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  #1  
Old 07-09-2009, 03:03 PM
stoner stoner is offline
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Default Tuning to a note?

Hello all you drum gurus out there. A simple question I hope. I have viewed numerous threads on here which refer to tuning to a particular notes for different drums. Now what I've been pondering is what do you use as a reference to tune your drum against as I'm pretty sure that I can't come up with a perfect A or C in my head. This has baffled me for ages so could anyone shed any light on this subject.
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Old 07-09-2009, 06:46 PM
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Default Re: Tuning to a note?

Courtesy of bobdadrumma, Buddy Rich has something to say about that. Check out this interview.
http://keepitlive.tripod.com/buddyri...interview.html
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Old 07-09-2009, 07:37 PM
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Default Re: Tuning to a note?

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Originally Posted by Bruce M. Thomson View Post
Courtesy of bobdadrumma, Buddy Rich has something to say about that. Check out this interview.
http://keepitlive.tripod.com/buddyri...interview.html
Sorry, but the page or the file that you're looking for is not here.

???
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Old 07-09-2009, 07:56 PM
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Default Re: Tuning to a note?

I'm going to give you way more than you asked for because I think understanding this helps you understand how to tune to specific notes. Every noise in the world makes a note. There is something called "cents" in music. Think of a guitar tuning. If a guy is tuning up his A string, it will be in tune when the string vibrates at 440 megahertz per second. But, as he tunes that string up, and gets close, it will vibrate at 434 mH/s, at 428 mH/s, etc. Those are notes, too. When the string vibrates at 434 mH/s, it is tuned to an A minus 6 cents, if I understand the term correctly (it's been a while since I looked at this particular part of theory).

So, when you understand that, you understand that every sound is already a note, just not necessarily one that is correctly in tune. So, when people tune their drums by ear, they mostly tune them to what sounds good to their own head. However, you are still tuning it to a note...plus or minus some cents. Obviously from that point, you can make minor adjustments to the tuning pegs until you have the head vibrating at exactly the correct note (again, such as an A at 440).

Now, there are tools that can measure this. I don't know if you could use a mic-based tuner, such as a violin player uses, in order to tell you the note of your drum...I never tried. The easiest thing is just to get yourself next to a piano, hit the note you want, and bring your head up to it. Just like singing, or tuning a guitar to the piano, or anything else of that nature, the more you practice this, the better you will get at getting them exact.
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Old 07-09-2009, 08:28 PM
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Default Re: Tuning to a note?

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Originally Posted by mrchattr View Post
I'm going to give you way more than you asked for because I think understanding this helps you understand how to tune to specific notes. Every noise in the world makes a note. There is something called "cents" in music. Think of a guitar tuning. If a guy is tuning up his A string, it will be in tune when the string vibrates at 440 megahertz per second. But, as he tunes that string up, and gets close, it will vibrate at 434 mH/s, at 428 mH/s, etc. Those are notes, too. When the string vibrates at 434 mH/s, it is tuned to an A minus 6 cents, if I understand the term correctly (it's been a while since I looked at this particular part of theory).

So, when you understand that, you understand that every sound is already a note, just not necessarily one that is correctly in tune. So, when people tune their drums by ear, they mostly tune them to what sounds good to their own head. However, you are still tuning it to a note...plus or minus some cents. Obviously from that point, you can make minor adjustments to the tuning pegs until you have the head vibrating at exactly the correct note (again, such as an A at 440).

Now, there are tools that can measure this. I don't know if you could use a mic-based tuner, such as a violin player uses, in order to tell you the note of your drum...I never tried. The easiest thing is just to get yourself next to a piano, hit the note you want, and bring your head up to it. Just like singing, or tuning a guitar to the piano, or anything else of that nature, the more you practice this, the better you will get at getting them exact.
Good advice, however you're not quite on the frequency, firstly it's just 440 cycles a second, not 440 million as you suggest. 440 million cycles a second is a HUGE frequency. It's like the sort of frequency you'd get from light waves, rather than sound. Also the idea of Hz is that it's divided by time, so you don't have to put Hz/second it's just Hz. I think you might have got confused by m/s which is the speed of the wave. Of course that's approximately 330 m/s, at any frequency, IE the speed of sound.
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Old 07-09-2009, 08:41 PM
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Default Re: Tuning to a note?

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Originally Posted by wolfmoon View Post
Sorry, but the page or the file that you're looking for is not here.

???
basically buddy says that you can't tune to a note, because as soon as your environment changes the slightest bit (the air around the drum, temp, humidity, crowd sounds, etc) the note is lost. he says he tensions them, not tunes them
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Old 07-09-2009, 08:57 PM
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Default Re: Tuning to a note?

I would be more concerned in tuning to an interval. For instance on my set the toms are tuned with no particular note in mind but an interval that sounds good, or sounds like a chord. If I hit two toms at once they sound good together. Any two. Most cases my 8 inch tom is the same note as my 14 inch tom, just an octave apart, and the 10 and 12 are tuned in between those two as if it were a four note chord. This is my way and feel free to tune as you see fit.
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Old 07-09-2009, 09:06 PM
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Default Re: Tuning to a note?

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basically buddy says that you can't tune to a note, because as soon as your environment changes the slightest bit (the air around the drum, temp, humidity, crowd sounds, etc) the note is lost. he says he tensions them, not tunes them
but i mean it's like shaving. You just have to tune them again lol.
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Old 07-10-2009, 02:50 AM
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Default Re: Tuning to a note?

If you get say your floor tom in tune and like how it sounds, tap the top head at each lug point on the head and match the pitch at each lug. The head is now in tune with itself. What I do and what has worked for me and many a pro drummer is then find what note the pitch is at each lug point using a pitch pipe. Then, flip the drum over and do the same on the bottom head. You can then tune the bottom head to the same note, higher or lower, depending on what sound you want. I tune my bottom head a minor third (three half steps on the pitch pipe) higher than the top. It has just the right amount of sustain and punch and makes the drums come alive. Then, I take it a step further and tune my toms in complimentary intervals, such as thirds or fourths. For example, if my first mounted tom's top head is tuned to a B, I'll tune the next larger tom's top head a major third (4 half steps) lower in pitch to a G (as long as that note falls within the drums optimal tuning range or "sweet spot") maintaining a minor third relationship higher on the bottom head to that drum as well. It gives the drums the same characteristics, as well as seperates them in the mix and makes them punchier. It has worked for me and several drummers right here on drummerworld. See my posts in the tom tuning section, starting at #69. I must say that not all drum kits sound good that way, but the vast majority I have dealt with do. Some sound best with both heads the same pitch, it just depends on the shell, heads, etc. and the sound you want. As a general rule though, the heads should have matching pitches at each lug point to be in tune with itself.

I agree that you can't really tune the "drum" to a particular note when it's struck and the sound matures, but you can tune the heads to notes and thus eliminate overtones and have a much more musical sounding kit. I've been doing it for years.
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  #10  
Old 07-10-2009, 03:23 AM
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Default Re: Tuning to a note?

Ah, the topic of drum tuning. It's always out there, isn't it? it's not the same as tuning a piano or a guitar, not at all.
For myself I tune, if you could call it that, my drums to feel right. I want a good amount of bounce when I play, so I tension my heads right up sufficient to give me that bounce, that response or rebound, and I want a very musical sustain or "ring." The "tuning" part comes into play by tensioning the heads evenly so that the drum sounds good, meaning that it sounds the way it's built to sound (this is assuming that it's a good drum.) Is it a D, a D#? Who cares? It's what the drum wants, how the drum is built.
This obviously means that I need to choose drum sizes that sound good when the heads are tensioned right up. You can't get a good low sound of of a small drum, and you can't get a good high sound from a big drum, not without choking the instrument. Yuck.
But there are players who don't want rebound. They like to really lay into the drums. That's a whole other thing that I don't know anything about since I don't play like that.
So I don't agree with the idea of tuning to specific pitches. It's just not what drums are intended for, not in my opinion or experience.
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Old 07-10-2009, 03:56 AM
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Default Re: Tuning to a note?

I read something that said tune your drums using a friends bass guitar. The top string is your bass drum, the 2nd is your floor tom, the 3rd is your big tomtom and the 4th is your small tomtom. Of course, if you have more than 3 toms you have to find a good middle tone
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Old 07-10-2009, 04:22 AM
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Default Re: Tuning to a note?

To those of you who say you can't tune a drum to a note, have you ever heard of Terry Bozzio? He keeps each drum tuned to a specific note, and has them set up in various scales, etc. It's really amazing, but does require specific and accurate tuning to specific notes.

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Originally Posted by eddiehimself View Post
Good advice, however you're not quite on the frequency, firstly it's just 440 cycles a second, not 440 million as you suggest. 440 million cycles a second is a HUGE frequency. It's like the sort of frequency you'd get from light waves, rather than sound. Also the idea of Hz is that it's divided by time, so you don't have to put Hz/second it's just Hz. I think you might have got confused by m/s which is the speed of the wave. Of course that's approximately 330 m/s, at any frequency, IE the speed of sound.
Cool, thanks for the info. Yeah, I realized as I wrote it all that I know "440," etc, but couldn't remember the details. I am going to tune my low floor tom to 440 million though, just to prove that it can be done! :-P
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  #13  
Old 07-11-2009, 03:03 AM
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Default Re: Tuning to a note?

To answer the original question, get a pitch pipe.

Chromatic tuners are more trouble than they're worth. They are often fooled by the rich level of overtones in a drum and read the wrong pitch.

Tuning to notes lets you:

1. replicate a previous tuning quickly and easily
2. ensure that the drums sound good when struck together (no "beating")
3. get a handle on the intervals between your toms and gives you a sense of where you're going when you experiment.

Random thoughts:

You must let each drum tell you where it wants to be tuned. There'll be a range of notes where the drum really sings, that's where you should keep it. Let the drums dictate the tuning scheme, not the other way around.

If you play out miked, smaller intervals work well if that's what you like. Major or minor 3rds sound good and you can get away with low tunings.

If you play out unmiked, try for larger intervals, 4ths or 5ths, and a higher tuning overall.

Generally speaking you'd like larger intervals between the low toms, else they kind of sound alike. High toms can be closer together.

Don't worry about your notes "clashing" with the song. They won't. The audience hears high tom, medium tom, low tom. The object is a pleasing interval between the drums, and the actual notes used don't seem to matter much.

If you play a four piece you're golden. Find out where each tom sounds best and tune them there. Make sure they sound good when struck together. If you want, you can see what pitches you ended up with for future reference.


Finally, Buddy Rich "tensioned" his drums, but he ended up with a note anyway, as mrchattr explained. Tuning to notes is just one way to do it among many. I play a four piece, but I find it a handy way to get control over the five toms (!) in my kid's kit. ;-)
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Old 07-11-2009, 07:04 AM
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Default Re: Tuning to a note?

Nobody can seem to come up with a fairly simple method of tuning drums to notes, or the whole batter/reso tuning riddle.

Bozzio may tune to notes, but Rich said forget notes and evenly tension your drums the way you like them (ie quit calling it drum tuning and start calling it drum tensioning). I've gone full circle on this and now am a firm believer of Rich's approach. Shell pitches, harmonic thirds - its all just chasing the wind, especially when one drummer cannot even tell another definitively how to do it.
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Old 07-11-2009, 07:35 AM
denisri denisri is offline
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Default Re: Tuning to a note?

Hi
I tune my four piece kit to the notes of...."Here comes the Bride"..Then for tenson....Done! After years for research and experimenting. No overlap of tones. Denis
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Old 07-11-2009, 08:30 AM
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Default Re: Tuning to a note?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Strangelove View Post
Nobody can seem to come up with a fairly simple method of tuning drums to notes, or the whole batter/reso tuning riddle.

Bozzio may tune to notes, but Rich said forget notes and evenly tension your drums the way you like them (ie quit calling it drum tuning and start calling it drum tensioning). I've gone full circle on this and now am a firm believer of Rich's approach. Shell pitches, harmonic thirds - its all just chasing the wind, especially when one drummer cannot even tell another definitively how to do it.
There is no "may"... Terry Bozzio does it. He picks notes to play just as a keyboard player does. There is harmony and melody on his drumset. Hell, he played a fast flamenco guitar part note for note on the track "Duende" of the Bozzio / Levin / Stevens CD "Black Light Syndrome".

I don't understand what the big mystery is here. If you have the patience, decent heads and ears anyone can do it. You might not like the results of your particular kit's tuning possibilities, but that's vastly different than saying "nobody can do it".

Disclosure: I don't have the patience myself. I prefer the feeling of certain tensions and I'm inclined to tune til it feels good and sounds "close enough for rock&roll". But I always have the suspicion that I have much better sounds in my gear than I'm willing to try to pull out of them.
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Old 07-11-2009, 03:43 PM
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Default Re: Tuning to a note?

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Originally Posted by Strangelove View Post
Nobody can seem to come up with a fairly simple method of tuning drums to notes, or the whole batter/reso tuning riddle.
Well, no. The method I outlined in my previous post is perfectly simple and understandable. Find out where your drums sound best--i.e., have the most resonance/sustain--and develop an interval scheme accordingly.

The batter/reso "tuning riddle" hasn't been a riddle for many decades. If you want sustain (if you play out unmiked, for example) tune both batter and reso to the same pitch (whether it's a specific note you're tuning to or not). If you want less sustain (perhaps for live miked or in the studio) raise the reso gradually until you get the sound you want. You can use this method to equalize the sustain among your toms.

Quote:
Bozzio may tune to notes, but Rich said forget notes and evenly tension your drums the way you like them (ie quit calling it drum tuning and start calling it drum tensioning).
Every time BR "tensioned" his drums he ended up with a note. It just wasn't a note he was shooting for or cared about once he got it, but it was a note nonetheless. We who think in notes simply have made it a way of getting a handle on drum kits that have more than two toms.

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I've gone full circle on this and now am a firm believer of Rich's approach.
That's great! Whatever works for each drummer is the right way. I hate to break the news to you, though, but you're getting notes, too. Perfectly possible to "tension" your drums and then take note of what pitches you arrived at. Or not!

Quote:
Shell pitches, harmonic thirds - its all just chasing the wind, especially when one drummer cannot even tell another definitively how to do it.
Well, the whole shell pitch thing is a waste of time--you need to know where a drum sounds good with all the hardware and heads installed (and preferably on its mount), not as a raw shell.

But it's all much simpler than you make it seem. If I have a drum that really sings in the vicinity of the note D, all I have to do is blow a D on my pitch pipe, adjust the heads accordingly, and I have a drum tuned to D. This is difficult to understand?

To my way of thinking, it's much more difficult if you "tension" your drums to your satisfaction only to find that two of the toms beat when struck together--what now? Thinking in intervals makes things easier, not more difficult.
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Old 07-11-2009, 06:09 PM
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Default Re: Tuning to a note?

Quote:
Originally Posted by drumtechdad View Post
To answer the original question, get a pitch pipe.

Chromatic tuners are more trouble than they're worth. They are often fooled by the rich level of overtones in a drum and read the wrong pitch.

Tuning to notes lets you:

1. replicate a previous tuning quickly and easily
2. ensure that the drums sound good when struck together (no "beating")
3. get a handle on the intervals between your toms and gives you a sense of where you're going when you experiment.

Random thoughts:

You must let each drum tell you where it wants to be tuned. There'll be a range of notes where the drum really sings, that's where you should keep it. Let the drums dictate the tuning scheme, not the other way around.

If you play out miked, smaller intervals work well if that's what you like. Major or minor 3rds sound good and you can get away with low tunings.

If you play out unmiked, try for larger intervals, 4ths or 5ths, and a higher tuning overall.

Generally speaking you'd like larger intervals between the low toms, else they kind of sound alike. High toms can be closer together.

Don't worry about your notes "clashing" with the song. They won't. The audience hears high tom, medium tom, low tom. The object is a pleasing interval between the drums, and the actual notes used don't seem to matter much.

If you play a four piece you're golden. Find out where each tom sounds best and tune them there. Make sure they sound good when struck together. If you want, you can see what pitches you ended up with for future reference.


Finally, Buddy Rich "tensioned" his drums, but he ended up with a note anyway, as mrchattr explained. Tuning to notes is just one way to do it among many. I play a four piece, but I find it a handy way to get control over the five toms (!) in my kid's kit. ;-)
Pretty much what I said in my post about tuning. We subscribe to the same method and have exchanged thoughts previously. Bottom line....IT WORKS! I have done several clinics and helped many drummers with this method and it is simple, consistent and gets your drums sounding great in no time, time after time. If you're reading this and think it's nonsense....before you bail on it, try it. You may be surprised. The following is a post on another drum forum www.unitedgrooveworkers.com. from a friend who's kit I helped tune. Check it out.

Sorry I haven’t been posting lately much guys…..been extremely busy with work, gigs and whatnot. I do miss my friends on the board though.

I did want to share with y’all about a fun Sunday I had this past weekend.

I went to a tuning clinic last year put on by my friend Clint Carothers. Clint has a very unique approach to tuning that I found quite intriguing. Clint uses a pitch pipe to tune his drums. His technique has been built around years of playing professionally, session work and picking the minds of many a great drummer. In short, Clint uses the pitch pipe to tune his drums a major third apart, with the tom reso tuned a minor third up from the batter. This also works at other intervals, depending on tom sizes, numbers and spread.

I have always been able to get a great drum sound out of my kit….to my ears anyway. I think most would attest the kit I brought to DRT last year sounded pretty sweet. So this past Friday I had the day off and downloaded a metronome/pitch app for my iphone and decided to try Clints technique. I got the toms dialed in pretty well until I got to the floor tom, which ended up needing tuned too low. I tried all sorts of intervals, tuned up a full step (per Zens suggestion) didn’t like it and ended up frustrated and had to leave for my gig that night. I called Clint and we decided to get together that Sunday. He hadn’t seen the Odery kit and he wanted to help me out and demo his technique again.

Well holy crap! I had chicken on the grill waiting for him when he got there and then we got to town on my kit. We started with the floor tom. He got the lugs at equal pitches, tuned them a minor third apart and asked me how I liked the sound. I said sounds really, really good! He asked me to get up and stand in front of the kit about 8-10’ away while he hit it. My jaw dropped! My little 14" had BIG balls and dynamics! Honestly, it was quite remarkable! Long story short, we ended up tuning the kit a minor third apart, as opposed to a major third apart. It is what worked best for my kit.

Now lets talk about what this tuning technique does. The sound is absolutely amazing! The tone is pure, there is depth, projection, perfect sustain, great playing “feel”, volume and dynamics. The pitch intervals between all of the drums are VERY musical and there are ZERO annoying overtones or conflicting frequencies. Youd honestly have to hear it to appreciate it. My kit is extremely sensitive to tuning, which is good, but it took it a while to get it dialed in. Using the pitch pipe as opposed to the constant tone of my iphone made it much easier as well and I would highly recommend getting the pipe. Keeping it dialed in is easy and I think the more you use the technique the faster you will be at it. I have a good ear for tuning, but I have to admit this is superior to my ear because it is very precise and consistent. When you record the notes for each tom its an easy reference to quick tune them at a gig or the studio. It’s the same every single, stinkin time! Needless to say I am a very happy camper and am now a firm believer in this tuning technique.
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Old 07-11-2009, 06:11 PM
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Default Re: Tuning to a note?

I think a simple approach would be to tell somebody to tune their batter to say, a C note on the A string of a bass, and then go n frets down and tune the reso to that note. Etc for all the other toms.Yes, I realize tuning resos higher cuts sustain, but there's also choke points that you have to be aware of, and points where you hit a harmonic note that makes the reso sympathetically vibrate and makes the drum sound excellent.

My whole frustration is that its all a game of hit and miss with no real structure or systematic way to do this. And I still haven't figured out if tuning to the pitch of a shell does anything or not.
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Old 07-11-2009, 11:27 PM
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Default Re: Tuning to a note?

https://www.resotune.com/RESOTUNE.htm
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Old 07-11-2009, 11:34 PM
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Default Re: Tuning to a note?

Quote:
Originally Posted by mrchattr View Post
Cool, thanks for the info. Yeah, I realized as I wrote it all that I know "440," etc, but couldn't remember the details. I am going to tune my low floor tom to 440 million though, just to prove that it can be done! :-P
haha yeah you'll have to have a really thin head like a diplomat or something lol. I do think it's crap people who say you can't tune a drum to a note though. Everything produces some sort of note. It's very easy to tune your drum to an appropriate note. Just play it on a keyboard or pitch pipe and compare the 2. It's very easy!
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Old 07-12-2009, 05:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Strangelove View Post
I think a simple approach would be to tell somebody to tune their batter to say, a C note on the A string of a bass, and then go n frets down and tune the reso to that note. Etc for all the other toms.Yes, I realize tuning resos higher cuts sustain, but there's also choke points that you have to be aware of, and points where you hit a harmonic note that makes the reso sympathetically vibrate and makes the drum sound excellent.

My whole frustration is that its all a game of hit and miss with no real structure or systematic way to do this. And I still haven't figured out if tuning to the pitch of a shell does anything or not.
Knowing the pitch of the shell is worthless, because the drum will have a different pitch once all the hardware and heads are on.

There's no "easy" solution--as in, "always tune your 16 to C"--because drums are different. What works on my 16 may well not work on yours. For instance, if you have thicker-shelled drums they will want to play at higher pitches than thin-shelled drums. Makes a difference what heads you use, too.

Here's what everyone ought to do, regardless of whether they tune to pitches or not: find out, by experimentation, where each tom sounds best.

It's simple, though time-consuming. But unless your kit has a million toms you can do it in an afternoon and you will learn important stuff about your kit/head combo.

Do this with each tom, preferably right on its mount:

First, loosen both heads down to finger tight. For the purposes of this experiment we'll tune both heads the same, even if you decide later to have them tuned to different pitches.

Add 1/4 turn to all tension rods, top and bottom, using the criss-cross pattern. If the heads still sound flappy/papery add another 1/4 turn, and keep adding 1/4 turn until you get the first real sound without distortion. Make sure both heads are the same pitch and touch up the lug-to-lug tuning.

You have now found the lowest note this drum will play.

Now add another 1/4 turn, top and bottom, keeping the lug-to-lug tuning good. Stop and listen. Keep doing this 1/4 turn at a time until you've reached a point where the drum is obviously choked, then back off until the drum sings again. This is the highest note the drum will play well.

In-between these two points there was probably one range--as small as one note but more usually 2-3 half-steps--where the drum really sings. (I.e., where it has the most sustain and is loudest and punchiest.) That's the range where you want to keep that drum. Find out what pitch(es) are in that range and make a note of it.

Do this for all your toms. Once you're done you'll know exactly what pitches your drums/heads sound best at.

Once you've done that you can simply tune each drum to where it sounds best--which you ought to do no matter how you tune--and you're done. Or you can fool around with pitch-based tuning schemes. Those schemes can help you achieve a nice, evenly-spaced set of toms, and will help you replicate the tuning when you change heads.
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Old 05-11-2010, 09:17 PM
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Spectron Spectron is offline
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Posts: 547
Default Re: Tuning to a note?

When I got my first set of drums I literally spent as much time tuning them as I did playing them. I wanted to learn to tune so every day for about two weeks solid I would loosen all the lugs and retune. Then I bought a drum dial thinkin that it would help and it did - but it doen't do the full job. I use the drum dial to get even tension accross all the lugs then I tuned by ear from there. 75 on the drum dial is a great starting point but the actual note at each tension lug is different so I tune by ear to get a consistent note across all the lugs.

Then I heard about tuning to notes.
I am guitar player for 20 yrs now so one day I checked my tom tuning to my guitar hanging on the wall and to my surprise my toms were near perfect 4ths apart and rang with a clear note as follows:

12" - B
13" - F#
16" - Eb
22" - B

I have experimented with tuning higher but prefer the lower tuning in terms of resonance and overtones.

EVERY single time I tune my drums to where I think they sound their best (without trying for certain pitch or using the drum dial) they end up very close to these notes. A small adjustment on one tuning lug gets me to perfect notes.

Lately I have been tuning my floor tom an octave from the high tom = B and I love the sound - it's pretty much as low as it will go without sounding "flappy" and sounds fantastic alone or in conjuction with either of the rack toms - B/B octave - B/F# = power chord:)

I practiced tuning so much that now I can tune any of my drums in a matter of minutes without the drum dial. basically, I finger tight all the lugs and do a quarter turn on each lug
twice around the drum - even out the pitch at each lug - BAM! Done!

In fact the other day I replaced my 12" head from an EC2 to an emperor clear and believe it or not by tuning alone I got the emperor to sound exactly like the ec2 in terms of overtones. The emperor was *slightly* more resonant but not really a fair compare because the emp was new and the ec2 was well used....

If you can master tuning your drums - you don't need any muffling or "edge control"
IMO

I prefer tuning my toms to musical notes - it just sounds good...

P.s. I never did think Buddy Riches toms sounded all that great but man he could play!!!
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