Drum Tuning - How Often?

JustJames

Platinum Member
This is - hopefully - a slightly different drum tuning thread.

I've learnt how to get a sound that I like from my drums. There's a nice 'three blind mice' interval separation between the three toms. No basketball-y 'boing' sounds. A nice open boom to the bass drum (it's what I like), and medium tension on the Blackrolite snare. For me it's largely a case of set it and forget it. It took a little while to get the 13" tom dialled in when I swapped over the heads recently(ish), but since then I haven't found a need to revisit it.

But I see guys talking about re-tuning drums and, most confusing for me, I've seen references to tuning for the room, which I don't understand. I've never seen a guitarist tune for the room.

So, those of you who have above average tuning skillz, how/when/why do you see a need to re-tune your drums?
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
I'm another set it and forget it guy. I tune toms mostly for openness of the drum, feel from the head, and the intervals between. Bass drum follows the same pattern as toms (sans intervals since there's only one). Snare takes a bit more work but not a ton, and once it's where I like it, I don't have to screw around with it much. Really once things are set, they don't go out of tune very fast or often so outside of minor tweaks, things more or less stay right where they are.

On tuning for the room, I've never quite understood that approach either. Sure, they sound different in every room but not to the point where I feel like I need to do anything about it.

But maybe others understand something I don't. Wouldn't be the first time.
 
G

Ghostnote

Guest
How often? When they need it.

No set time frame between tuning, just when something starts to sound like it needs a tweak. Sometimes your drums will sound great in one room and not so great in another. If you can tweak the tuning to suit the acoustics of the room better, then that is all anyone means when they say they tune for the room.
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
How often? When they need it.

No set time frame between tuning, just when something starts to sound like it needs a tweak. Sometimes your drums will sound great in one room and not so great in another. If you can tweak the tuning to suit the acoustics of the room better, then that is all anyone means when they say they tune for the room.
+1.

Pretty much covers my thoughts, word for word.
 

porter

Platinum Member
How often? When they need it.
Yup. I try to keep all of my toms in tip-top tuning shape, so often I'll touch 'em up after a practice session. Tuning somewhat low and putting a lot of velocity in necessitates this, unfortunately. I've started trying lug locks on my tom resos, which seems to have a slight benefit.
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
My snare is the drum I futz with the most, which makes sense because I hit it the most. And I don't really tune it for the room so to speak, but I check it before I play, and occasionally it'll have a really glaring overtone or something about it just doesn't sound that appealing, so I might tune it a quarter-turn higher or lower for the session, just to get something different out of it.

Toms, I will check tuning every week or so.

One trick I use is that I leave all the tension rod heads turned perpendicular to the rim, so if one detunes slightly, it will be visually apparent.
 
I tune whenever they don't sound the way I like anymore. I know it sounds simple but thats really what it comes down to. sometimes its daily and other times less frequently depending on the temperature and humidity stability of where I have them set up. Spring and Fall when my HVAC is going back and forth between heat at night and cool during the day is the most frustrating time. Of course some drums are more sensitive to this then others, heads also.
 

makinao

Silver Member
I check the tuning (or "tensioning" as Buddy would say) whenever something doesn't sound right, or when I want a different sound. That main variables are pitch, resonance, or response.

I am not adverse to "tuning to the room". I played in church without mics once, and everything sounded muddy because of the reverb. So I tuned up the toms and snare a quarter turn, and added another cloth strip to the kick reso.
 

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
They gradually go out of tune as you play. Normally 1 or 2 tension rods per drum will shake loose and you'll notice the the head starting to growl or have a quick decay (and a lower pitch than usual).

When this happens I just get the drum key and test for loose rods, tightening them back up until the drum is playing the pitch it was before. Most of the time the other tension rods have held their place and this will get them 95% of the way back in tune. I do this at gigs all the time... if I'm at home practising I might be persuaded to undo all the tension rods and tune it back up again.
 

mikyok

Platinum Member
I'll check the toms everytime I set the kit up at a venue and make sure they're in tune, they're usually in tune or the floor tom might need a tweek, 10 lug floor toms are a pain in the arse!

Like most have already said, my snare gets the most attention. I do tune it up sometimes depending on the room to cut through the rest of the band. Failing that it's the lugs at 8:20 that come loose with general playing. I don't use lug locks, maybe I should try them.
 

Morrisman

Platinum Member
A quick check and a tweak every time I set them up. Tap around the lugs to see that they're still even. Check that the toms sound OK in the room - maybe take the batter up or down a notch.
Takes one minute while I'm getting ready to sound check or play.
 

WallyY

Platinum Member
I tune every day and almost all the time.
If I could tune for every song, I would.
I sometimes tune in the middle of a set, but when I tune, I don't put a lot of time into it. Mostly by feel. Twisting it up or down and once around the lugs is good for me.

That's with the nice drums. They are hard to make sound wrong. With the practice drums, I rarely change tuning other than the snare.

When tuning for the room, if the drums sustain like Santana, they get quickly tuned out of the boomy zone, and that sometimes means weird, "wrong" style tuning.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
Above average I don't know, but........

I have a certain thing I like and don't necessarily prescribe to the need to tune "traditionally" for any style(like there is such a thing. lol), but sometimes you have to.

Here comes also the question of kit size. A 12, 14, 18 4-piece sort of invites to do what is needed more than that big kit.

I mostly use house kits so far, so then tape removal, detune and sart from scratch is more or less the norm. :)
 

93civEJ1

Senior Member
I try to check mine before every gig and make tweaks as needed. I can tune by ear, but ive given in to the tunebot and have certain note frequencies that I enjoy my drums to be set at.
 

tcspears

Gold Member
How often? When they need it.

No set time frame between tuning, just when something starts to sound like it needs a tweak. Sometimes your drums will sound great in one room and not so great in another. If you can tweak the tuning to suit the acoustics of the room better, then that is all anyone means when they say they tune for the room.
I'm not a "tuning expert" by any stretch, but I can get my drums to sound the way I want them to. Once they stop sounding the way I like; it's time to tune!

In school they never really stressed tuning, but I knew plenty of kids that used pitch tuners and could tune drums to exactly the right pitches... to me it seemed a little ridiculous...
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
I subscribe to the Buddy Rich version of tensioning vs tuning because the distinction reflects the idea that tuning is sort of overstating what you're trying to do if you accept that drums are mostly atonal.

When I tune, I mostly rely on feel. I do listen for fullness of tone but once it's in that general range, it becomes more about even tension all around which I can feel just by how hard I have to twist the drumkey. Like Duck Tape, a quick once-around with the key and I can feel which ones have worked themselves loose and it's a pretty quick process to get them evened out without actually having to hear it.
 

lsits

Gold Member
I tune my "away" kit up before anytime I play in front of an audience. Yesterday when I set it up for rehearsal I did a couple of minor tweaks to the bass drum. I feel guilty about letting my "home" kit go for so long (about a month) without tuning it. I've got a gig this weekend so I'll probably get to it sometime next week. I've got to remove the heads and remove the dust and lint and chopped up pieces of drumstick that accumulates there. My "away" kit is not that much of a problem since it stays in bags whenever I'm not playing it.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
When I started playing ~2 years ago, I forced myself to tune (from scratch) once a week. It wasn't that I was out of tune, its that I needed to force myself to learn to tune and teach my ears what different tension ratios would do.

Now I simply tune whenever my ears tell me it is necessary.
 

Stroman

Platinum Member
While I agree the drum as a whole entity doesn't play a specific note, I seem to be sensitive to the head not being in tune with itself. I do tune heads to specific notes, sometimes, too.

I tune up the whole kit before gigs, and keep a key onhand all the time for minor tweaks, mostly keeping heads in tune with themselves.

As for tuning to a room, I usually don't need to change much. The snare needs attention more than other drums, but it's usually not a major change.

The one time I truly had to retune a drum, I was playing a gig in this mansion, and the band was set up on the landing of a huge staircase. For whatever reason, my 12" tom was at some sort of sympathetic frequency with the stairwell and rang for what seemed like 10 seconds or more. It was ridiculous, and lost all impact and definition. Changing the pitch a bit took care of it.
 
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