Damping versus Tuning


Senior Member
This has probably been discussed a million times, but anyways....

I saw an interview with Gregg Bissonette, and he said he always tunes his drums to be the most resonate, same pitch top and bottom,,,if he needs a deader sound, he can always put stuff on 'em...

I remember back in the day reading all the time that you should always tune your drums how you want them and try not to put stuff on 'em...

so which do you prefer/do?


Platinum Member
I don't really think there are any rules. I tend to like a resonant sound most of the time, but once in a while I like a more controlled sound. Rather than retune, I generally throw a Ritchie ring on there, or tape a piece of paper towel on the head.

On rare occasions, I like a flashback to the 70s sound, so I'll take the reso heads off! Very rarely, though, and it never lasts long.


Active Member
Yes. I mean all is fair when trying to achieve a certain sound, or chasing something particular like dead sounding drums. This can be achieved in many ways, but yeah I think your drums should be tuned and resonant, then if you need to deaden them for whatever reason, you can.


Senior Member
Same as above - tune top and bottom the same ( not the snare or bass drum) . Ritchie rings, moongel, gaffer as needed ( not all 3!)


Senior Member
Gregg knows his stuff... listen to Gregg... :)

IMO the question isn't tuning versus damping.... because there is conflict, no battle, no contest between the two. They are both techniques. And sure, there are ways to tune that can tame the length of note... and they are completely valid. They also sound different than doing it more like Gregg suggests... Different approaches resulting in different sounds.... Again no conflict.... no right or wrong.... just tools for finding what works best for each player or each setting...


Platinum Member
so which do you prefer/do?
I never really "put stuff on them". And it's been close to 30 years, that I've put anythiing "inside" a drum (bass drum). I use head selection instead. In a small room ..... or a really live room (or both) ...... having the most resonance isn't always a good thing. So I run the gamut of Ambassador, Emperor, Controlled Sound, Powerstoke3, or Pinstripe to accomplish the desired sound.


Senior Member
IMO it is similar to the discussion about using tuning devices or not: do what works best for you.

My drums are tuned how I like them but, for whatever reason, one or more can ring too much in a certain room, it happens.
Then I won't fiddel around with tuning (let alone trying different heads) but use a moongel, gaffer tape, a towel or whatever works.


Silver Member
I tune for maximum resonance as in my experience it works best for my situation, an un micd kit playing alongside amplified instruments in pubs. In my previous band the kit was often close micd so keeping the tuning the same and simply putting a set of studio rings on the toms allowed me to switch between band set ups effectively with the minimum of fuss for me and the soundman.


Platinum Member
Tune to the room you're playing in. I like a big open sound but that's not always possible.

You can tune the resonant head up to get a shorter note. I have a full set of O rings and Moon gels if I need to dampen down but mass on the head means a lower note so tuning is negated somewhat.

There's no secret to it you just learn to be prepared for every situation you might show up to


Platinum Member
I tune my bottom heads tighter than the batters b/c I tune my batters pretty low. I like a long, low note. I use Snareweight M80's on the toms and the snare drum to make it easier on the sound guys. If I don't use snare weights, they have to fiddle around with compression, gates, etc. If I use Snareweights, it's more of a plug-n-play situation with mixing drums.


I saw an interview with Gregg Bissonette, and he said he always tunes his drums to be the most resonate, same pitch top and bottom,,,if he needs a deader sound, he can always put stuff on 'em...

My 5 piece set is in a bedroom recording studio. The drums are tuned to pitch per the Drum-Bot PDF recommendations, which is very resonant. I use Evans E-Rings on them. Tried gells and they didn't sound as good as the rings in my application. I love the tones I'm getting.


Platinum Member
Always good to mention that how you play the drum also has great impact on how it sounds.

Try out 'sticky sticking' ...letting the stick stay on the head a little longer than you usually would so the activity of the head is dampened.

Striking at different places on the head as well as staccato playing also change sustain.

Its not all about tuning/treating the heads.


Gold Member
In addition to changing the sound, damping the drums changes the feel. I know some are adamant that you should be able to tune to mirror the sound of damping, but the feel isn't the same. I like the change in head feel that I get with a moon gel on my floor toms. I say don't get hung up on rules of tuning vs damping...just do what sounds and feels best for you.


I’ve got a good friend who is one of the best drum techs in the world. He always uses dampeners when he tunes, and gets great sounds out of any kit he tunes.


Platinum Member
On toms I tune for the warmest, resonant tone, then usually add half a moongel to emphasise the fundamental pitch.
On floor toms I usually have a few cotton balls inside to shorter the sustain to 2 seconds instead of 5. Doesn’t change the tone, just shortens the length of the note.
If I’m in a small venue and need to sound deep but quieter, I’ll use O rings. Playing softer just doesn’t sound the same.