16" and 18" floor tom interval observation

cdrums21

Gold Member
For those of us who are playing 16" and 18" floor toms......I don't see much, if any, information about this on line anywhere, so I thought I'd post some thoughts/observations about tuning these two floor toms together. As everyone knows, drum tuning is subjective and not everyone likes the same types of sounds and tunings coming from their drums. I recently went back to playing 16" and 18" floor toms. After some 30 years since playing those sizes, I now have a keener knowledge about tuning and drum sounds in general. In most situations today, the 16" floor tom is probably the biggest tom on a drummer's kit. What I am noticing in watching tuning videos or seeing Tunebot settings on drums being tuned for comparison videos, is that the 16" floor tom is being tuned very low....like almost no tension on the lug screws at all, maybe 1/2 turn at best. If you have an 18" floor tom as well, in order to get a good pitch difference, you'd have to take that 18" down really low to sub-sonic levels, but then it sounds thin and papery at this point. I've heard comments that an 18" floor tom is hard to tune or it doesn't sound right with the 16" floor tom. I don't think it's hard to tune an 18" floor tom, but I do think it's kinda hard to get the two to sound good together. What I have noticed, at least for me, is that you pretty much have to tune the 16" floor tom a tad higher than maybe you would if it was the only floor tom on the kit. The 18" drum batter head has to be tuned up enough for it to get out of that papery sounding, sloppy area and give it some tone and presence. Unfortunately, sometimes that is too close to where the 16" drum likes to live. So the point I am trying to make in this post is, if you are struggling to get a good sound and interval between your 16" and 18" floor toms, you may want to try tuning the 16" floor tom up just a bit. It has helped me a great deal in dialing in those big tubs to sound big and beefy. As always, this is just one man's opinion. Hope this helps someone looking for some info on the subject.
 

dwsabianguy

Senior Member
Yeah, once I gave up the notion that every floor tom should be the biggest sounding floor tom, tuning them became a lot easier! My 16 is still plenty low, but it's not the lowest tom on the kit so it doesn't make sense to tune it that way. The 16 and 18 have a proper fourth between them.
 

cdrums21

Gold Member
Yeah, once I gave up the notion that every floor tom should be the biggest sounding floor tom, tuning them became a lot easier! My 16 is still plenty low, but it's not the lowest tom on the kit so it doesn't make sense to tune it that way. The 16 and 18 have a proper fourth between them.
Just for reference and to help some other guys/gals struggling with this, do you know what notes or frequencies your floors are tuned to? Bottom head tighter?
 

yammyfan

Senior Member
I tune my 14" and 16" floor toms to 85 Hz and 69 Hz, respectively. I imagine those numbers would work just as well for 16" and 18" toms.

I'm tempted to buy an 18" floor tom but I can't see myself hauling around to gigs so there's no point. The novelty would be great though.
 

drumnut87

Well-known member
i rock 16 & 18 floor toms, to tune them i start with the 18, finger tighten the lugs, press down in the middle of the resonant head, tune it to just above wrinkle, then go another 1/2 turn to 1 full turn per lug above that, then do the same with the batter head only tune it slightly lower, then i go for the 16" and do the same thing, and get them close to each other.
 

EricT43

Senior Member
I tune my 14" and 16" floor toms to 85 Hz and 69 Hz, respectively. I imagine those numbers would work just as well for 16" and 18" toms.

I'm tempted to buy an 18" floor tom but I can't see myself hauling around to gigs so there's no point. The novelty would be great though.
I tune mine close to that, a bit lower (82 and 65, or E and C). If I didn't have the 14", and used 16" and 18" instead, I'd tune the 18" to a B and the 16" up to an E. To be honest, I think a 16" floor tom sounds a lot better tuned up to at least a D. The way I have it tuned now is mostly to get it out of the way of the other drums, and it doesn't have much tone (or maybe the tone is just too low to be heard well). Since I first started drumming, it seems the trend has been to smaller drums tuned lower, and I suppose it has advantages - easier to transport, more compact setup, etc. But for sound and feel, I'd rather have bigger drums with more head tension.
 

dwsabianguy

Senior Member
Just for reference and to help some other guys/gals struggling with this, do you know what notes or frequencies your floors are tuned to? Bottom head tighter?
They're roughly an A1 and a D2. Bottom heads are about a whole step higher than the top heads with clear Ambassadors on both sides.

At least, this is the Yamahas. The Gretsches are tuned totally differently, and they're in cases right now. You can hear them both in a fill together at 3:07 in this video.
 
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MikeM

Platinum Member
I noticed this issue when I used to have 16" and 18" floors. That's why I went to pairing a 15" with an 18". It's not because I like a 15" better than a 16", but the 15" is just far enough away from the 18" when tuned with a similar low-ish tension.
 

timmdrum

Silver Member
With a set of toms with size intervals between them remaining the same- say, 2 inches- the larger the sizes of any two in a row, the less proportional difference there is between their sizes. The difference between 16 & 18 is much less than that of 10 & 12. The two inch difference from 10 to 12 is a bigger leap due to 2 inches being 1/5 the size of the 10" tom. The same two inches aren't as proportionately large with the 16 & 18 since it's only 1/8 the size of the 16" tom. Ludwig, not too long ago, addressed this somewhat by offering a 5 piece kit config with tom sizes 10/12/15.

I believe this was discussed in greater detail some years ago here on Drummerworld, but I don't recall what the underlying topic was that brought it up.
 

Lee-Bro

Senior Member
I had a similar issue when I had 16" and 18" floor toms -but I attribute that mostly to the fact that I was running pinstripes over ambassadors on both of them. I changed head setup between the two and ended up having two distinctly different and good sounding floor toms. I put a clear hydraulic over an ambassador on the 18" for a while and then ended up going back to pinstripe on top and emperor on the bottom.

Since then, I've learned to figure out which heads work best with each individual tom...and to monitor my OCD eye twitch because all the heads arren't the same.

*all heads were clear.
 

cdrums21

Gold Member
They're roughly an A1 and a D2. Bottom heads are about a whole step higher than the top heads with clear Ambassadors on both sides.

At least, this is the Yamahas. The Gretsches are tuned totally differently, and they're in cases right now. You can hear them both in a fill together at 3:07 in this video.
Cool man. I’m assuming you are referring to the pitches of the top heads when you say A1 and D2? Right now, mine are tuned to 16” top head about a C (130 Hz) bottom a C# (138 Hz). 18” top head about a G (97 Hz) and a G# on the bottom (103 Hz). Clear emperors over clear ambassadors. Fundamentals are roughly a D# (16) and an A# (18). I was always a minor third higher on the resonant head guy, but the floor toms seem a little fuller sounding with a 1/2 step difference. If I go lower than this tuning on the 18, it loses balls. I could go a tad lower on the 16, but then it starts to be difficult hearing the difference between the two. These are Ludwig classic maples. By the way, I don’t use a tune bot but rather a pitch pipe AFTER I tune them by ear.....not that it matters. I have an app on my phone that tells me the frequency, to satisfy the geek in me :)
 
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dwsabianguy

Senior Member
Cool man. I’m assuming you are referring to the pitches of the top heads when you say A1 and D2?
I'm referring to the sound the drums make when you strike it, not one head or the other. I hit the drum, hummed the note, made a mental note of octave differences (I can't sing down into that range, though I wish I could) then found the notes on the piano in my studio. Nothing too clinical here.
 

cdrums21

Gold Member
I'm referring to the sound the drums make when you strike it, not one head or the other. I hit the drum, hummed the note, made a mental note of octave differences (I can't sing down into that range, though I wish I could) then found the notes on the piano in my studio. Nothing too clinical here.
Oh ok gotcha. They are just about the same as mine, only a half step difference. Cool, thanks for the clarification.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
I played a 24, 13, 16, 18 Ludwig Classic Maple at Forks in Nashville this past November. That kit has been haunting me ever since. Loved it!
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
When I played a Sonor with the classic 12, 13, 16, 18 setup, I tuned my 18” tom first and went up from there. No flabby tuning, nice and open. Starting with the 18” made tuning the others easy. No Tunebot (they didn’t exist).
 

cdrums21

Gold Member
I played a 24, 13, 16, 18 Ludwig Classic Maple at Forks in Nashville this past November. That kit has been haunting me ever since. Loved it!
That's what I currently play. I'm digging them, although it took me a little while to reacquaint myself with those sizes. I was playing a DW 12/14/16/22 before that.
 
Yeah, once I gave up the notion that every floor tom should be the biggest sounding floor tom, tuning them became a lot easier! My 16 is still plenty low, but it's not the lowest tom on the kit so it doesn't make sense to tune it that way. The 16 and 18 have a proper fourth between them.
I do fourths between my 16 and 18. I'm also running a G12 on the 18, the added thickness lets me tune a bit higher than JAW. I try and start with the 18 and tune up the other drums up from there.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
I have a 14 and 16, though I typically keep the 14 to the left of the hat in a Larry Mullen Jr style.

To me, the sizes are completely arbitrary, and I just tune them to whatever the session requires. I can see an arguments for precision-incrementing them to a maj-4th for timpanic emulation, or JAW for double bass emulation, etc. There's no generalized right or wrong, only specific right/wrong for a particular song/session.

Dig?
 
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