Standard head combinations for 5pc tama ?

Six string dave

New member
Ok, so kids are out of college, out of the house, and after 40 years of rocking 6 strings I've decided to buy myself a drum kit. I'm not a drummer, and I've never played. So I bought an old tama swingstar 5pc, complete with cymbals and hardware for 150 bucks. Set it up, and at the advice of some drummer buddies, I bought all new skins. Remo pinstripes for batter, and standard clear ambassador for reso heads.... and what a nightmare. Simply couldn't get them tuned, or a decent tone, and after 2 weeks of tweaking i broke down and ran to a local music store and bought coated ambassadors. Don't know If using coated heads as reso heads is a thing, but at least I was able to get something that didn't sound like to garbage pails tumbling down a flight of stairs.... and although I was able to get these heads to all get along and sound ok, I can't help assuming there are better choices. Maybe you guys can help me out with good known head combinations for an old 5pc kit running 12 13 and 16 inch toms. I've spent 2 weeks reading and watching videos, but being inexperienced, I don't quite have enough knowledge or hands on to look at 30 different drum heads and know what works well with these tama tom sizes. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
As Keith Moon said in Acid Queen, Welcome.

Drum manufacturers are faced with more drum heads than ever before, so they must decide how their drums will sound with a given standard drum head. For their better kits, Tama uses Evans G1 (10mil) or G2 (2x 10mil) clear batter heads over Evans G1 or Genera (10mil) clear resonant heads. I don't know what the equivalent heads are in the Remo or Aquarian line, but they offer them (and like guitarists, we have our favorite brands).

Seeing as you've already installed coated Ambassadors, you can learn to tune drums with those. The coating simply reduces stick attack and high frequency overtones, producing a more fundamental note. Some drummer like the sound, some don't. Regardless, you need to learn how to tune a drum so that, eventually, you will come to hear the differences in drum heads and learn which ones you like.

Your kit, perfect for beginners, won't have the stellar sound of a premium maple or birch kit, but you can still get good tones from the toms. That said, focus on learning to tune three drums: the snare, the bass and the 16" tom (the easiest of the three). For beginners, I recommend a Tune-bot. This helps you gets the drum in tune with itself and with that you'll know what that sounds like (and when it's out of tune). If you want to nerd-out on videos, start here. Bob Gatzen's videos are old, but detailed.

Have patience. Once you learn to tune that SwingStar, you'll be able to easily tune on any kit by ear.
 

Mongrel

Silver Member
To be honest...

You should have gotten *something* of a decent tone from NEW pinstripes and and NEW clear Ambassadors even on an old Tama Swingstar kit-UNLESS there was something wrong with the head itself (ALL of them bad? ahhhh....), or with the shell-bad bearing edges or out of round. Not knowing what procedures you went through it is impossible to tell.

As CB pointed out-Tama typically goes with an Evans G2/G1 combination, but there is nothing wrong with using coated Ambassadors as resonant or batter heads.

Before rushing out to buy even more new heads, maybe one of your drummer buddies could stop by and try his hand at tuning them up? They may be able to tell you if your shells are in good condition and your rims\hoops are not racked out of shape. You may not be able to get a sound that you "like" with what you have, but you should be able to get a "good" sound out of those drums with those heads.

You could try using the coated Ambassadors over the clear Ambassadors, but Pinstripes are usually *very* forgiving of shell inconsistencies because they are pre-muffled\eq'd and will remove many of the unpleasant overtones that can be the bain of cheap drums.

Just for reference-I have a Tama "Stagestar" kit, which are even lower level than a Swingstar I believe, and I can get a surprisingly good tone out of them with coated Ambassadors over coated Ambassadors.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
I don't quite have enough knowledge or hands on to look at 30 different drum heads and know what works well with these tama tom sizes. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
When you buy an electric guitar, I bet you put on a stock string like a D'Ad XL or GHS Boomer. You don't immediately put a set of gimmick strings on it like titanium or flat-wound. You want to see what the guitar sounds like, and then tailor the sound to accentuate it's positive attributes or dampen its negative attributes.

Drums are the same. Coated over clear Ambassadors (or G1) will tell you exactly what the drum set sounds like. If you find yourself using moon gel all the time, this indicates that you may want to use a control top, dot, or ring on that particular instrument.

To sum up... Coated over clear ambassadors 'first', then use the gimmick heads if you find them to be necessary. 90% of the time, using CoC is fine.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
If there is a local drum teacher, it may be worth dropping him/her $20 to come by and tune your drums and show you what to do before you tighten them up and then put rings and tape all over them (we've ALL been there!).
 

trickg

Silver Member
It has been my observation that what a kit sounds like to you behind the drums in a practice space, and what it sounds like in a live venue, are two different things. Some drummers want to hear that controlled, processed drum sound in the practice room, and that's ok, but achieving that sound in a practice space can sometimes lead to drums that sound boxy in a live setting.

With that in mind, there are a couple of things you could try that might help.

1.) Tune Bot. Get it, use it, love it. It seriously takes the guess work out of getting a drum tuned to sound good, and it gives you results that are repeatable. I grabbed one up when they were still pretty new a few years back, and even though I use my ear for fine tuning, the Tune Bot

2.) Evans G14 heads. Typically 2 ply batter heads are made from 7 mil film. The G14 is a single ply using 14 mil film. I suggest this because in my experience, 2-ply heads can sometimes be quirky in how they are tuned.

3.) EMAD on the kick + front port + internal dampening with a small pillow. If you want that processed sounding thump on your kit, this is one way to get it.

4.) Dampening. It's ok to dampen a drum head. It really is. Go back and look through photos of famous drummers. Before specialized, pre-dampened heads were in common use, drummers used felt strips that they'd cross over the last 3rd or 4th of a head. Try a set of Evans E-Rings, Aquarian Studio rings, or get some moon gel. This will cut out the over-ring and give you that processed "toooom" sound you are looking for.

There's nothing wrong with the heads you'd gotten though - Pinstripes over clear Ambassadors - that's a combination I've used, but you'll cut down on some of the ringiness with a coated resonant head. Still, try getting a Tune Bot, and try adding some dampening - that's probably going to give you a sound closer to what you're looking for.
 
You should have gotten *something* of a decent tone from NEW pinstripes and and NEW clear Ambassadors even on an old Tama Swingstar kit-UNLESS there was something wrong with the head itself
Not for granted. It took me years over years not to mess up my tuning with new heads. I simply wasn't able to put even tension to the tuning rods, and my ears were inexperienced to tell the tonal difference between 2 or more screws. Believe me, one can fail with tuning new heads ;)

Thankfully a helpful person invented Youtube to show me the correct tuning procedure (it must have been that way ;)). There are so many different videos that it should be easy to develope a personal way of tuning after studying some of those.

Nevertheless I came across Drum Dial a couple of years ago. Not that it makes my tuning better, but I have gotten much quicker now. The fine tuning is still done by ear though.
 

Six string dave

New member
Thanks for all the replies and suggestions. After a few days of fussing about, I think Im off to a much better start.

I bought this kit used, complete. 5 pc Swingstar Taiwan, 12,13,16,22, and a Pearl EX snare. It came with all of the original TAMA branded cymbals, 14 inch hats, 16 inch crash, and a 20 inch ride - all in a sabian cymbal bag, plus the cymbals setup with the kit. Paiste 14 inch hi-hats, Sabian 20 inch ride & 16 inch crash with a zildjan 16 in crash and 12 inch splash, all on Tama roadpro stands. 150 bucks, thanks you facebook marketplace. Dirty as hell, but surprisingly no pitting on any of the hardware.

I couldnt tune the toms for shit, no matter what i tried. after a week or so I posted here, completely frustrated. So the clear ambassadors i originally put on, all had small cuts just below the bead and Im guessing thats what most likely made them sound like plastic garbage pails being thrown down a flight of stairs. About 1 1/4 inch perfectly straight custs in all three Reso heads, so I can only assume that I somehow boogered them each up the same identical way while mounting them, and simply didnt catch it. ahem. alrighty.


So i threw the coated ambassadors on, since it was all I could get locally, and I am grossly impatient.

As Keith Moon said in Acid Queen, Welcome.

Your kit, perfect for beginners, won't have the stellar sound of a premium maple or birch kit, but you can still get good tones from the toms. That said, focus on learning to tune three drums: the snare, the bass and the 16" tom (the easiest of the three). For beginners, I recommend a Tune-bot. This helps you gets the drum in tune with itself and with that you'll know what that sounds like (and when it's out of tune). If you want to nerd-out on videos, start here. Bob Gatzen's videos are old, but detailed.

Have patience. Once you learn to tune that SwingStar, you'll be able to easily tune on any kit by ear.
so i checked out tunebot, and went an ordered one, along with a drum dial and a few other odds and ends. so as i read all he tune bot docs, checked out the tuning charts, and presets, I figured wtf, I can do this now. An hour later, Ive got a not so sleak or streamlined surplus frequency counter sampling from a butchered pressure mic, and Im tuning up my kit to the settings listed in the tunebot chart for a 3 tom kit suing 12, 13 an 16 inch drums. This frustrated me for days. My 13 inch tom simply will not tune happily to anything lower than 92hz, and the tunebot chart, as well as most of their suggested settings all call for 87-92hz. Running the 12 inch tom at 110 and the 13 at 87 was out. That 13 just wasnt having anything lower than 92 in any way, shape, form, or flavor. didnt matter how i tensioned the heads, that 13 has a workable range about the width of a butterfly fart. I found the artist tunings, and luckily for me, out of the 300 they have listed on the site (not really 300 ...) I found the setting for the ONE 3 tom 12,13,16 kit on the entire website. You would think if they have only endorsed 1 player runing that setup, theyd have used those settings on their chart. Anyway, 124 for the 12 inch 114 for the 13 and 65/42 for the floor tom and kick. I would never had thought to go that high with the 12, but since the tuning range of that 13 is so effing narrow, I had no choice. It was the only thing that worked with the 13, and still sounded proper. IE - tuned to a proper interval, and then fine tuned to where each tom sounded its sweetest.

Overall, It took me just about 2 weeks to get this kit running properly. Solely due to my own inexperience, being slightly overwhelmed with trying to sift through a vast amount of information while being not so sure where to start and what to look for, and my particular brand of ocd perfection issues.

End result is a 20 something year old Tama kit in fantastic shape with great hardware, passable cymbals all new skins, tuned up proper and sounding good enough, that hearing this kit as it is now, with strings and vocals would completely escape grabbing anyones attention. And I by that, I mean these drums sound about as good as they are capable of sounding, (head choice and tonal variations exlcuded) they will neither catch your attention by being an awesome sounding kit, and they certainly woudlnt cause any impression of cheap, crappy, out of key or out of tune. no buzzing, rattling, dead spots, and after a little fine tuning, the snare sounds perfectly average.

150 for the kit, about 100 bucks for the heads, 3 pair of 2b hickory on the cheap for 10 bucks, and about 15 bucks in misc supplies. Little bit of Nevr Dull for the hardware, some White lithium grease for everything with threads, and some coffee pot cleaner. Commercial coffee pot cleaner is about the strongest non bleaching or acidic cleaner you can get, and its non toxic. Worked well for cleaning the lug threads. I had quite a few that were a bit gummy, and prevented smooth tension on the heads while tuning. Im sure some of you restoration guys have used it on the past, but if not, it works wonders.

so 175 bucks in, I've got a decent kit that is capable of far more than I could throw at it, and Ive had a blast for the past 2 weeks cleaning, tuning, and learning all the basics. With 40+ years playing guitar, Im a bit disappointed that I hadnt bought a drum kit decades ago.

thanks again for all the suggestions.
 

Mongrel

Silver Member
Not for granted. It took me years over years not to mess up my tuning with new heads. I simply wasn't able to put even tension to the tuning rods, and my ears were inexperienced to tell the tonal difference between 2 or more screws. Believe me, one can fail with tuning new heads ;)

Thankfully a helpful person invented Youtube to show me the correct tuning procedure (it must have been that way ;)). There are so many different videos that it should be easy to develope a personal way of tuning after studying some of those.

Nevertheless I came across Drum Dial a couple of years ago. Not that it makes my tuning better, but I have gotten much quicker now. The fine tuning is still done by ear though.
My point was-if you can't get a decent sound out of new Pinstripes and new Ambassadors....

The problem isn't the heads so don't waste money on new "new" heads until you can get something of a tune out of the heads you have....

😉
 

srmckinney

New member
As Keith Moon said in Acid Queen, Welcome.

Drum manufacturers are faced with more drum heads than ever before, so they must decide how their drums will sound with a given standard drum head. For their better kits, Tama uses Evans G1 (10mil) or G2 (2x 10mil) clear batter heads over Evans G1 or Genera (10mil) clear resonant heads. I don't know what the equivalent heads are in the Remo or Aquarian line, but they offer them (and like guitarists, we have our favorite brands).

Seeing as you've already installed coated Ambassadors, you can learn to tune drums with those. The coating simply reduces stick attack and high frequency overtones, producing a more fundamental note. Some drummer like the sound, some don't. Regardless, you need to learn how to tune a drum so that, eventually, you will come to hear the differences in drum heads and learn which ones you like.

Your kit, perfect for beginners, won't have the stellar sound of a premium maple or birch kit, but you can still get good tones from the toms. That said, focus on learning to tune three drums: the snare, the bass and the 16" tom (the easiest of the three). For beginners, I recommend a Tune-bot. This helps you gets the drum in tune with itself and with that you'll know what that sounds like (and when it's out of tune). If you want to nerd-out on videos, start here. Bob Gatzen's videos are old, but detailed.

Have patience. Once you learn to tune that SwingStar, you'll be able to easily tune on any kit by ear.
Drumeo has many videos on tuning drums by ear. It is not difficult after you learn the basics. And remember heads wear out over time.
 
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