastics Relative to Each Other
After adjusting each side of the drum separately, it is time to start tuning their harmonious sound. There are three possible ways to do this:
1. both plastics are tuned in unison. In this case, a clear tone and relatively long sustain are formed.
2. The percussion plastic is tuned higher than the resonant plastic. In this case, the drum will sound deeper with a good sustain, and the sticks will have a good bounce. If you play the drums harder, the sound will “drop” or “growl”.
3. The drum plate is tuned lower than the resonant plate. With this setting, the drum will sound “shallower” and form a short sustain.
Drum tuning by note
Drum tuning is achieved by a combination of striking the drumhead in the center and adjusting the tension rods around the circumference of the drum. The tension of the head is increased or decreased by turning the tension rods clockwise or counterclockwise.
The note produced by a drum depends on three factors: the tension of the drumhead, the diameter of the drum, and the depth of the drum.
The tension of the drumhead is the most important factor in determining the pitch of the drum. The higher the tension, the higher the pitch. The diameter of the drum also affects the pitch but to a lesser degree. A larger drum will produce a lower pitch than a smaller drum. The depth of the drum has little effect on the pitch.
The note produced by a drum can be changed by adjusting the tension of the drumhead. To tuning by note, start with the drumhead tuned to the desired pitch. Then, strike the drum in the center with a drumstick.
While the drum is vibrating, use a tuning key to turn the tension rods around the circumference of the drum. Turn the tension rods clockwise to increase the tension of the head and raise the pitch of the drum. Turn the tension rods counterclockwise to decrease the tension of the head and lower the pitch of the drum.
FEATURES OF DRUM TUNING
Features of Volume Tuning
1. It does not matter in what order you tune the volumes. It is important to proceed from the fact that all drums have a limited sound range, that is, where they form the correct sound. It is not recommended to go above or below this range.
Consequently, if you tune the smallest (in diameter) volume low, moving on to a larger one, it may turn out that the sound will be too low for its size. Then you will have to tune all the other volumes (including the large one) higher.
2. To make the volume sound “fat”, you need to tune the resonant plastic to the lowest note and then lower all the screws by 1/16-1/8 of a turn.
3. The farther you move away from the drums, the lower they will sound. For example, you have set up the drums in your studio and they sound fine, but when you change the venue to a larger one (during a concert), they will sound blurry and dirty.
In this situation, I recommend asking someone to tap the drums while you move away from them to the place where the audience will gather, and adjust the tuning according to the situation
Features of the bass drum tuning
To achieve a bouncy bass drum sound, you must either raise the resonant plate one or two notes up, or both plates must be re-tuned higher.
2. To achieve a “plastic” sound you can do the following: the kick plate should be a single layer, tuned to the lowest note, and slightly loosen all the screws. Hard felt beater sounds great without padding (padding), and wooden and plastic ones with padding.
3. “Fat” sound of the bass beater is achieved in a similar way to that of the toms. But it should be remembered that the tuning range in such a case will be a little limited.
4. In order to achieve the best resonance, raise the bass drum as high relative to the floor as the stops and pedal design will allow.
Features of the snare drum tuning
The snare drum can be tuned to a wide range of pitches, from a deep, rumbling sound to a high, “sizzle” sound. The pitch is determined by the tension of the snares, which can be adjusted by turning a set of tuning screws on the side of the drum.
The most common way to tune a drumset is to first loosen the screws, then strike the drum with a drumstick. Listen to the sound of the drum, and tighten or loosen the screws until you achieve the desired pitch.
There are a few things to keep in mind when tuning a snare drum. First, the drum should be tuned to the same pitch as the other drums in the kit. Second, the pitch of the snare drum should be matched to the key of the song. For example, if the song is in the key of C, the snare drum should be tuned to C.
Third, the tension of the snares should be adjusted so that they are tight enough to produce a clear sound, but not so tight that they choke the sound of the drum. Fourth, the tuning screws should be tightened or loosened in small increments, so that the pitch of the drum is not changed too drastically.
Tuning the Drum Frequently Asked Questions
Answers to frequently asked questions.
Are drums hard to tune?
No, drums are not hard to tune.
How often do drums need to be tuned?
This is a difficult question because it depends on the type of drum, how often it is played, and the level of humidity where it is kept. Generally, however, most drums should be tuned at least once a month.
How tight should drum heads be?
Drum heads should be tight enough that they produce a clear sound when struck but not so tight that they are difficult to strike.
If you want your drums to sound good, you need to tune them. It’s that simple. Tuning your drums will ensure that they sound their best and will make them more enjoyable to play.
There are a few different ways to tune your drums. You can use a drum key, which is a special tool that is designed specifically for tuning drums. You can also use a regular tuning key, such as a piano tuning key.
Tuning your drums is not a difficult task, but it is one that requires a bit of patience. Start by tuning the drum that is closest to you and then work your way around the set. it is important to tune all of the drums to the same note.
Once you have tuned all of the drums, you will need to adjust the tension on the drumheads. The tension on the drumheads should be tight enough so that the drums sound good, but not so tight that they are difficult to play.
Tuning your drums is an important part of keeping them sounding their best. By taking the time to tune them properly, you will be able to enjoy their sound for a long time to come.