Drummers that can't tune drums.

jimb

Member
Was a bassist for 30 yrs and I'm wondering if there are parallels to be drawn between bass and drums.

I'm newish to drums but I'm guessing undamped highly tuned drums which on stage sound noisy and thin with overtones everywhere will bloom into a full frequency tone in the crowd.

Always found a rich and lush bass tone on stage was lost in a trice out front and specially so when a place filled with people, hence why I played a P bass with its pushy low mid range, but I had to keep the bass knob on the amp way down.
 

Lee-Bro

Senior Member
Honestly, we're way too over-obsessed with tuning our drums and worrying about audience. The audience is watching and listening to front person or the major instruments like horns or guitars or keys. NO ONE in audience gives a rats arse about how your drums sound they don't care they're not listening. They get jazzed about a drum solo and how fast it is, but tuning and how your drums sound? You got wayyyy too much ego if you really think anybody in audience except other drummers are listening to how your kit is tuned with a critical ear.

Not so with a recording, though.
I respectfully disagree, particularly with the parts I highlighted. I've been to gigs to check out bands and/or friends and have overheard patrons comment that the drums sound bad. And these weren't fellow musicians, from what I could tell.

Do I think most (99.99%) people we perform in front of not care about "the drum sound?" Yes, I would agree with that. But when a kit is painfully bad sounding, it does get noticed.

There is a 1 drummer in my area who tunes his toms incredibly high, uses Remo muffles, and he uses a 12"x5" (maybe 4.5") snare that's cranked to the "poying" level of sound. And it's absolutely painful to hear him play*. And he's one of the drummers who I've heard people comment negatively about his drum sound. *As a sidenote, he's yet again looking for a band
 

WallyY

Platinum Member
Honestly, we're way too over-obsessed with tuning our drums and worrying about audience. The audience is watching and listening to front person or the major instruments like horns or guitars or keys. NO ONE in audience gives a rats arse about how your drums sound they don't care they're not listening. They get jazzed about a drum solo and how fast it is, but tuning and how your drums sound? You got wayyyy too much ego if you really think anybody in audience except other drummers are listening to how your kit is tuned with a critical ear.

Not so with a recording, though.
Disagree—

It's not about ego, it's about doing all the little things that add up to an intangible essence of better.
You don't have to tell anybody or talk about it, but if you don't think in terms of every little thing a little bit better, it might as well be every little thing a little bit whatever.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Honestly, we're way too over-obsessed with tuning our drums and worrying about audience. The audience is watching and listening to front person or the major instruments like horns or guitars or keys. NO ONE in audience gives a rats arse about how your drums sound they don't care they're not listening. They get jazzed about a drum solo and how fast it is, but tuning and how your drums sound? You got wayyyy too much ego if you really think anybody in audience except other drummers are listening to how your kit is tuned with a critical ear.

Not so with a recording, though.
I agree with this mostly. I tune the drums for ME. If I am happy with the sounds I'm getting, I like it way better. If that makes it sound better in the audience, I'll take it. As was said, not that many people pay attention to the drum sound. The feel is another discussion.

However...personally....

I feel it's my duty to give them the best sound I can get. It doesn't matter to me if they don't pay attention. I'm giving them the best I can anyway, because I can. I do think a really killer drum sound makes a difference to people, even if they don't admit it, or even realize it. It adds to the good time. It's my job to know these things, not theirs. I'm not looking for adulation, I am looking to satisfy MY ears.
 

Tone Laborer

Senior Member
Some of the new digital mixers with USB recording can be pretty hip. Record the sound check, go out front and hear exactly what your kit sounds like with you playing it, in that room, through that PA. Brave new world.
 
I have been asked by a lot of guys about tuning and I think where most people fall down is they listen to the drum on its own and get over concerned about over tones and forget about the context of cymbals and the rest of the kit going also competing with other instruments. So a bit of nastyness can be needed to get it to cut. When I tune i try to get maximum horsepower if you like from the kit. Also I find people start worrying about fine tuning over tones to early in the tuning process. I would describe tuning as casting your net wide at the beginning and bringing it in to smaller nuances at the end ie small increments up where the drum is resonant and where the tension is right rebound, then work on the relationship between top and bottom head, then work on its context of the other drums and finally work fine tuning the resonance. I find you will drive yourself mad worrying about fine tuning resonance when it is not in right general area. Finally embrace over tones. That's my 2 cents hopefully it is of some help. Just how i approach it.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
You'd let some dude tune your drums on stage just before you start playing at a gig? Really???
Yea, it's really not that important to me. I can fix that kind of thing pretty quick if they screw it up, and with all honestly, I just don't think anyone cares what my drums sound like to that minutia... Once the music starts it's mostly out the window for a lot of styles. If a sound guy doesn't like the way I have things tuned, he's not going to make me sound good in that tuning anyway, so I'd probably let him have a go.

Like I say, it hasn't happened yet though... They usually just put the mic up and ask me to hit it a few times while they fiddle with knobs. For them to want to change my kit it must have some problem that's pretty severe.
 

Rattlin' Bones

Gold Member
Honestly, we're way too over-obsessed with tuning our drums and worrying about audience. The audience is watching and listening to front person or the major instruments like horns or guitars or keys. NO ONE in audience gives a rats arse about how your drums sound they don't care they're not listening. They get jazzed about a drum solo and how fast it is, but tuning and how your drums sound? You got wayyyy too much ego if you really think anybody in audience except other drummers are listening to how your kit is tuned with a critical ear.

Not so with a recording, though.
 

Rattlin' Bones

Gold Member
You'd let some dude tune your drums on stage just before you start playing at a gig? Really???

Honestly, if someone wants to tune my drums for me, go for it. It's really not that hard to fix and if they're that confident, they might make em sound pretty good.

It's still never been offered as a service to me though.. =(
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
Honestly, if someone wants to tune my drums for me, go for it. It's really not that hard to fix and if they're that confident, they might make em sound pretty good.

It's still never been offered as a service to me though.. =(
 

BruceW

Senior Member
There is one sound guy here locally that I would let tune my drums if he wanted to, he's a fellow drummer and good friend. And he would ask first anyway.

But in general...nope.
 

trickg

Silver Member
I know this is an old thread, but if sound dude tried to do that to me before a gig, an ambulance would be needed to cart his arse to hospital.
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Yeah right let a sound guy at a gig re-tune my drums before we play. Right.
Same, but I wasn't going to be the first to say it. I've never had complaints about my kit not sounding good though. To the contrary, I can't tell you the number of times I've been complimented on how my drums sound, but I've always taken the time to tune them well.
 

Rattlin' Bones

Gold Member
I know this is an old thread, but if sound dude tried to do that to me before a gig, an ambulance would be needed to cart his arse to hospital. 90% of sound guys have mix turned up so hot it hurts audiences ears for anybody within 50 feet of front of stage. If drums are mic'd they have snare as loudest instrument on stage. None of them understand I need my main ride cymbal mic'd, if anything. My snare - don't go near it with a mic. Yeah right let a sound guy at a gig re-tune my drums before we play. Right.

I've known dozens of drummers over the years. Most of them could play circles around me. Most of them could tune, at least after a fashion.

I can count on one hand the number who could properly manipulate the sounds their instrument made.

For a while I worked sound at a large-ish and rather popular bar. Every time - every single time - a new act came in to play, I'd have to spend an hour telling their drummer to sit down over there, have a beer, watch and learn. I'd tear every head off the kit, remove all their junk/gunk/foam, and patiently reassure them as they grew more and more frantic that I was ruining everything.* After I'd tune their drums, I'd have them go stand in the audience's space while I jammed a couple dozen bars with the other band members.

100% of the time they'd freak. About 80% of the time they'd have an epiphany and commit to learning how to actually make their instruments sound good. (The other 20% were too ego-driven to change their ways. There was one older player who liked that 70s cardboard-box sound so much he told me he wouldn't change if I was Jenna Jameson offering him a hummer.)

The whole point to this is that drums sound different when you're behind them vs. in front, in the mix. Ensuring that they recognize what their instrument sounds like when it's properly tuned and live in the mix was the key to that epiphany.

Most drummers go to great lengths to make their kits sound good to them, or like their favorite drummer's recordings. Trouble is, the sound one hears in the mix is hardly ever anything like what you hear behind the kit. That's just acoustically; I was glad when a drummer started coming to our local open mic (where my drums aren't mic'ed at all), so I could hear my kit from the house. It's especially different when you mic everything up and start throwing electronics in the chain from strike to ear.

So keep doing what you're doing, Thaard. You're doing a Good Thing.

* It didn't help that I told them I was ruining everything - everything they were doing wrong. ;-) Sometimes I'd resort to ridicule, especially when they got snippy with me. I'd do things like point to the lead guitarist and say, "He knows how to tune his instrument. Why don't you?"
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
Thread should maybe rather be "drummers who don't tune the way I like to tune" because even JAW is honestly a valid sound just as anything else is. Comes down to preference.
 

KEEF

Senior Member
I know that I'm not really good at tuning my drums. I get a decent sound out of them, which is reinforced any time another player sits in on my kit. Still, its not "right".

Certainly a lack of practice and experimentation. I don't have the place to play with my acoustic kit at home without disturbing people, so the only time I get to do anything with my drums is at a gig. And of course there is very little time to mess with them at a gig. Such is my life. Not an excuse, simply the reason I haven't gotten any better at it. Fortunately they still sound pretty good, all things considered.
This is me in a nutshell.... I wish i had the time and facilities to sit and noodle for hours getting a 'perfect' drum tone but alas........
I too am considering a tune bot purchase.
 

IDDrummer

Platinum Member
It's not so much the loss as the tinnitus.

What sounds good to my ears sounds horrible to others.

It wasn't a problem when I was tuning my drums from 12 years old through twenty.

To be clear, I can't hear the crappy overtones at all over my own ears ringing. I'm lucky if I can hear my snares buzzing.......
I understand! I have tinnitus as well as substantial loss in certain frequency ranges, especially high frequencies. The result is, what sounds good to me often sounds tinny or harsh to others. The TuneBot really should help you avoid a lot of the errant, discordant high frequencies.

Still, now that I know what I'm shooting for, I can tune fairly well by ear, so there is hope. And where there ain't hope, there's tools. lol
 

goalie

Junior Member
I don't know that it's just like telling someone who is blind to watch movies better, but I know from experience that hearing loss can make it difficult to hear all the frequencies you need to. The TuneBot should help some with that.

Still, even with significant hearing loss, you will likely be able discern the difference between a good sounding drum and a lousy sounding drum with some practice. Some really important factors fall under what I think of as gross listening skills - if you can hear the drum, you can probably hear some of the differences to pay attention to.
It's not so much the loss as the tinnitus.

What sounds good to my ears sounds horrible to others.

It wasn't a problem when I was tuning my drums from 12 years old through twenty.

To be clear, I can't hear the crappy overtones at all over my own ears ringing. I'm lucky if I can hear my snares buzzing.......
 
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IDDrummer

Platinum Member
I read a lot of "just learn how to do it by ear" posts.

I know I'm not the only military/ex-military guy here with significant hearing issues related to really loud noises, sometimes indoors.

What I think sounds good usually sounds hideous to everyone else.

I just ordered a tune-bot, and am hoping that it helps.

But, in the end, some people's hearing sucks. And not in a way that they can train to not suck. Think about trying to tell someone who's legally blind to learn to watch movies better.

It's like that.
I don't know that it's just like telling someone who is blind to watch movies better, but I know from experience that hearing loss can make it difficult to hear all the frequencies you need to. The TuneBot should help some with that.

Still, even with significant hearing loss, you will likely be able discern the difference between a good sounding drum and a lousy sounding drum with some practice. Some really important factors fall under what I think of as gross listening skills - if you can hear the drum, you can probably hear some of the differences to pay attention to.
 

IDDrummer

Platinum Member
Does a grand piano sound different from the seat than to the audience and if so would you tune it differently?
Of course it sounds different, but the fallacy in your example is that "tuning" drums changes much more than the pitch of the instrument. It changes the actual quality of the sound.

That said, I would only tune to a room if the room had some very drastic effect on the drum sound. I have experienced that before, and adjusting to the idiosyncrasies of the room helped. BTW, I'm talking about unmic'd gigs here. Sound reinforcement levels the field somewhat, as far as room sound goes.
 
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