So sorry it took so long to respond to your email. Here's what we do for tuning: Top head is always tighter than the bottom. This is true for snares, toms and bass drums. Think of the bottom head for resonance and the top for pitch. With the bottom head at maybe 1 turn per rod, take the top head to about 1.5 turns and start there. That's about the right balance between top and bottom. Use the top to adjust the pitch. If you bring the pitch up a fair amount then tweak the bottom up a bit as well to keep about the same balance of the top being a bit tighter than the bottom. I use Remo coated Ambassador heads and use those on the bass drum batter side as well. I usually don't change the stock Gretsch resonant head which is a Remo Ambassador anyhow.
With this tuning philosophy the drums project better. When people tune the bottom tighter than the top, the drums lose resonance and also do not project out to the audience. All they do is project up to the player. So, on stage, the player thinks he's killing it sound-wise but out in the audience no one can hear the drums unless you have each one close mic'd and run through a house mix. So, in an acoustic environment our tuning method gives you the best resonance and projection for the drums and also provides better response off the head.
It's all a matter of personal preference of course, so I never say that our method is the only one. It's just what works for us and since a lot of people like how our drums sound I am glad to share the info.
Fascinating read from Steve Maxwell. I, too, enjoy the sound files and would not have picked this as the tuning method. Indeed I must say I have not tried this method except on my snares. Usually I tune the toms to approximately even, with the batter a bit lower to bend the note and the bass is tuned much lower on the batter than reso. The same can be said for my snare, where I crank the reso nice and high and tune the batter to taste, ( which is usually kinda medium low as my snare will rip my face off if tuned any higher). Time for experimenting!...when I have the time that is.
Steve Maxwell's method works well for med high - higher tunings. There's reasons for this I won't bore you all with. With lower tunings, it sucks the tone out of the drum because there's not enough excitement of the shell. To say the drum loses resonance when tuned with the reso head higher is just not true in all circumstances, but it can be the case in higher tunings & with drums more prone to choking.
Ultimately, it all depends on the drum, the room, & the drummer. Each set of circumstances being different. Did I mention the room?
I have always used the same method as Mr. Maxwell. When I learned how to tune long ago, it was explained to me that the batter gives you your note and the reso gives you the body (thud or boing) of the drum.
As Andy had mentioned, I tend to like a bit higher of a tuning on the toms, so this method has always worked for me and made me happy with the sounds I search for.
Gotta love drums, so many different ways to do the same thing.
I have tried the various methods and I always come back to tuning both heads to the same pitch. It seems to minimize the effect of the room since there are not 2 different pitches interacting and maximizes the sustain.
...batter transfers force from the point of impact(of striking 'object' including sound pressure waves) to the rest of the drum via direct mechanical interaction and sound pressure waves....and also acts as a resonant surface for reflected force waves through the shell and atmosphere.
...resonant head reflects sound pressure waves within the drum and the drum shell itself - and in the case of the snare, provides a surface for the snares to interact.
As far as "what they do"...I couldn't begin to interpret what you mean.. : )