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  #1  
Old 12-13-2017, 08:04 AM
Ghostnote
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Default Letting Drums Speak For Themselves

For a long time now, since I started playing big-ass sizes 5 years ago, I've been going for this really low-pitched sound and tuning accordingly. Especially with snare drums- I've been playing 15" snare drums exclusively for the last 5 years and tuning them very low, typically a half turn past finger tight on all the batter tension rods in search of that deep-dish sound. Toms as well- I've been tuning the batters JAW with the resos just slightly higher.

For the past month or so though, that has been changing and my tuning philosophy has changed. I decided to stop trying to manipulate the drums so much and just let the sizes and shell materials dictate the sound a bit more by throwing single-ply heads on everything and tuning every drum to a medium, middle of the road tension and just let each drum do "what it's meant to do" in the middle of its tuning range.

I'm liking it. It seems like each drum is speaking more fully and has more clarity while retaining tone and resonance. It feels like I'm getting the most out of each drum and the sound of any drum, especially snare drums, tuned either overly high or low has become annoying to me. Anyone else ever have this revelation?
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Old 12-13-2017, 09:07 AM
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ineedaclutch ineedaclutch is offline
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Default Re: Letting Drums Speak For Themselves

You are now tuning the drums where they are comfortable, right?
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Old 12-13-2017, 12:58 PM
Push pull stroke Push pull stroke is offline
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Default Re: Letting Drums Speak For Themselves

This is my exact drum philosophy. Let the drum be what it is.
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Old 12-13-2017, 01:50 PM
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mikyok mikyok is offline
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Default Re: Letting Drums Speak For Themselves

Always been a fan of getting the best possible sound at source from the kit as I think most of us are.

The problem is over time your ear evolves as does your taste, style and playing.

I've looked back at old vids and listened to old recordings and thought why did I play that way.

Big drum sizes are made to be open, no point in having them otherwise. You need all those frequencies and the warmth.

Don't discount the low tuning though you may record something and it would be perfect.
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Old 12-13-2017, 05:15 PM
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Default Re: Letting Drums Speak For Themselves

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Originally Posted by mikyok View Post
Always been a fan of getting the best possible sound at source from the kit as I think most of us are.

The problem is over time your ear evolves as does your taste, style and playing.

I've looked back at old vids and listened to old recordings and thought why did I play that way.

Big drum sizes are made to be open, no point in having them otherwise. You need all those frequencies and the warmth.

Don't discount the low tuning though you may record something and it would be perfect.
Oh yes, I'm with you there. Both when in the studio and when playing live with a PA, different tunings can get you places that a "well tuned kit" just won't go.

One of the best live sounds I ever heard came from an old 1st gen Tour Custom kit with old pinstripes that were so pitted, dished out, and tensioned so low (below JAW!) that from behind the kit All you heard was a flat, slappy buzz when you hit a tom or the kick drum. Through the PA with a bunch of gated reverb over it and the kick and toms punched way up front in the mix though.....GOOD NIGHT!!! The kit sounded huge and powerful.

One time back in '93, I laid down drum tracks for 2 songs on a buddy's record. From the time I started playing, I had always cranked my snare drum, but it just wasn't working in the room we were recording in, so the engineer had me tune this 6.5x14 brass free floater I played at the time down to a half-turn above finger tight on the batter with no muffling whatsoever. He did the gated reverb thing to that low-pitched snare, and wow(!), did it ever make for a huge sound on the recording.

My recent take on things has everything to do with the fact that I'm not gigging or recording these days. The only playing I've done for the last 2 years has been a bit of noodling in my basement here and there when my basement suite tenants are out of the house, ( I'm in the process of trying to finish a sound-proof room in my garage so I can play all the time, but life has gotten in the way and the project has stalled...) so my perspective lately has strictly been shaped by what the kit sounds like to me acoustically from behind the kit.

Eventually I'll have myself set up with some mics, a board, and IEM''s for my practice room so I can shape the sound more. The room should provide me with around 65-70 dB of isolation, but drums are such an abrupt, percussive sound that I imagine I will have to do something like tune all the drums super baggy and throw cutouts of old heads on top of the batters to cut down the projection and percieved volume of the drums to a point where you won't be able to hear them in the rest of the house or, more importantly, in the basement suite. If that's the case, then I'll definitely want the benefit of the gated reverb trick I keep alluding to so that I have a somewhat pleasant and inspiring sound coming back at me, otherwise I just won't feel like playing at all.

For now however, in the strictly acoustic realm, I'm really digging this new approach of tuning each drum to it's middle-ground-happy-place and enjoying the sound of unadulterated drums.

Last edited by Ghostnote; 12-13-2017 at 06:48 PM.
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Old 12-13-2017, 05:59 PM
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Mongrel Mongrel is offline
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Default Re: Letting Drums Speak For Themselves

Couple things I have had to learn over the years....

1. What you hear on the record (for the most part) is NOT what the drums actually sounded like. Trying to get "that sound", especially behind the kit, lead to all sorts of mumbo-jumbo and foolishness that kept me from developing a proper understanding and appreciation of not only of tuning, but just how awesome a well-tuned drumm could sound on it's own.

2. Well tuned drums respond to the stick and are a real joy to play as far as feel-AND dynamics go. I no longer have to smack a drum with all my might to get that "killer" response...and I can play a lot looser and free-er because of it.

Very happy to be in this place at this stage of life....lol.
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Old 12-13-2017, 06:17 PM
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Hollywood Jim Hollywood Jim is offline
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Default Re: Letting Drums Speak For Themselves

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Originally Posted by Push pull stroke View Post
This is my exact drum philosophy. Let the drum be what it is.
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Originally Posted by Mongrel View Post
Couple things I have had to learn over the years....

1. What you hear on the record (for the most part) is NOT what the drums actually sounded like. Trying to get "that sound", especially behind the kit, lead to all sorts of mumbo-jumbo and foolishness that kept me from developing a proper understanding and appreciation of not only of tuning, but just how awesome a well-tuned drumm could sound on it's own.

2. Well tuned drums respond to the stick and are a real joy to play as far as feel-AND dynamics go. I no longer have to smack a drum with all my might to get that "killer" response...and I can play a lot looser and free-er because of it.

Very happy to be in this place at this stage of life....lol.
Very well put Mongrel. I also tune my drums for an open sound using Evans G1 10 mil batter heads . Let the drums speak.
And then on a few occasions depending on the venue and the style of music, I'll dampen using moon gel or dampening rings.
And of course in the recording studio I'll work with the engineer to get the sound we need.


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Old 12-13-2017, 07:48 PM
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MrTheOne MrTheOne is offline
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Default Re: Letting Drums Speak For Themselves

So, what would the guideline be on establishing the "baseline" sound of your drums? Get it's characteristic tone?
I've seen tuning tutorials that say to tap the inside shell (with both heads removed first), then add the heads and tune them to match, at least initially, to dial in the drums fundamental note, but is that the best way to get the result?
Also, are some particular individual drums just "lemons?" Left the factory bad and could never be tuned to sound better?
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Old 12-13-2017, 08:51 PM
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Default Re: Letting Drums Speak For Themselves

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Originally Posted by MrTheOne View Post
So, what would the guideline be on establishing the "baseline" sound of your drums? Get it's characteristic tone?
I've seen tuning tutorials that say to tap the inside shell (with both heads removed first), then add the heads and tune them to match, at least initially, to dial in the drums fundamental note, but is that the best way to get the result?
Also, are some particular individual drums just "lemons?" Left the factory bad and could never be tuned to sound better?
I don't place much faith in that whole "tap test/fundamental pitch of the shell" spiel. I tried it when I was young and easily influenced by marketing and I never noticed my drums suddenly transform from black and white to Technicolor. In some cases the note you hear when you tap a bare shell might put a given drum in an overly high, or more commonly, very low sort of tuning. Also, the most commonly used tuning method is to tension the reso heads higher than the batters. That sort of negates the whole "fundamental pitch of the shell" thing if you're not tuning both heads to the same pitch. The amount of sympathetic vibration you would get from tuning heads to the same pitch as a shell with a bunch of tension and hardware strapped to it is WAY over-exagerated. Besides, say you did tap a bare shell, the pitch of the shell is going to drop way down after you add the mass of lugs, tension rods, and heads back onto it anyway, not to mention the change in pitch due to capping both ends of a tube with a membrane, so how would you know what pitch you should really be going for anyway? Tapping a shell with 2 heads on it doesn't exactly result in a clear pitch to shoot for.

I was talking more about tuning each drum in the middle of it's tuning range, its sweet spot, regardless what note or pitch that is. Do whatever gets you through the night, but I think the whole shell tapping thing is mostly baloney. Just my opinion, I'm sure others would say it makes a huge difference. Give it a try. Be your own judge and see what you think.

As for some drums being lemons....absolutely. Wood can be a mysterious thing and sometimes you can have 2 identical drums and one sounds better than the other. Aside from that, if a drum leaves a factory with poor bearing edges that aren't flat with an uneven profile, is out of round, and has bent hoops and a delaminated shell, it's probably going to sound less than ideal.

I find some sizes are inherently better in some ways than others as well. I like 12" toms just fine, but I have always been able to get a bigger, more resonant sound out of a 9x13 than I could from an 8x12. Back when I started playing in the 80's, 90% of kits I saw in music stores were 12,13,16 with a 22 bass drum. I had 3 kits in a row in those sizes and every kit was the same. When I played the 13 next to the 12, the 13 always sounded bigger, fuller, and more resonant with a broader frequency spectrum going on. Ever hear a bass guitar and the E and A strings had way more presence than the D and G strings? Kind of like that. I've never owned or played a 12x15 tom, but I've heard a few people say the same thing when comparing that size to the more common 10x14. The 15 just sounds "better"- fuller and more resonant with a wider tuning range.
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  #10  
Old 12-13-2017, 09:21 PM
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Hollywood Jim Hollywood Jim is offline
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Default Re: Letting Drums Speak For Themselves

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Originally Posted by Ghostnote View Post
I don't place much faith in that whole "tap test/fundamental pitch of the shell" spiel. I tried it when I was young and easily influenced by marketing and I never noticed my drums suddenly transform from black and white to Technicolor. In some cases the note you hear when you tap a bare shell might put a given drum in an overly high, or more commonly, very low sort of tuning. Also, the most commonly used tuning method is to tension the reso heads higher than the batters. That sort of negates the whole "fundamental pitch of the shell" thing if you're not tuning both heads to the same pitch. The amount of sympathetic vibration you would get from tuning heads to the same pitch as a shell with a bunch of tension and hardware strapped to it is WAY over-exagerated. Besides, say you did tap a bare shell, the pitch of the shell is going to drop way down after you add the mass of lugs, tension rods, and heads back onto it anyway, not to mention the change in pitch due to capping both ends of a tube with a membrane, so how would you know what pitch you should really be going for anyway? Tapping a shell with 2 heads on it doesn't exactly result in a clear pitch to shoot for.

I was talking more about tuning each drum in the middle of it's tuning range, its sweet spot, regardless what note or pitch that is. Do whatever gets you through the night, but I think the whole shell tapping thing is mostly baloney. Just my opinion, I'm sure others would say it makes a huge difference. Give it a try. Be your own judge and see what you think.

As for some drums being lemons....absolutely. Wood can be a mysterious thing and sometimes you can have 2 identical drums and one sounds better than the other. Aside from that, if a drum leaves a factory with poor bearing edges that aren't flat with an uneven profile, is out of round, and has bent hoops and a delaminated shell, it's probably going to sound less than ideal.

I find some sizes are inherently better in some ways than others as well. I like 12" toms just fine, but I have always been able to get a bigger, more resonant sound out of a 9x13 than I could from an 8x12. Back when I started playing in the 80's, 90% of kits I saw in music stores were 12,13,16 with a 22 bass drum. I had 3 kits in a row in those sizes and every kit was the same. When I played the 13 next to the 12, the 13 always sounded bigger, fuller, and more resonant with a broader frequency spectrum going on. Ever hear a bass guitar and the E and A strings had way more presence than the D and G strings? Kind of like that. I've never owned or played a 12x15 tom, but I've heard a few people say the same thing when comparing that size to the more common 10x14. The 15 just sounds "better"- fuller and more resonant with a wider tuning range.
Yes very true. For example My 1963 Slingerland toms have a very narrow tuning range. With Evans G2 heads they sing out beautifully and then with a 1/2 turn up or down they begin to become dead (no sustain).


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Old 12-13-2017, 09:22 PM
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Default Re: Letting Drums Speak For Themselves

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Originally Posted by Ghostnote View Post
I don't place much faith in that whole "tap test/fundamental pitch of the shell" spiel. I tried it when I was young and easily influenced by marketing and I never noticed my drums suddenly transform from black and white to Technicolor. In some cases the note you hear when you tap a bare shell might put a given drum in an overly high, or more commonly, very low sort of tuning. Also, the most commonly used tuning method is to tension the reso heads higher than the batters. That sort of negates the whole "fundamental pitch of the shell" thing if you're not tuning both heads to the same pitch. The amount of sympathetic vibration you would get from tuning heads to the same pitch as a shell with a bunch of tension and hardware strapped to it is WAY over-exagerated. Besides, say you did tap a bare shell, the pitch of the shell is going to drop way down after you add the mass of lugs, tension rods, and heads back onto it anyway, not to mention the change in pitch due to capping both ends of a tube with a membrane, so how would you know what pitch you should really be going for anyway? Tapping a shell with 2 heads on it doesn't exactly result in a clear pitch to shoot for.

I was talking more about tuning each drum in the middle of it's tuning range, its sweet spot, regardless what note or pitch that is. Do whatever gets you through the night, but I think the whole shell tapping thing is mostly baloney. Just my opinion, I'm sure others would say it makes a huge difference. Give it a try. Be your own judge and see what you think.

As for some drums being lemons....absolutely. Wood can be a mysterious thing and sometimes you can have 2 identical drums and one sounds better than the other. Aside from that, if a drum leaves a factory with poor bearing edges that aren't flat with an uneven profile, is out of round, and has bent hoops and a delaminated shell, it's probably going to sound less than ideal.

I find some sizes are inherently better in some ways than others as well. I like 12" toms just fine, but I have always been able to get a bigger, more resonant sound out of a 9x13 than I could from an 8x12. Back when I started playing in the 80's, 90% of kits I saw in music stores were 12,13,16 with a 22 bass drum. I had 3 kits in a row in those sizes and every kit was the same. When I played the 13 next to the 12, the 13 always sounded bigger, fuller, and more resonant with a broader frequency spectrum going on. Ever hear a bass guitar and the E and A strings had way more presence than the D and G strings? Kind of like that. I've never owned or played a 12x15 tom, but I've heard a few people say the same thing when comparing that size to the more common 10x14. The 15 just sounds "better"- fuller and more resonant with a wider tuning range.
Ok, I see. That's really interesting. I'll definitely give that a try with my kit.
My drums are a bit squirrely to deal with. Can't tell if it's the brand/model (Sonor Force 2001, bought in 2002) or the fact that they're fusions sizes (10,12, 14 toms, 5.5x14 snare, 22x16 kick). I'd rather get the sweetest, most open tone without using any gels or muffling or specialized heads, but the 10" tom is hard to work with. I've gotten a decent sound out of my 12", but the 14x12" floor tom is also a struggle. I like your preference for bigger drums (I have no use for an 8" tom these days).
Anyway, thanks for the info, I can't wait to get home and get to tuning!
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Old 12-14-2017, 08:40 PM
BruceW BruceW is offline
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Default Re: Letting Drums Speak For Themselves

My issue with this is getting just one rack tom to behave. i have 12", 13" and 16", and I can't get the 13" tom to sound "good". I get it close, but get the overtone ring.

I have a 14" tom that I don't use, maybe I'll try that in place of the 13" and see if I can find a good balance. Food for thought.
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Old 12-14-2017, 08:47 PM
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MrPockets MrPockets is offline
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Default Re: Letting Drums Speak For Themselves

Anyone else a fan of (reasonable) sympathetic vibrations?

Saw a drummer talk about that and hit is kit and I became of follower of that philosophy.
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Old 12-14-2017, 09:08 PM
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Default Re: Letting Drums Speak For Themselves

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Anyone else a fan of (reasonable) sympathetic vibrations?

Saw a drummer talk about that and hit is kit and I became of follower of that philosophy.
I spent a large bit of time developing a 'dead stick' ability to strike the tom and reduce sustain when I want it(was harder for me than I thought it would be - I think because it turned out to require relaxation more than active effort)....so even mezzo piano sympathetic vibrations really irritate me.
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Old 12-14-2017, 09:21 PM
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Mongrel Mongrel is offline
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Default Re: Letting Drums Speak For Themselves

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Anyone else a fan of (reasonable) sympathetic vibrations?

Saw a drummer talk about that and hit is kit and I became of follower of that philosophy.
Personally I really dig 'em. Bass drum especially sounds good when it excites the tom heads. Really produces a full sound I think.
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