Silver Member
I know everyone has a different thought on this, but I'm curious if there's a better way than mine. I always tune the top head to my liking first, then match up the bottom. I start with the smallest (an 8" timbale) and work my way down. Each drum has about a full note difference in sound so when I "roll" around the kit it sounds like a "landslide".
My question....does it really matter which head you tune first (top or bottom)?
AND...I've heard you should tap the shell and tune to the pitch it gives off. However if you have two toms with the same diameter wouldn't that mean they'd pretty much sound the same? Just curious as to what you think.....


Platinum Member
Lots of ways to tune a drum. All I would say is, starting with the smallest/highest drum is not always the best way to do it. What if by the time you get to the lowest/bigest drum the head is then too slack to give a good stick feel or note? Usualy better to tune from low to high.


Silver Member
I usually start with the floor tom to try to get the lowest sound I can without it buzzing and without a lot of ringing. I have two kits, one is a Pearl MCX Masters with three overhead toms and and a floor and the other is a Gretsch Catalina Jazz kit with only 1 overhead tom and a floor.

I play in a very small room and have a problem with ringing. The Gretsch kit is easier to tune, I start with the batter head and then the resonate head, and tune the overhead at pitch where I can get a sound that has a distinction from the snare and floor tom.

My Pearl kit has three overhead toms and a floor tom that I tune to about a third between them. On the Pearl kit, in order to keep the ringing down, I use batter heads on both sides of the drum.

You can tune toms of the same diameter and depth to different tones, and you can use different thickness heads on them to enhance the differentiation. The tone of the drum is determined by the shell, the diameter of the head, and the thickness of the head. The depth also has an effect on the tone, as well as other factors such as hardware, placement of the vent and how many.

I have heard from others that recommend the tone of the shell, but I have not tried that myself.


Gold Member
I think whole tones work out pretty well for drum harmony. Except, you might get a sympathetic resonance in the minor sixth intervals, which sometimes isn't ideal for recording because it has too much sustain, and you would end up having muffle it. I would go with more of a pentatonic tuning if I had the drums to do it. You can look at the Chinese paigu to get an idea about the tuning.


Platinum Member
In the small amount of time that I've been playing, I've forced myself to re-tune about once every other week for the academic and practical experience. I've noticed that I simply have to choose between low, medium, and high tensioning. Once I tension, I can fine-tune the increments or note values to whatever I desire. The only hard rule for me is to pitch match each lug.

Honestly, hi/low is only a single turn up/down from meduim. There's no magical tension/frequency where the fundamental of the head matches that of the shell forcing the planets to align and causing all the Nazi's to melt like they did in Raiders or some interdimentional stargate to open.

So choose low, med, or high. Pitch-match the lugs. Then futz a little with increments and keys.


Silver Member
But tune the reso head first, then the batter. Lots of threads on tuning on the forum. Try using the search function for lots of good advise.