Term Confusion

I'm once again tying to increase my tuning skill ability. I can get a good sound out of my kit, but only at one pitch. A few videos I've seen say that most drums have three pitches that you can tune the drum to...low medium and high. I've only been able to get medium to sound half decent.

I've come across lots of videos and posts where the following words are thrown around (I'm sure sometimes incorrectly)-

Overtones
Resonance
Pitch
Key

What I've come up with from reviewing all of this is each drum has an overall pitch that can be tuned to three sub pitches-low, medium, high. Once the drum is tuned the resonance is the projection (extended sound) that comes out of the drum. If you have the bottom and top drum heads out of whack you get these strange overtones instead of a clear lasting sound (without warbling).

Can someone tell me if the above is the right use of the terms?

Also I've only been able to tune my toms with the top and bottom being the same pitch. Once I go high or lower on either of them the overtones take over and they sound horrible. Any thoughts on this?

Thanks for any replies!!
 

bobdadruma

Platinum Member
Toms have a limited tuning range.
From the point that is just above wrinkle I find that there is a range that is only about one full turn of the tension rods before the drum chokes.
Overtones are generated after the drum is struck. The resonate head produces most of them. The resonate head is also responsible for most of the resonance.
Most toms sound their best at medium tension with the resonate heads equal to, or slightly higher in pitch of the batter.
Low range is about 1/4 turn above wrinkle.
Medium range is about 1/2 turn above wrinkle
High range is about 3/4 turn above wrinkle.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
What I've come up with from reviewing all of this is each drum has an overall pitch that can be tuned to three sub pitches-low, medium, high.
No overall pitch and no sub pitches. There's just the pitch that the drum is tuned to, and the pitch you want it tuned to: very high, very low, or anywhere in between.

Once the drum is tuned the resonance is the projection (extended sound) that comes out of the drum.
Resonance is an element of the tone quality of any sound at all. A long, full sound could be described as resonant, and a short, flat sound as not very resonant.

If you have the bottom and top drum heads out of whack you get these strange overtones instead of a clear lasting sound (without warbling).
It's more important to get each head in tune with itself- equal tension all the way around the head. If you can do that, you should be able to get a reasonable sound. I've always basically set and forgot my bottom heads- I tune them pretty tight no matter what I'm doing with the top heads. Try that.

Also I've only been able to tune my toms with the top and bottom being the same pitch. Once I go high or lower on either of them the overtones take over and they sound horrible.
For one thing, to tune a drum to a lower pitch than at present you need to detune the head completely and bring it up to the level you want it; don't tune it medium and then loosen it directly to the lower tuning. Always tune up to the pitch you want.

Oh, and key has nothing whatever to do with tuning drums, unless you're attempting to tune your drums to exact pitches, like from a piano.
 
Try looking up the "Overtone Series" on google and see if you can find a good article on it. That will help you out with understanding overtones.

There are many fundamental pitches any particular drum can be tuned to. However, each drum has a number of different ranges (or tuning zones, as drum tuning expert Bob Gatzen calls them) where they really come alive in (probably based on the fundmental resonating pitch of the drums shell). Hope that helps.
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
Think of "low, medium and high" as being the tension of the head as opposed to any specific target pitch. They are a rough guide to how tight or loose the head is, the pitch they produce at each point (and anywhere in between) is secondary. The idea is to equally tension each lug until you hear a pitch you like.....for some this just means stopping when they hear a sound they're happy with, for others it means arriving at a precise note.

You can indeed get a pitch bend by tuning one head higher or lower than the other, but this doesn't automatically equate to horrible overtones at all. Horrible overtones are "usually" a sign of a drum head that is not in tune with itself.....but then again some drum are just bitches to tune. I used to have a snare drum that was prone to squealing overtones no matter how well I tuned it. This is where head selection (ie. choosing the right pre-muffled head) come into play.

As Todd said, half the battle is having the head in tune with itself. To do this you need equal tension at each lug. As long as that is acheived then the head is deemed to be in tune with itself and you can play around with the relationship between the batter and reso head accordingly. Equal tension between the two will provide the maximum resonance. For a shorter note (less sustain) experiment with a batter head that is not tensioned as high as the reso head. Then try the opposite approach. Note the effect the pitch bend has on the sustain.....yet the drum is still in tune. Where you take it from there (how much or how little) then comes down to personal choice.
 
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harryconway

Platinum Member
What kind of kit do you have? That makes a big difference, in the "range" each drum will have.​
By far, the Zickos drums I owned had the widest tuning range, of any make/model drum, I have ever owned. I had four 14x10 rack toms, and I was able to spread them (tuning wise) to basically cover a 12, 13, 14, 16 standard tuning range. Not an easy feat, for most drums. So, that said, if you're playing a DW kit .... or a Yamaha Recording Custom .... you're probably gonna have a better chance of getting "quality" high, medium, low out of your drums .... than if you're wrestling with a $500 beginner/intermediate level kit.​
Heads, another huge variable. What type heads are you using? And how old are they? Don't even try to do fancy stuff with old, worn out heads.​
 
Thanks that makes good sense.

Think of "low, medium and high" as being the tension of the head as opposed to any specific target pitch. They are a rough guide to how tight or loose the head is, the pitch they produce at each point (and anywhere in between) is secondary. The idea is to equally tension each lug until you hear a pitch you like.....for some this just means stopping when they hear a sound they're happy with, for others it means arriving at a precise note.

You can indeed get a pitch bend by tuning one head higher or lower than the other, but this doesn't automatically equate to horrible overtones at all. Horrible overtones are "usually" a sign of a drum head that is not in tune with itself.....but then again some drum are just bitches to tune. I used to have a snare drum that was prone to squealing overtones no matter how well I tuned it. This is where head selection (ie. choosing the right pre-muffled head) come into play.

As Todd said, half the battle is having the head in tune with itself. To do this you need equal tension at each lug. As long as that is acheived then the head is deemed to be in tune with itself and you can play around with the relationship between the batter and reso head accordingly. Equal tension between the two will provide the maximum resonance. For a shorter note (less sustain) experiment with a batter head that is not tensioned as high as the reso head. Then try the opposite approach. Note the effect the pitch bend has on the sustain.....yet the drum is still in tune. Where you take it from there (how much or how little) then comes down to personal choice.
 
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