Tuning help please

HMNY

Silver Member
Firstly I apologise for what must be one of the most frequent thread titles on this forum, l have searched amongst the threads for information, most start off well, then digress, which is why I am asking for help under this title once again.

I would really appreciate some assistance in tuning my drums, I’ll be the first to admit I have no ear for tuning, nor should I, I have only just got back into drumming after a 25 year break, and last time I couldn’t tune them either!

So far I have learned that my kit has some pretty average Remo unicorn heads on the Toms, both Reso and batter, but I imagine that even these can have a better sound coaxed out of them, than what emits at present.

I have learned that you need to avoid going from lug to lug and adopt a star pattern what tuning to better tension the head.

I have also purchased a Drum Dial, a device that seems to really divide readers on DW. So far it’s confirmed that I seem to be quite good at getting the tensions at each lug pretty uniform, but what it has not done has made any improvement to the sound, which is why I am here.

I would like to ask for some pointers in the relationship between the two heads, in terms of tension, and how the interaction in tensions can create different sounds. I freely admit I could not tell an octave if it hit me over the head, but am willing to learn to further my knowledge.

I am sure there are other newbie drummers who would appreciate pointers and hints as well, so, thanking you in advance, I throw myself at your mercy…..
 

braincramp

Gold Member
I took a long lay-off too and really was never good at tuning drums until I got a new set and put on new heads...I have 2 methods I use the 1st and one I use most on toms and bass is the just above wrinkle method.. its all over the place including you-tube and is pretty easy..with my new drums I get booming cannons with a touch of slappy wetness but it sounds real good as long as its not too slappy n wet...the 2nd is to tune the resonant to medium tension (guessing 75-85) on your drum dial then tune batter up pretty tight and bring down evenly until I find the drums sweet spot...(you will know it when you find it).... snare is easy resonant tight batter med-tight..wires looser then I kept them 20 years ago .. so much depends on heads and edges..if your using old worn out heads it will never sound right..same goes if the edges are bad.. I suggest getting new evans G2 heads and trying the above wrinkle tuning and if you dont like it you can always go higher..
 

HMNY

Silver Member
Braincamp, thanks, this is very useful. I do fear I'll have to buy new heads, but will work with your methods to get familiar with the concepts.. By any chance, do you have a youtube link?

Thanks again
 

HMNY

Silver Member
Dogbreath, (Mr Dogbreath?), thanks for these links, I appreciate you taking the time to post, especially the Tom section, which leads to the link to the Tuning Bible which was more than I was looking for, but I can see will be some great background and insight into tuning. Thank you.
 

ahector

Senior Member
I'd like to chime in with this...

I’ll be the first to admit I have no ear for tuning
This is infinitely more important than what technique you use to tune the drums! Try to find an approach or a system that works for you (great links above), of course, but if you want to get better at it, the only way is to practice and develop your instincts and your ear.

Make tuning part of your routine. Do a little bit of it on a regular basis.
 

HMNY

Silver Member
Andy, good advice, thanks, one reason I want to keep plugging away with the not-so-good heads before letting myself loose on some good ones. Cheers
 

Homeularis

Gold Member
Andy, good advice, thanks, one reason I want to keep plugging away with the not-so-good heads before letting myself loose on some good ones. Cheers
Yeah, of course an ear and good technique are essential but I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that it sounds like you need new heads like right now.
"Remo Unicorn" heads?, never heard of em.

I am also trying to get better at tuning and theres nothing like starting with some good new heads.
I think trying to tune those (old?) heads may hurt your technique vs helping it. JMO.

Oh, and dont forget the reso (bottom) heads. Very important to change em all. I know, $$$$$$$!, but you gotta do it.

I'm still working on replacing all the stock heads on my 1 year old kit. I did the batter (top) heads (used Evans EC2's) like 2 months ago and just did the kick batter (used an Evans GMAD) last month.
Am now saving up for the tom resos and will do them within the next month.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Change your heads top and bottom. 10 mil single ply clear or coated for the reso. Top head is your choice. For single ply heads, 74 batters 83 resos is my standard formula. After that I fine tune by ear, but it doesn't need much. A 2 ply head, to sing the same note as a single ply at 74 has to be higher, somewhere in the 80's I believe.

This works for me on all toms. I prefer a medium high tuning for projection though.

3 schools of thought:

batter and reso at the same pitch (this sounds boring to me)
batter higher than reso (this sounds boingy to me)
reso higher than batter (gets that nice pitch bend I like with nice full tone)

YMMV

After all that there are 3 basic zones to tune them to, high, medium and low
My personal opinion is that drums should be tuned medium to medium high. This gives good projection and good head rebound.

Unmiced drums should be tuned higher to carry further, unless it's a really small room, like in someones house.

Then there's the whole muffling issue which I don't partake. (Except the kick)
An evenly tensioned tom with no muffling and the reso higher than the batter sounds very alive to me. Muffling, while it sounds good to the drummer, makes the toms sound dead just 5 feet away (unmiced)

There's an issue called comb filtering aka phase cancellation where frequencies from one head negate frequencies from the other head. Your drum will go through at least 1 of these zones on the way to it's final tension. If your drum sounds hollow and sickly, it's probably in one of these bad zones. Tensioning just one head different will get you out of that dead zone.
 

ahector

Senior Member
Andy, good advice, thanks, one reason I want to keep plugging away with the not-so-good heads before letting myself loose on some good ones. Cheers
Nice! That's my same philosophy. I only change heads when I want to record or maybe play a gig... but I still spend a lot of time trying to teach myself to tune with old heads that I've been playing for months and months. Homeularis is right... new heads sound a lot different from worn heads... but better? That's up for debate! Some people might want that mellower sound.

For me, and what I play, nothing beats brand spanking new heads, though.
 
Hi, anyone and everyone. I'm a total neophyte (sorry, but I hate the term "newbie") on these boards. I played drums from 5 until I was about 12, when I got tired of being assigned the ride cymbal or the bass or the snare, as opposed to playing a full kit, and I quit band. My sister pissed and moaned about me playing at home, so that got the kibosh too.

A couple years ago, my girlfriend got tired of me talking about how much I wished I'd kept playing the drums and bought me a set. I'm not going to say what brand; it's an el cheapo, but it was an immense gesture, on her part.

They kit has mahogany shells, on which I've put Remo pinstripe batters and Ambassador clear reso heads. The tubs have 45-degree bearing edges. I'm not sure the number of plies, but I can see clearly three variations (one light, one dark, one light) in wood color. Just for some perhaps pertinent info. And here come the questions...

My snare sounds like #$%@ without stuffing in it. The actual snare rattles and hums in a bad way, without the stuffing, and it warbles like mad. With the stuffing, it sounds nice and sharp, good attack and an I-could-march-with-this-thing kind of sound. Any ideas for why it sounds like garbage without the stuffing? Aside from "Your kit, by your own admission, is cheap"?

The toms ... I feel like I can get them to sound pretty good, but then I sit down days later and they, too, sound like #$%@. I have been tuning my reso heads slightly lower than my batter heads, about 76 batter and 74 reso. Like the OP, I've got a Drum Dial, but I only use it for fine tuning rods to within the same pressure range. Otherwise, I rely on my ears (which I say, without an ounce of ego, can recognize differences in pitch and tone, unlike the OP). All of my tubs are relatively in tune at both the reso and batter heads, yet still sometimes they ring oddly or they will start to sound dead.

Sorry this is getting so long winded ...

I always de-tune and then tune up ... so my tension rods shouldn't be prone to slippage, at least not obviously.

I suppose, bottom line, what I'm asking for is: Help!! What can I do? I'm not in the market for an upgrade of my kit. I just want to get the most out of it. And tuning has been hellish.

Thanks!
 

HMNY

Silver Member
MikeM,

Thanks, I have seen them, problem is for a newcomer, he makes it look all too easy, bada bing, bada boom and it's done (or for our British readers approaching middle age "Bish Bosh, loadsa dosh"!)

Comedy digressions aside I am going to watch again and again, I did try the lesson where one tunes the opposite lug, and it was very interesting how the smallest turn of the drum key can make such a difference.

Thanks for posting these.

Best regards
 

OrangeAgent27

Silver Member
This is what I do:

Put head on
Using two keys, turn each lug 1.5 turn.
From there, tap the lug at the 12 o' clock position, then tap the one at 6. Match the 6 to the pitch of the 12.

Repeat this process with the rest of the lugs. Matching them all to the 12.
Don't worry about equal tension, just get the same sound out of each lug.

Repeat this until you find the sound that produces a big resonant even sound.

Dampen to your liking from there.

I usually match my resonant and batter heads when tuning.
 

HMNY

Silver Member
More good info, thanks. When you mention dampening, would you do this by adjusting the head, or using some form of "external" damping like moongel etc?

Regards
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
Comedy digressions aside I am going to watch again and again,
Watch....and then DO, again and again.

There is only one way to become proficient at tuning your drums mate. The vid is excellent for showing you the process, but only by practice and repetition will you develop your own feel for it.

Personally, I'd dampen as a last resort. Best to learn how to tune properly first and then dampen as you see necessary. Don't use dampening as a 'band-aid' approach. There are certainly times where it's necessary, but to dampen because you haven't learned to tune out unwanted overtones etc, although it's the easy option, is a little backward for mine.
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
I've been playing for 30+ years and only recently (in the last year or two) became aware of this resource. I literally had my snare up on my computer desk with the speakers cranked up getting the top and bottom heads tensioned right where Bob puts his. Turns out that this tuning wasn't quite what my ideal sound was, but it was REALLY CLOSE. Close enough for me to take it from there and sound amazing. I'm still not above putting my snare back up on the computer table now and again if I'm doing new heads and don't have another snare handy for reference.

Tuning isn't easy or intuitive for a lot of drummers (dare I say most) so there's no shame in first getting onto the learning curve as an old geezer. You're in good company, and if you manage to get the hang of it, you'll be miles ahead of half the other drummers out there (at least half).
 

HMNY

Silver Member
Personally, I'd dampen as a last resort. Best to learn how to tune properly first and then dampen as you see necessary. Don't use dampening as a 'band-aid' approach. There are certainly times where it's necessary, but to dampen because you haven't learned to tune out unwanted overtones etc, although it's the easy option, is a little backward for mine.
Does this mean that once I have arrived at my desired tone/sound, if I wish to dampen I should then adjust just one lug, or all lugs until I arrive at my desired dampening, or am I missing how to dampen without moongels etc?

Thanks
 
Top