Tuning to pitches...yes? no?

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Inspired by an opinion from Boltzmann's brain...

Is tuning to pitches something you do, or don't do? Talking strictly toms here. I contend that no matter where a tom ends up, it has some kind of pitch, it's inescapable. So my thinking is, why not make the pitches complement their fellow toms, rather than the alternative. In my experience, a well tuned drum with 2 cleared heads makes a definite fundamental note. I find a drum has multiple sweet spot tunings, and multiple non-sweet/phase cancelling/castrated tunings.

Every tom I know has at least one good high, medium, and low tuning. Plus some fine in between tunings mixed in with some not so fine dead zone tunings. For instance I love my high and low toms at the same note only different octaves, and the middle tom either a 4th or 5th below the high tom, so when I do a descending run down the toms, it's "chord" sounds like it resolves.

Mr. Boltzmann, I am not attacking, but I wouldn't mind debating the matter. (offers peace pipe)
 

spleeeeen

Platinum Member
Yes, much like you described. Not only do multiple tom patterns/fills sound more pleasing, you avoid dissonance when playing two toms simultaneously. A guy named Clint wrote some great posts about this approach back in the day.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Everything that resonates has a pitch. If the question is do I tune to a keyboard or pitch pipe no. I will however do my best to tune the toms so that they are in tune with each other. If I hit 2 at the same time they will produce a chord. And as you say a run on the drums will have the characteristics of a chord of 3 or more notes depending on the number of toms
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
No, not really. It isn't hard for me to pick out a pleasing tone as I slowly tune up a drum. Once I get it, I stop.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
No, not really. It isn't hard for me to pick out a pleasing tone as I slowly tune up a drum. Once I get it, I stop.
OK each drum is making a pleasing tone on it's own But do you adjust them to each other so the tones have a scale relationship to one another?

Sometimes I use a pitch pipe sometimes I don't. But they always have a root/4th or 5th/root/ pitch relationship.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
Firstly, I only use two toms, and they aren't close to each other in terms of size.

Main kit: (birch)
HT is 12x7
FT is 16x16

Secondary kit: (mahogany/birch i think)
10x8 HT
14x12 FT.

So typically, I go for a short but almost "boingy" note on the high tom and then a super grumbly low rumble on the floor. They are really nowhere near each other, which is how I like it. G2 over G1 coated on both.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
OK gotcha. Different tuning approach for just 2 toms, I concur.
I actually know a lot of guys who use two toms and tune them very close to one another, but I don't really like the effect, myself. I'd rather just drop the high tom and use dynamics, accents and different strokes to pull different sounds out of the big floor tom.
 

konaboy

Pioneer Member
Everything that resonates has a pitch. If the question is do I tune to a keyboard or pitch pipe no. I will however do my best to tune the toms so that they are in tune with each other. If I hit 2 at the same time they will produce a chord. And as you say a run on the drums will have the characteristics of a chord of 3 or more notes depending on the number of toms
Same here. I don't tune to specific notes, I tune to what sounds good to my ear. I usually start with my 10" tom and find a tone that sounds good then tune my 12" to a pitch that compliments the tone of the 10". As for the FT I tune that to a sweet low tone so it has a nice tone with good bottom end!
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Same here. I don't tune to specific notes, I tune to what sounds good to my ear. I usually start with my 10" tom and find a tone that sounds good then tune my 12" to a pitch that compliments the tone of the 10". As for the FT I tune that to a sweet low tone so it has a nice tone with good bottom end!
You say you don't tune to specific notes but then you say you tune the 12 to the 10, which seems to contradict your original statement. It sounds to me like you do tune to notes on the rack toms, even if you don't know exactly what notes they are. Is that a fair statement?
 

konaboy

Pioneer Member
You say you don't tune to specific notes but then you say you tune the 12 to the 10, which seems to contradict your original statement. It sounds to me like you do tune to notes on the rack toms, even if you don't know exactly what notes they are. Is that a fair statement?
Yeah I guess. I'm not tuning to a specific note with a tuner or pitch pipe on any of my drums, just tuning to find the best pitch for each drum then a complimentary pitch that sounds good with the preceding drum. So I guess I do tune to notes just not specific ones.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
I think there's more than one concept under discussion here.

Tuning to a pitch means, at least to me, tuning to a specific note. Talking about the fundamental note of a tom here. In other words, tuning my 8x12 tom to a C#.

The other concept is tuning to intervals between toms. So a minor third or a perfect fourth, etc.

My answer is I think both are worth considering. I think intervals are more important. I like a perfect fourth between toms. It ensures I don't get any weird interval like a tritone that might just sound bad if I play the toms in unison (which I sometimes do).

I also like choosing specific notes sometimes. I find it a) makes it easy to get the same sound every time I change heads (assuming I want to do that) and b) can sometimes complement the music. What I mean is that tuning to notes in the same key the song is in can make things sound good. Or avoid making them sound off, more importantly.
 
G

gf2564

Guest
Same here. I don't tune to specific notes, I tune to what sounds good to my ear. I usually start with my 10" tom and find a tone that sounds good then tune my 12" to a pitch that compliments the tone of the 10". As for the FT I tune that to a sweet low tone so it has a nice tone with good bottom end!
Yep, this is the way I have always done it regardless of the number of toms I use. I wouldn't know a pitch pipe from a bong pipe; well that was a little extreme, I did grow up in the '60's and early '70's! I have always just tuned them in relationship to each other where I think they sound good.
After all of these years experimenting, I have settled on two up and two down and try to make a nice transition (to my ears anyway) between them. I am sure there is pitch, notes and other things involved, but I sure couldn't tell you what they are!
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
You say you don't tune to specific notes but then you say you tune the 12 to the 10, which seems to contradict your original statement. It sounds to me like you do tune to notes on the rack toms, even if you don't know exactly what notes they are. Is that a fair statement?
Larry when he says notes, he means the 10 isn't a C and the 12 an A#. Just tune the 10 to a pleasant sound and then the 12 to a corresponding sound. AS we know music A=440 frequency and the other notes fall in order. His 10 inch tom may be 398 and his 12 may be 298. Not true notes as we know them. But as I first said, anything that resonates has a tone or pitch just not standard music notes.
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
Usually I would tune the middle tom first, then tune the higher and lower ones to compliment the initial tom I tuned. When I was done I would start at the lowest tom and work my way up, making sure they sounded like the first 4 notes in Sir Duke.

I can't really do that with my current setup, as my toms are 8,10, 16, 18. So what I do now is tune the 8 & 10 to compliment each other, and do the same with the 16 & 18. Then I make sure that the 10 & 16 make a pleasing in between note when struck together. This way any ascending or descending rolls sound somewhat fluid. Basically when I play, I see the kit as having two sets of toms, a high set and a low set. It makes for some interesting fill ideas.
 

New Tricks

Platinum Member
I just checked my acoustic toms and, small to large, they are tuned approximately to D2, A1 and D1

No matter what you do, someone at some time is going to end up playing a note that doesn't work with the toms (unless you have a boatload of toms) but, if you pick whole notes and tune to them, your chances of fitting in will be greater.

It seems to me that a large percentage of songs are played in C so, tuning based on that would also theoretically increase the chance of fitting in. Of course that means my toms are not going to sound good most of the time :)
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I kind of prefer a drumset to be in tune with itself, but if it happens to clash with the key of certain songs, I don't think that's a bad thing. OTOH, when drums are tuned to the pitch of the song, that can sound really good. So you can't go wrong as far as the pitch of the song is concerned, JMO, and even if the drums aren't tuned to each other, this dissonance can definitely work too, so there's really no wrong way.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
I read somewhere that when there is time this is done in the studio. Toms tuned for the song. but live it's not possible unless you pneumatic bearing edges with a tube in your mouth. Whatever happened to that guy
 

konaboy

Pioneer Member
Larry when he says notes, he means the 10 isn't a C and the 12 an A#. Just tune the 10 to a pleasant sound and then the 12 to a corresponding sound. AS we know music A=440 frequency and the other notes fall in order. His 10 inch tom may be 398 and his 12 may be 298. Not true notes as we know them. But as I first said, anything that resonates has a tone or pitch just not standard music notes.
Yup that's pretty much it. That's why I quoted your fist post originally agreeing with how you explained it
 
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