An unusual problem with tuning


Senior Member
Most of the time, when someone posts something about tuning, they say that their rack tom(s) sounds fine, but they can't get their floor tom to sound right. I have the opposite problem. My floor tom sounds great to me. I can tune it in a variety of different ways and it always sounds good. But my rack tom seems so high maintenance. I can get it tuned to sound good, but it takes me three times as long as tuning the floor tom.

I have good heads on the drums. It's a Sonot kit. But it seems like the smallest adjustment completely changes the sound. Like, if I have the drum tensioned up and I think "Okay, just a bit more, and it'll sound perfect." So I try to turn it up a pinch, and the sound completely changes.

Anyone else have this issue?

The floor tom is a 16x16
Rack tom is 12x9


Platinum Member
I can tune well IMO, but I ALWAYS struggle with 12" rack toms. Turns out you'll see many other posts also talking about troubles with 12" rack toms! Weird. Not sure why they can be more problematic than other sizes. Doesnt make sense to me, but I definitely struggle with them.



Silver Member
Same here....but not with all of them. I have a beautiful mapex Saturn 12.9 and it is real finicky; the bearing edges are pristine and the top and bottom cuts are dead flat on a light table. Takes a good while to get her dialed in

On the other hand I have a tama sc perf b.b 12.9 that snaps into the tone I want and seemingly never's uncanny.

Got a ludwig element 12.9....and it's also quick and painless.....same with the ddrum AMX 12.9

The gretsch renown maple is somewhere inbetween the good and the finicky

Red Menace

Platinum Member
I had a similar problem with my Stage Custom Birch kit. It is a 12, 16, 24 so that dinky rack tom is a bit mismatched with the larger kick. Floor tom sounded great, nice and boomy although it really sounded sad at higher tunings. The rack tom was a bit of a humdinger to tune. It really only rang at higher tunings which didn't blend well with the lower floor tom.

I love the sound now. I really wish I could specify what exactly I did to make it sound good but it was a combination of things. I replaced the stock heads with coated single ply on both sides, had the bearing edges re-cut, removed the 12" toms suspension mount and use a snare stand to hold it. Also somewhere while I was having all that done I got into jazz and started tuning my toms a little bit higher so they ring a bit more.

I know the edges opened up the tuning range on the toms a bit but the real trick is tuning the 12" tom first, take your time with it and get it to where you really like it and then tune the 16" next.

Somewhat on topic here but just FMI, does anyone else find they have an easier time tuning bigger drums than smaller ones?


Silver Member
I have the same experience. The 12" has usually been the tom that takes most effort for me to tune it, on most kits I have owned. That's why I usually do that one first.

Once I have it dialed in, I measure the settings using a Tune-Bot so I can get back to that tuning quickly if needed.

For me the ease of tuning for the other sized toms varies. On my Pearl Masters I found the 10" easiest to tune, on my Catalina the 14" floor tom was easiest. Go figure!


Platinum Member
Interesting. Maybe I am just fortunate, but I have never met a 12' tom that wasn't easy as pie to tune. It is very surprising to see all these folks that struggle with them. I wish I had some good advice for you all.


Platinum Member
Could it be that the small size of the head/hoop is the problem. Any change in tension on even one rod will impact on the tuning much more than on a 16" tom or a 24" bass drum. Just a thought.

Over to the drum builders.


Senior Member
Somewhat on topic here but just FMI, does anyone else find they have an easier time tuning bigger drums than smaller ones?
That is exactly the case for me. But I associate it with the fact I like a deep tuning on my drums, so the bigger ones tend to give that up easily without a whole lot of work. I'm easily satisfied with my bass drum sound without much work at all.