Tuning to the room

DomD

Junior Member
Hi everyone !

I've read plenty of times that a drum can sound different on different rooms and that you should tune the drum to the room to sound at its best.
I haven't faced that situtation yet, but I'd like to be a little prepared on what to do to make the drums sound better in each room.

My question would be, would that mean that I should just tune the drum a little up or down?
I tune for example both heads at the same note. I would probably have to move both heads up or down slightly? Or could it be that an even tuning couldn't work in a room or something like that?

Also if you could tell me why this phenomenon (drums sounding different at different rooms) exists would be really cool.
I only know for example, that a bass drum may have more low end on a bigger room, because the lower frequencies need more space.
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
It's space, angles, and materials. Think about it this way, an empty bedroom is echoey until you put a bed, dresser, curtains, and whatever else in it. Those objects both absorb and reflect the sound in the room differently than when the room is empty. Now put your drums in that room, both empty and full. They will sound different in either situation.
 

dboomer

Senior Member
Also if you could tell me why this phenomenon (drums sounding different at different rooms) exists would be really cool.
Probably what you are referring to is standing waves within a room (doesn't happen outdoors). Rooms are at the mercy of their shortest dimension (usually ceiling height). Depending on dimensions and frequency(especially), nodes (dead spots) are produced where no or very little sound is produced. Not much you can do about it unless the ceiling is over 20’ high. Very low frequencies can vary more than 20dB by simply moving over a few feet. So what spot in the room do you tune for?

I used to teach sound reinforcement classes for Peavey. One of my favorite demos was to play a 40Hz tone and ask students to observe the level. Then I’d switch to 50Hz and ask if it was louder or softer than the first time. About half the class would say louder and the other half would say lower. In fact it was the same spl generated, but depending on where you stood it would sound louder or softer (and measure the same as well).

This will probably sound familiar if you mix your recordings in a bedroom size room. You get yourself a great mix and then go listen in a big room and all of a sudden you have way too much bass in the mix. This is why small rooms need lots of bass traps.
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
I've heard that phrase before, too, but don't understand it based on this experience:

I played a gig at an outdoor mobile stage, measuring about 30' wide, 15' deep, 15' high, with hydraulic sides & awning. The floor was steel, the rear wall & awning were aluminum. My drums were very loud and bright. No absorption by anything on stage, but no reflections or reverberation either (it was not enclosed). Later that same day, I played in a club (same band). The stage was 20' wide, 10' deep, 10' high. The floor was covered in a berber carpet, with slight under-padding, the three walls (two sides & back) were covered in acoustic drapes and the ceiling, above the lighting rig, were acoustic "clouds".

My drums sounded like they were filled with cotton balls compared to the outdoor stage. Same drums & cymbals, but a lot of high frequencies were gone.
 

dboomer

Senior Member
It starts getting complicated when you also figure in absorption and eigentones (multi axial reflections). There are so many things in play. It is easy for rooms to suck up higher frequencies but much more difficult for low frequencies. If you had a lid then you had reflections. It catches me off guard sometimes by how many reflections you can get off a tent awning.

You said stage height 15’ but I’m assuming you meant 15”. The one you want to watch for is a 4 foot high stage as it will cause a reflection that comes back out of phase at about 70Hz and it will suck all the punch out of your kick (as compared to flat on the deck).

But pretty much bottom line to the question is you can tune for one spot in a small to medium room but it will sound different in other places in the room.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
Hi everyone !

I've read plenty of times that a drum can sound different on different rooms and that you should tune the drum to the room to sound at its best.
I haven't faced that situtation yet, but I'd like to be a little prepared on what to do to make the drums sound better in each room.

My question would be, would that mean that I should just tune the drum a little up or down?
Here is the problem with tuning your toms for each room you play in: If you have a lot of time to do it AND you can have someone play your drums while you stand out in the audience and listen, then yes it's a good idea to tweak the tuning for each room. But from a practical standpoint I find this hard to do.

BUT, I do tune the bass drum for each room. The bass drum seems to change the most in each different room. And you can tune it fairly easy without having someone test it for you while you listen. You can tell pretty much how it sounds while you are sitting behind the drums. Also with the bass drum you can easily add and subtract internal muffling as long as you have a port in the front head.

I also tune the snare for each room. Or better said, I tune the snare drum a little bit at each gig, before I start playing.


.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
I agree with dboomer. Drums will sound different depending where they are in a room. But usually you don't have a choice where your drums are set up at gig.

One time I played at a night club where the band was set up at the end of a large hall way. And the band was set up facing the wall of the hall way at a 45 degree angle. So my bass drum was facing the wall at a 45 degree angle. The wall was about 20 feet away from the bass drum. Needless to say, the audience could not hear my bass drum at all !

No kind of tuning would have helped at all. Believe me, I tried everything I could think of that night. I wanted to rotate my drum set 45 degrees. But the band leader said no. He was probably right. Because I would have been louder than his guitar......... LOL

.
 

Rock Salad

Junior Member
It is more of a thing when you go for a big rumbley bass sound. Slightly higher up there is a punchy range that is easy to find by taking drums outside. Tuned for punch you only need to adjust muffling for more or less sustain for each room.
That is my theory for now.
 
To be honest, I don't tune "into" the room regularly. As long as my tuning works in a given situation, I will be fine with no or minor adjustments.

But it's always good to know how to react if things don't work as usual i.e. a bass drum lacking punch, an endlessly buzzing snare drum , toms not able to cut through, you name it.

But very often it's not just the drum set, but the whole band that sounds poor in a difficult room, what might be the much bigger problem then. In order not to put everybody else under stress , I would avoid putting too much emphasis on the drum sound.
 

Woolwich

Silver Member
After 13 years of gigging in mainly pubs I’ve never felt the need to tune to the room. If I’m being close micd I put studio rings on the Toms and snare to help make the sound man’s job easier, un micd I might use a studio ring on the snare only or I might not. This doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges and compromises, the obvious example being when the drums are in an enclosed area or there’s a low ceiling. When there’s lots of soft furnishing then the whole PA is going to be set differently to when there’s lots of hard surfaces, but all of us turn up tuned up, work out any specific room issues within the soundcheck and that’s it. I’m struggling to think of any time when I’ve had to radically change tunings between Tom and reso heads between gigs other than the smallest of tweaks or as a result of the detuning that’s part and parcel of drum use. Anything is going to sound different on a large outdoor stage versus a cramped pub but it is what it is so my advice to the OP is not to worry about it.
 

mikyok

Platinum Member
I've played a few rooms where I've had to mess with the tuning. Nothing drastic, maybe just shorten the sustain of the toms or snare.

Everyone gets crappy rooms to play from time to time, all about compromise!
 
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