Another drum tuning thread

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
I've go an idea, without referencing the drum bible or an external website, Google or Youtube, in your opinion, how would you start the tuning journey if you were at my place? and considering my previous criteria in order to reach approximately my goal?
Take a drum, not the snare, and take the bottom heads off. Now, with just the batter head, loosen all the rods so there is no tension. Pick 2 opposite lugs and tension them so they sound the same. When they sound the same, move to 2 more lugs. Make them sound like the first 2. Keep doing this until all the lugs sound the same. This is how you tune the drum. The bottom head works the same way. The idea with it is it needs to make a sound that compliments the top head.

It takes practice and time. A TuneBot helps.
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
Once you’ve learned how to tune a drum such that both the batter and resonant heads are “cleared” (as @larryace puts it) then you’re free to tune it to the pitch you prefer. As your tuning skills improve you’ll be able to hear an out-of-tune drum and quickly correct it. You’ll also be able to quickly tune higher or lower as your music needs. You’ll be able to try new/different heads without the frustration of trial-and-error tuning.

A big reason I chose Tama is because their Starcast mounting system makes it so damn easy to tune mounted toms. After struggling for years with an old Sonor Force 3000 kit with shell-attached mounts, the Tama system made tuning a joy.

It is absolutely imperative that one learns how to properly tune a drum because once you do, playing the instrument becomes much more enjoyable.

It takes practice and time. A TuneBot helps.
Yes, it takes time to learn. My first attempt, c.1987 with a church kit (a Yamaha maple something), I gave myself a day and could’ve used three. When I switched to Evans and bought all new heads for my Sonor kit, I gave myself a day and had success by beer o’clock.

Some great info here.
 
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MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
Yes, it takes time to learn. My first attempt, c.1987 with a church kit (a Yamaha maple something), I gave myself a day and could’ve used three. When I switched to Evans and bought all new heads for my Sonor kit, I gave myself a day and had success by beer o’clock.
I took a summer. All my extra $$$ went to heads. Like once a week I would de-head my kit and start over. Oh to be 16 again.
 

Auspicious

Well-known member
I re-read all of the thread and took notes thank you all very much, the amount of information is helping me a lot. I read some great things so far and I want to reply to some of these things later, I might have more questions.

I also have a tune-bot now, the drum shop they called today to tell me their received it, so I understand this device is for fine tuning at the end, I still need to understand how to tune both heads on a drum first.

I also have a DIY mallet to work on my tuning too,, instead of using regular sticks

It's a reading evening
 

ToneT

Well-known member
I tune my drums to notes.
I started doing this in the 80s with a Casio keyboard. An invaluable ear-training method!
I love using the TuneBot!
I have all my notes written down in a notebook.
I can play melodies on my toms, and all the drums have a reference pitch that can always be duplicated.

The late, great Shelly Manne, among others, used to tune to the key of the song to be recorded.
Jack DeJohnette used two different sized bass drums tuned to different pitches.
Bozzio has taken this approach to the highest level!

I'm all for being a melodic, musical drummer!
 

Morrisman

Platinum Member
To tune the heads individually, sit the drum on a pillow or towel so the bottom head is choked.

Getting started with a loose head, its a good idea to push the middle of the head down firmly with a finger and tighten opposing lugs around the circle until there are no wrinkles. That sets an even starting point.

Then tap around the edge of the top head, noting the pitch by each lug. The tunebot (or your ear) will tell you which ones are higher or lower and need tightening or loosening. But sometimes weird things happen, such as when tightening a lug has no effect but tightening the opposite lug works. So it takes a bit of trial and error too.
 

johnwesley

Silver Member
Reso higher than batter, get the best overall tone of a given drum you can.
You then have 3 drums with nice tone 10 tom, 14 tom, bass drum.
Now sing out loud "three-blind-mice".
You can put the 10 tom at any starting pitch you want, jazz tuning or low rock thud, just get the 3 drums in the sequence "three-blind-mice".
You use 3 blind mice.....I tune my drums to mary had a little lamb. I initially tried to tune to Beethoven's Symphony 3 but found simplicity of mary and her lamb was much easier.
 

Auspicious

Well-known member
three-blind-mice. Mary had a little lamb,

Whaat the hell is that? :p I'll learn with DuckDuckgo soon, I now have a reading queue. 🥵
 
I'm liking the no-BS approach there.
How about the top vs bottom tuning though?
Read yesterday they need to be an octave apart! (What do they think I am? Some kind of musician?)
This is another preference thing.

Most people prefer resonant head slightly higher than batter or having them the same pitch.

A few people like the resonant head slightly lower.

Experiment and see which you think sounds better.

My preference:
Snare- bottom head cranked to as hard as a table top, batter head whatever I need for the band/song
Toms/bass- bottom head slightly higher pitched than batter. Sometimes when recording I'll put both of them as low as they can go, but never live.
 
@GoAndPractice

Thanks for the advise, I spoke about that with my mom and she said the same thing to me, not to make tuning the drum a science. The tuning is art and I believe you, perhaps that's why I ear too much thing I don't like. (n) 🤣

This makes me even mad a bit, today.

I am listening to your Liam Gallagher link now.. I listened to Oasis quite a bit in the past and he kept his style as I hear now, I prefer his style over Noel. Thanks for the music link.

So, I will come up with something, cool I hope but satisfying. I am also an amateur astronomer and the owner of a Newtonian telescope which require collimation on a regular basis, the alignment of the mirrors to get the best views of the celestial objects, to get better resolution at higher power, etc. At the beginning I was highly concerned with the collimation.. but today, I do it very quickly with basic tools.. no big deal really, It's not a struggle anymore and I don't use a $300 Laser to collimate my telescope, (refering to Tune-Bot)

For the drums it could turn out to be the exact same thing in the end, but I really want to try to get the pitches, for the experience at least, I'll decide after if it's worth the efforts or a waste of time.

There a full acceptation of the facts today that I might be following the wrong path.

@GOOSE72

I checked the sounds of his drums with an online piano, the notes are spot on. In my opinion, I think his toms and snare have an amazing sound for jazz, very good and pleasent to my ear.

For me, it's as good as it can be, especially when he changed the A to a A flat, I am amazed by his musical knowledge.


@thebarak
I am looking at my tom right now and yes, it's a 12", little mistake. I will try to add more tension to my bass drum powerstroke head later, I think it's way too loose, the rebound of the beater is not good and the sound is dead. On the inside, there is a package of wool or.. I don't rember what's inthere but its a square of clothing maybe and it's not touching any heads.. I will remove it to perhaps to get improved resonance inside of the shell.

I feel unable to identify the perfect natural pitch of each of my shells right now...
Thanks! Yes I love Oasis too. I was really impressed with the new Liam Gallagher, but then I looked at the album credits and I saw why. He had a MASSIVE production/songwriting team. It's still good music but I appreciate Noel more. "One Of Us" is a great song!
 

Yamaha Rider

Well-known member
Tuning a drum is certainly not a science and as far as I'm concerned it doesn't even qualify as art. No more than hammering a nail or eating an apple. Please don't watch any more Ari Hoenig "how to" videos. There is no reason to tune drum heads as though you're tuning an instrument whose note is sustained for any length of time. The "ring" of a drum doesn't last long enough for anyone to say it's not tuned to Ab or F#. Also DO NOT tune your bottom head an octave lower than the top. (thanks for bringing it up YamahaRider)

Very true. I use a drum dial only to get the tensions as close as possible, then tune mostly from the center of the drum to the best sound. Some times all tensions are still very close, sometimes not. As I said in the beginning this ain't a science or art. The art of drums is how you play, not how you tune, no matter what crackpot videos out there profess. Enjoy.
Now that's a refreshing post 👍
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Tuning drums is absolutely scientific. You can't make a precision instrument that measures art. (Tunebot)

Evenly tensioning a circular membrane isn't art, it's 100% science, physics to be more precise.

FWIW I tune: (using 4 toms high to low) first rack tom: starting tone, 2nd rack tom is a 4th under the starting tone, first floor an octave below the starting tone, 2nd floor an octave below the 2nd rack tom. A nicely tuned kit...that resolves.

If a kit has only 2 toms, I like an octave between them, so they resolve.
 

Auspicious

Well-known member
Think for yourself my friend and learn. However you achieve what you're after is the way it should be done. But play from the heart, not the brain.
Thanks for that advice, I will try to follow it the best I can but it's a mess right now.
Reso higher than batter, get the best overall tone of a given drum you can. I can't figure how to do that currently.
You then have 3 drums with nice tone 10 tom, 14 tom, bass drum. I made a mistake i have a 12", not a 10"
Now sing out loud "three-blind-mice". Ok

You can put the 10 tom at any starting pitch you want, jazz tuning or low rock thud, just get the 3 drums in the sequence "three-blind-mice".
Regarding tuning to notes, I do this only after I have determined how the drums all sound best together. After getting them tuned, then I document what notes the heads are tuned to, only for the purpose of taking the guesswork out of future tuning / head changes. I like this approach
And the LAST thing I want is a melodic sounding kit, as I've said before; I intentionally tune my toms to NOT create a melody - or at least not something easily recognizable as such.

I suggest you download the tunebot App, which includes tables of suggested frequencies for different sized drums at various pitches.

As for the relative pitch of top and bottom heads, in Rock music I tune the bottom a third higher than the top, but for Jazz I tune the top a bit higher. In practice I leave the bottom heads at medium and bring the top up or down for different styles. Ok.. i keep that in mind.. but I might not follow it.

Remember that when you tap next to a lug you are hearing a harmonic - the actual pitch of the drum will be approx. one octave lower.
Take a drum, not the snare, and take the bottom heads off o_O Confusing, I looked at videos when they keep both heads and even leave the chains, some videos they damper the heads, some video they don't damper the heads, some video they tune only the batter with the tune bot and no info for the reso.. . Now, with just the batter head, loosen all the rods so there is no tension. Pick 2 opposite lugs and tension them so they sound the same. When they sound the same, move to 2 more lugs. Make them sound like the first 2. Keep doing this until all the lugs sound the same. This is how you tune the drum. The bottom head works the same way. The idea with it is it needs to make a sound that compliments the top head.

It takes practice and time. A TuneBot helps.

To tune the heads individually, sit the drum on a pillow or towel so the bottom head is choked. Tried that this morning actually with the tune bot, but the results are inconsistent, i am starting to give me anxiety has I see all the time of my day pass and me sinking into quicksand.

Getting started with a loose head, its a good idea to push the middle of the head down firmly with a finger and tighten opposing lugs around the circle until there are no wrinkles. That sets an even starting point.

Then tap around the edge of the top head, noting the pitch by each lug. The tunebot (or your ear) will tell you which ones are higher or lower and need tightening or loosening. But sometimes weird things happen, such as when tightening a lug has no effect but tightening the opposite lug works. So it takes a bit of trial and error too.
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Ok thanks for all the answers, I appreciate it highly but I am confused like crazy right now and all that knowledge is subjected to a thought virus in my head. I want to develop my technical method as I am a drafting technician and an artist too, I like both. Right now I am convinced that it's a fusion of technical and art, at least for me, it's a blend of both.

I would like to stop everything now and chunk down to my snare drum only, I have various choices or paths.

A. Tuning the snare with both heads installed on it and put one head on a pillow. (Which one to tune first seems like different for everyone)
B. Tuning the snare with both heads installed with the snare installed on a mount, no damping
C. Removing 1 head off from the snare. (Which one to tune first)

This is the first thing I want to close.

TUNE-BOT: Since I have a tune-bot, I would like to use it for that exercise as I don't know at what tension I need to tune either the RESO or the BATTER, the tune bot CAN guide me through that by using the frequency. Right now, a head seems low or high to me but really, is it low or high?

I have to disagree when I read that the tune bot is a gadget, It looks to me like a precise sensor, just like any metering tool for a technicien or a scientist. My technician side loves it and later, my artistic side will mess with the results of that sensor, but I am not there yet.

I read the tutorials last evening and so far I want to go ahead with this idea and to match a typical old jazz bop sound.

- A drum tuned high
- A fundamental pitch a bit higher then default

RESO AND BATTER TENSION
Now I read about RESO head lower then BATTER or RESO higher then BATTER, I guess I need to hear the difference between the 2 to judge which one I prefer later.

For instance this morning, I tried to tune the reso head of my snare very high and in my opinion, the logs, the key, were tight but the reading at eash logs are around 200 hz only.

According to the charts of Tune-Bot the logs need to be around 340hz 400Hz, the exact number is not important here because I have 190 hz right now and nowhere near 300Hz and I fear that there is a danger of snapping the head because it looks already SUPER tight, what I think is super tight is also based on nothing so..
 
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cbphoto

Gold Member
…I am confused like crazy right now…
This is disappointing. My apologies if I contributed to your confusion.

The tune-bot is used to display the frequency at the node being measured. It is not to be used like a guitar tuner, with a readout of a specific note.

With the drum on a soft surface that mutes the bottom head, Tap the drum about 1” in from the rim, not in the center.

As you bring tension to the head, using the Star-pattern sequence illustrated below, the tune-bot should be used to equalize the frequency at each lug/tuning rod. When you pick up the drum and strike the center, that is its fundamental sound.



Here’s an example of various tunings of the same drum:

 

Auspicious

Well-known member
This is disappointing. My apologies if I contributed to your confusion. No no you didn't your previous publication was great, it's going to work for me eventaually like everything.

The tune-bot is used to display the frequency at the node being measured. It is not to be used like a guitar tuner, with a readout of a specific note.

With the drum on a soft surface that mutes the bottom head, Tap the drum about 1” in from the rim, not in the center. Ok

As you bring tension to the head, using the Star-pattern sequence illustrated below, the tune-bot should be used to equalize the frequency at each lug/tuning rod. When you pick up the drum and strike the center, that is its fundamental sound. Ok



Here’s an example of various tunings of the same drum: Thanks for the video, the frequency in this videos are closer to logic then trying to reach 400 HZ with the rezo head.. ther is something wrong in the Tune-Bot tutorials and charts I think.

 

Auspicious

Well-known member
RESULT at the end of the day.

I spent a couple of hours learning how to tune today.. the snare only... I think I might have spend more then 4 hours on that, it took time but I remember well how to do it.

Basically, I tried to find the full resonance of the drum BEFORE as suggested here by a couple of users.

I listened to 2 videos, Bob Gatzen and Philip Ellis, to get an idea of the right tension I should approximately apply on each heads. With the notes from Bob Gatzen, (A and C) I really can ear that the drum has opened and the sound is deep and wide, that's the success, the heads work well together, the resonance is beautiful, there is no chocking.

I could replicate these examples by ear.


Now I have a good idea of the amount of tension these heads require as a base line to tune the snare differently the next time. I have a basic sound now and the snare sounds great.

I used the Tune-Bot to equalize all the logs once the pitchs were good enough, awesome

A bit of success so far
 

Auspicious

Well-known member
I am working on the toms today, and spend a fare amount of time trying to find the right sounds for all of my drums..I ended up listening to videos, again, in order to copy the pitch of their Catalina Club jazz instead of trying to come up with my "custom" sound and by using the Tune-Bot.

So far, my realization is that I don't like the sound of that drums when it's tuned too high, the heads are too chocked and the sound is simply not good, not enough resonance, I had to tune much lower then expected.

The drum is almost back to were it was BEFORE, almost exactly.. except that the snare has a much better sound then previously.

I'll publish a video here later today, for analyze, to see if I am into something or completely wrong.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
Unless you have their drum, their heads, their mics, etc etc etc, you wont get your drum to sound like one on Youtube unless it is just plain dumb luck. Tune your drum within its self. All drums havs a best tuning. It may not be exactly what you are looking for of listening for, but that's where the drum sounds best. Tweak it and the other toms to sound good together and go play your drums. You don't need gimmicks, devices, etc. othere than your ear. Give it a try.
 

Auspicious

Well-known member
Unless you have their drum, their heads, their mics, etc etc etc, you wont get your drum to sound like one on Youtube unless it is just plain dumb luck. Tune your drum within its self. All drums havs a best tuning. It may not be exactly what you are looking for of listening for, but that's where the drum sounds best. Tweak it and the other toms to sound good together and go play your drums. You don't need gimmicks, devices, etc. othere than your ear. Give it a try.
Thanks for the reply, I think I found a base point for my own drum, it's similar to the videos but not exactly the same thing. I did it by ear almost exclusively. I am going to check it out right now and do final adjustments.

After I'll publish a video sequence.

Perhaps it's not the place where the drum sounds best but it certainly is not bad.
 
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