Cool Tuning

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
A couple threads back while debating whether to consider a drumset a conditionally tuned instrument, the issue was raised about key changes, So What's a drummer to do?

Welp, don't go setting your harmonica player on fire, just yet because, gasp!, most bands don't use every key under the sun.

Now suppose you were in a band that played in couple of keys, IE your singer's voice was best in E, and maybe a couple other keys, or its a brass band and they like F, Bb, Eb or its a keyboard band and they play in C...

You can look at the notes they have in common, usually the key changes are to related keys like I,V,IV, if they go way out there maybe a II or dominant VII.

"Now how does that help?", you ask. Even four keys away there are three notes in common. Validate it for yourself. The keys of Bb and D have The notes D,G and A, or the 2, 5 and 6 of the key of C.

Kind of Cool Eh? You could even stack them in fourths and play a Miles Davis tune.
 
M

Matt Bo Eder

Guest
There's still the "a drum cannot be tuned" mental camp, because a drum is an indefinite pitched instrument. I've honestly just went for where the drum sang its best and nobody really says "those drums are out of tune with the song, man", because nobody can really hear the pitches. So I've never run into a situation like yours.

It is an interesting argument that has been going on since the dawn of the drumset.

Maybe that's why we have tympani players ;)
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
There's still the "a drum cannot be tuned" mental camp, because a drum is an indefinite pitched instrument. I've honestly just went for where the drum sang its best and nobody really says "those drums are out of tune with the song, man", because nobody can really hear the pitches. So I've never run into a situation like yours.

It is an interesting argument that has been going on since the dawn of the drumset.

Maybe that's why we have tympani players ;)
I don't know if I like the suspended fourth tuning myself, but I think it has merit. Tuning by fourths is already somewhat popular, though the individual drums may not sound the best, it may work in certain types of ensembles that like to change keys often. I think I prefer turnings to equal tempered drum chords, because it makes my set sound in tune, and my drums have weird she'll sizes anyway.
 

zfzgg

Senior Member
I guess I'm in the 'drums can't be tuned' camp. The overtones produced by a two-headed drum don't form a harmonic series, and so we generally don't discern a musical pitch from them. Sure, you could tune the fundamental to a Bb for example, but because the overtones are all non-integer multiples of that fundamental, our ears won't register the whole sound as a Bb, i.e. It has no harmonic relevance to the music and won't sound especially in-tune or out-of-tune in any key.

It's certainly possible to tune a series of toms so that they descend in fourths or fifths, but again, due to the nature of a two-headed drum, you're not actually producing musical pitches that can be used to play real melodies.

Similarly, you may know that your kick sounds good when the fundamental is tuned to an F#, but that probably doesn't mean it will sound inharmonious when you're playing a tune in the key of G.

Or so is my understanding. Would love to hear a rebuttal!
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
I guess I'm in the 'drums can't be tuned' camp. The overtones produced by a two-headed drum don't form a harmonic series, and so we generally don't discern a musical pitch from them. Sure, you could tune the fundamental to a Bb for example, but because the overtones are all non-integer multiples of that fundamental, our ears won't register the whole sound as a Bb, i.e. It has no harmonic relevance to the music and won't sound especially in-tune or out-of-tune in any key.

It's certainly possible to tune a series of toms so that they descend in fourths or fifths, but again, due to the nature of a two-headed drum, you're not actually producing musical pitches that can be used to play real melodies.

Similarly, you may know that your kick sounds good when the fundamental is tuned to an F#, but that probably doesn't mean it will sound inharmonious when you're playing a tune in the key of G.

Or so is my understanding. Would love to hear a rebuttal!
I haven't heard much of an understanding. Your argument amounts to, a drummer can produce more harmonious music being unaware of the harmonics his drums are producing. Doesn't sound very cool.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
I was watching a highspeed set up of Bozzios drums yesterday and he was explaining his pedal collection from DW, and all of his bass drums are tuned to notes. and his left hand set of toms are tuned to the buttons on an accordion. So some would disagree about not being tuned or tunable.
 

WallyY

Platinum Member
Matching the fundamental to notes sounds good in theory, but I suspect it would cancel out the differentiation of other instruments tuned similarly.

When you go into the studio and the engineer "cleans up" your sound, the drums will sound even more insipid than the standard engineer fare.

I want my drums to stand out against the tonal instruments.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
Here is something that I don't think has been mentioned. ( This is on a set of Yamaha Stage Customs. )

> I find that when I hit my drums very very lightly I hear a clear single musical note. Playing soft solos with musically tuned drums can be fun.
> When I hit the drum a little harder, I hear a musical note with over tones.
> When I hit the drum hard, like I usually play, I hear an attack sound, and a note mixed in with lots of over tones. The musical note tuning becomes less important.

My point is, I can tune my drums for musical notes, but then when I play with different intensities and with a band, the single musical note gets washed out and diminished.


.
 

JacobDB

Member
Well there's a time and place. I had a friend that played in more of a downtempo metal band and they had a tympani played and they always matched their drums. It's also noted in plenty of interviews that Danny Carey from Tool tunes his drums to specific notes. He also uses a freaking bronze drum set.

http://dannycarey.org/drums/

I also feel like a lot of drummers focus on use of drums for rhythm only and don't care what tuning the drum is in as long as it's in tune. I'm, personally, that kind of drummer.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
Matching the fundamental to notes sounds good in theory, but I suspect it would cancel out the differentiation of other instruments tuned similarly.

When you go into the studio and the engineer "cleans up" your sound, the drums will sound even more insipid than the standard engineer fare.

I want my drums to stand out against the tonal instruments.
That is an interesting approach. Though, you might find that matching the fundamental will allow the sonority of the drum stand out more. This is the common approach in traditional Chinese music, where they tend to play synchronously and highlight the differences in timbre between the instruments, so even their fiddles and wind instruments can have a brash timbre to western ears. Often times they play the lead melodies on miniature gong like things, and seldom change keys.
 

mjtug

Junior Member
I don't know if I like the suspended fourth tuning myself, but I think it has merit. Tuning by fourths is already somewhat popular, though the individual drums may not sound the best, it may work in certain types of ensembles that like to change keys often. I think I prefer turnings to equal tempered drum chords, because it makes my set sound in tune, and my drums have weird she'll sizes anyway.

Dude, what is a suspended fourth tuning?
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
I don't know if I like the suspended fourth tuning myself, but I think it has merit. Tuning by fourths is already somewhat popular, though the individual drums may not sound the best, it may work in certain types of ensembles that like to change keys often. I think I prefer turnings to equal tempered drum chords, because it makes my set sound in tune, and my drums have weird she'll sizes anyway.

Dude, what is a suspended fourth tuning?
A tuning based on the suspended fourth chord. Having the note intervals of a root a fourth and a fifth. These chords are commonly inverted to stacked fourths(especially in cool jazz), sometimes more fourths are stacked on top or bottom. These chords are unusual in that they don't have movement, resolution, or a strong tone center(sometimes perceived as a rapidly shifting tone center), but provide a flexible background for melodic solos. Some may consider them non-functional chords.
 

zfzgg

Senior Member
I haven't heard much of an understanding. Your argument amounts to, a drummer can produce more harmonious music being unaware of the harmonics his drums are producing. Doesn't sound very cool.
SmoothOperator,

I don't understand what you are saying. Could you try rewording it?

I like to think I have a pretty decent understanding of the harmonic series and its relevance to musical instruments. I am aware of how a drum's harmonics behave and I am saying that, in my opinion, a struck two-headed drum will not produce a useful musical pitch, especially if the two heads are tuned to different tensions. One headed drums behave a bit nicer, but I think they are still too dissonant to be considered a melodic instrument.

See here for another's analysis:

https://www.resotune.com/About_drums.htm

I don't want to start an argument and I would love to talk about this, but I'm finding your posts so far to be very difficult to follow. Is it possible for you to speak more in layman's terms and explain things in a little more depth?

I was watching a highspeed set up of Bozzios drums yesterday and he was explaining his pedal collection from DW, and all of his bass drums are tuned to notes. and his left hand set of toms are tuned to the buttons on an accordion. So some would disagree about not being tuned or tunable.
GRUNTERSDAD,

That's a really good point, and I agree with you that others do think differently to me. When I listen to Terry Bozzio's solos on Youtube though, it doesn't sound very melodic to me. It sounds like a bunch of toms just like any other giant drum kit. I can't identify any harmony, any chord progressions; I can't imagine, for example, a saxophone player being able to listen to his tom-runs, notate them and then play them on the sax. Or, if they tried, I think the resultant music would not sound very similar to Terry's original playing at all. If you were to, say, take a string quartet and give the viola part to Terry to play on his kit along with the other three musicians, I don't think it would work at all; I don't believe his instrument is qualified to perform as a melodic instrument with other concert-pitch melodic instruments. It's just dissonance to me. E.G:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgjL81qzZMs

Again, I'd love some discussion! Are there other examples of his playing that are perhaps better at showing his melodies? Are there any videos of him harmonising with a piano or a guitar?

To be clear - He IS playing melodies in the sense that his toms are all clearly tuned higher or lower than eachother, and he's doing runs between them, making music with a clear shape. My argument is that his music is not 'concert-pitch' melodic. If he is playing in a band in the key of E, and he starts playing his Eb tom and his F bass drum, I believe that no-one would think he is out of tune with the band, there would be no more dissonance than any other drum because a drum is an un-tuned instrument. Tuned instruments all produce overtones than follow the harmonic series nearly perfectly; it is that behaviour that makes us identify them as tuned. Drums do not follow this series and so I don't believe they have any harmonic relevance to the music they are played in.

(for regular drumset drums. Exceptions made for tympani and maybe some others :)).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmonic_series_(music)
 
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Stroman

Platinum Member
SmoothOperator,

I don't understand what you are saying. Could you try rewording it?

I like to think I have a pretty decent understanding of the harmonic series and its relevance to musical instruments. I am aware of how a drum's harmonics behave and I am saying that, in my opinion, a struck two-headed drum will not produce a useful musical pitch, especially if the two heads are tuned to different tensions. One headed drums behave a bit nicer, but I think they are still too dissonant to be considered a melodic instrument.

See here for another's analysis:

https://www.resotune.com/About_drums.htm

I don't want to start an argument and I would love to talk about this, but I'm finding your posts so far to be very difficult to follow. Is it possible for you to speak more in layman's terms and explain things in a little more depth?



GRUNTERSDAD,

That's a really good point, and I agree with you that others do think differently to me. When I listen to Terry Bozzio's solos on Youtube though, it doesn't sound very melodic to me. It sounds like a bunch of toms just like any other giant drum kit. I can't identify any harmony, any chord progressions; I can't imagine, for example, a saxophone player being able to listen to his tom-runs, notate them and then play them on the sax. Or, if they tried, I think the resultant music would not sound very similar to Terry's original playing at all. If you were to, say, take a string quartet and give the viola part to Terry to play on his kit along with the other three musicians, I don't think it would work at all; I don't believe his instrument is qualified to perform as a melodic instrument with other concert-pitch melodic instruments. It's just dissonance to me. E.G:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgjL81qzZMs

Again, I'd love some discussion! Are there other examples of his playing that are perhaps better at showing his melodies? Are there any videos of him harmonising with a piano or a guitar?

To be clear - He IS playing melodies in the sense that his toms are all clearly tuned higher or lower than eachother, and he's doing runs between them, making music with a clear shape. My argument is that his music is not 'concert-pitch' melodic. If he is playing in a band in the key of E, and he starts playing his Eb tom and his F bass drum, I believe that no-one would think he is out of tune with the band, there would be no more dissonance than any other drum because a drum is an un-tuned instrument. Tuned instruments all produce overtones than follow the harmonic series nearly perfectly; it is that behaviour that makes us identify them as tuned. Drums do not follow this series and so I don't believe they have any harmonic relevance to the music they are played in.

(for regular drumset drums. Exceptions made for tympani and maybe some others :)).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmonic_series_(music)
I totally understand and agree with you. I am one who generally tunes to specific intervals, but I have heard enough recordings of my drums to know the toms are not actually producing those notes when played normally. They never sound out of tune with the band.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
SmoothOperator,

I don't understand what you are saying. Could you try rewording it?

I like to think I have a pretty decent understanding of the harmonic series and its relevance to musical instruments. I am aware of how a drum's harmonics behave and I am saying that, in my opinion, a struck two-headed drum will not produce a useful musical pitch, especially if the two heads are tuned to different tensions. One headed drums behave a bit nicer, but I think they are still too dissonant to be considered a melodic instrument.

See here for another's analysis:

https://www.resotune.com/About_drums.htm

I don't want to start an argument and I would love to talk about this, but I'm finding your posts so far to be very difficult to follow. Is it possible for you to speak more in layman's terms and explain things in a little more depth?



GRUNTERSDAD,

That's a really good point, and I agree with you that others do think differently to me. When I listen to Terry Bozzio's solos on Youtube though, it doesn't sound very melodic to me. It sounds like a bunch of toms just like any other giant drum kit. I can't identify any harmony, any chord progressions; I can't imagine, for example, a saxophone player being able to listen to his tom-runs, notate them and then play them on the sax. Or, if they tried, I think the resultant music would not sound very similar to Terry's original playing at all. If you were to, say, take a string quartet and give the viola part to Terry to play on his kit along with the other three musicians, I don't think it would work at all; I don't believe his instrument is qualified to perform as a melodic instrument with other concert-pitch melodic instruments. It's just dissonance to me. E.G:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgjL81qzZMs

Again, I'd love some discussion! Are there other examples of his playing that are perhaps better at showing his melodies? Are there any videos of him harmonising with a piano or a guitar?

To be clear - He IS playing melodies in the sense that his toms are all clearly tuned higher or lower than eachother, and he's doing runs between them, making music with a clear shape. My argument is that his music is not 'concert-pitch' melodic. If he is playing in a band in the key of E, and he starts playing his Eb tom and his F bass drum, I believe that no-one would think he is out of tune with the band, there would be no more dissonance than any other drum because a drum is an un-tuned instrument. Tuned instruments all produce overtones than follow the harmonic series nearly perfectly; it is that behaviour that makes us identify them as tuned. Drums do not follow this series and so I don't believe they have any harmonic relevance to the music they are played in.

(for regular drumset drums. Exceptions made for tympani and maybe some others :)).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmonic_series_(music)
I don't want to argue this with you(you obviously have a strongly rooted OPINION), so I will keep it short and sweet. There are many tonal instruments, that don't have a harmonic series, if the only one you can name is a tympani, then I think your OPINION isn't relevant to this thread.
 

zfzgg

Senior Member
I don't want to argue this with you(you obviously have a strongly rooted OPINION), so I will keep it short and sweet. There are many tonal instruments, that don't have a harmonic series, if the only one you can name is a tympani, then I think your OPINION isn't relevant to this thread.
Due to the enclosed shape of a tymp, its large diameter and where it is struck, most of a tympani's prominent overtones do actually follow the harmonic series very closely. Hence, we hear a fairly clear pitch from them and they can definitely be used to provide harmonic support to a piece of music. See below:

http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/music/timpani.html

If a 'tonal instrument' is one that can provide clear melodic and harmonic accompaniment when playing music based on the 12-tone scale we all know, then I can not think of a tonal instrument that does not produce some harmonic series when played. I guess you could rig up a keyboard to just play a plain sin wave at the desired frequency with no overtones at all.. Could you name a tonal instrument that does not produce a harmonic series?

As an aside, I apologise if I'm misreading this situation. I'm trying really hard to make some discussion, explain my position clearly and back my arguments up with supporting links where I can. I thought it was fitting with the theme of the thread, but I may have been wrong. Your responses have been brief, haven't provided any counter-arguments and are starting to become a bit mean, if I'm honest. I don't want to derail your thread into a flame war and I certainly don't want to smear an argument across the front page of Drummerworld. If you'd prefer I stop replying and let you steer the thread in your own direction, just say the word. Your thread, your rules mate.
 
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