Drum Dial Broken:(

Spectron

Silver Member
I have been using the Drum Dial for changing heads.
It was a great tool for quickly getting the head evenly tensioned
and in the general ballpark of where I like it tuned.
I would always have to fine tune by ear so the dail was really
just getting it to the general tension quickly and also a
mechanical way of (knowing) the head is evenly tensioned.

Well, last night as I was swapping out my floor tom head
the dial fell off my desk and hit my drum chair leg.

It is broke, the pin does not move freely anymore $60 down the drain.
at first when I realized it was kaput I felt really baaaad like I just lost my ability to tune my drums well.
I almost went online and ordered a new one straight away.

But it got me thinking that maybe it has been a crutch for me.
Maybe it is a good thing that my dial broke and now I can develope my skill
at bringing my heads up to pitch and tuned by ear old school style??
 

Travis22

Senior Member
I've never owned a dial before, and have only used one a couple of times. To me they seemed like a real waste of money, but I know plenty of others that have fallen in love with them, so they must not be ALL bad. I personally get a feeling of satisfaction when I know that my kit sounds the way I want, and that it was all done by ear and with a regular 'ol drum key. Maybe you could get another one AFTER you get good at doing it by ear for those quick head swaps, like at a gig? Or maybe you will find it easier than you thought, and never go back again...
 

Spectron

Silver Member
yeah, I don't REALLY feel like dropping another $60 (pun intended)
especially knowing the thing is SO delicate.

Warning to all drum dial users: do not drop - it will break.
Mine dropped less than 2ft

I got so used to checking the tension at each lug to ensure evenness that I feel
sort of blind without it.

But in the end - I also feel sort of liberated from the thing, knowing
most of you out there can tune like a hero without it...

I think I can, I think can, I think I can.....haha!

Makes a cool lookin paperweight though:)
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
The drum dial is really nothing more that a basic dial indicator stuck into a block of metal. You can get cheap dial indicators from Harbor Freight or any number of auto tool places (they use them to check for brake rotor wobble). The only thing with the store bought drum dial is that they use the same dial indicators so there is some consistency in readings from unit to unit. If you replaced the indicator in your broken one, you may or may not get exactly the same readings. But it will certainly give consistent readings from location to location on the head and over time (unless you drop it again)

You may even find a cheap digital dial indicator to put in there and have the latest thing.
 

razorx

Platinum Member
I have tama one. The recommended settings for it were crazy high for my liking. I also found it to be inaccurate maybe the drums need to be sitting on a floor when you put the dial on the head?
 

braincramp

Gold Member
I dropped mine too... it fell out of the box and onto my driveway and nicked the edge and it too locked up..I'm fairly mechanical but a buddy of mine is a wiz...he took it apart and straightened the shaft and it made it so it works again....I havent used it since though and find there a waste of time and money IMO...
 

ERiX

Junior Member
The drum dial is really nothing more that a basic dial indicator stuck into a block of metal. You can get cheap dial indicators from Harbor Freight or any number of auto tool places (they use them to check for brake rotor wobble). The only thing with the store bought drum dial is that they use the same dial indicators so there is some consistency in readings from unit to unit. If you replaced the indicator in your broken one, you may or may not get exactly the same readings. But it will certainly give consistent readings from location to location on the head and over time (unless you drop it again)

You may even find a cheap digital dial indicator to put in there and have the latest thing.
If you had one, you would know that the drum dial is not a basic dial indicator.
 

Spectron

Silver Member
ha - I was able to fix the thing. I took it apart and there is not much to it really
there are grooves on the shaft that runs through it that engages a gear that turns about
4 or 5 other gears. there is also a spring that provides the feedback.

At first I thought the shaft was binding at either of the ends of the main unit, but I realized that it was binding on the gear (the shaft was pressed against the gear to hard) so not fearing breaking the thing any further I took a screwdriver and and small hammer and pounded the shaft in the middle away from the gear slightly.

Now it works again, but I don't think I'll be using it much anymore.
It doesn't really do much for "tuning" drums. That is to say you cannot simply tension each lug to "75" on the dial and expect your drum to sound good although 75 is generally a good tension for the batter...when all the lugs are at 75 the head is still not "in tune".

I have found that after I have tone matched the lugs by ear - the readings on the dial are sometimes very different so why bother using the thing if in the end I'm going to
tweak each lug again to actually get the head sounding good.

yep it's pretty much a waste of time and I think this idea of even tension across the head is a bit of a myth too.
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
If you had one, you would know that the drum dial is not a basic dial indicator.
Yes I do have one. My wife got it for me as a present. And it is just a dial indicator ( not a test gauge which is a different thing but more common these days in mechanical inspection departments) stuck into a heavy block. This is why he thing spins around a bunch of times as you set it down. A purpose built gauge wound just sit on the head and have a stiff enough spring to read expected tensions directly.
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
Okay, man. Glad you have it all figured out.
No biggie. It's what I do for a living, manufacturing engineering. My grandfather was a machinist, my father was a machinist, and they taught me. The drum dial is a simple solution to a common problem. Someone took a fairly common gauge and adapted it. They could have used a fish scale FWIW. There's a company called Chatillion that makes industrial force gauges that would be way more representative of head tension, but they are fairly expensive.

There's a fellow in the pro audio world named John Robberts who makes a device called a Resotune. Seems to be based on electronic piano tuners that picks up varying pitches on the head and telling you which area to tighten or loosen to get the whole head to q certain pitch. Never tried one though. Bit more than a drum dial but possibly worth it.
 
C

Crazy8s

Guest
Harbor Freight sells dial indicators for like $20. If you can't fix your Drum Dial, you might be able to switch out the dial indicator part with a replacement one.

There is a better alternative though... Your ear! We've tuned drums by ear for thousands of years, and we did it just fine without any fancy-schmancy machinist tools.
 

Attachments

ERiX

Junior Member
Hey Kevin. How you been, man? Nice link.
--
Aeolian, that's really good info on the tuner. I'd love to check it out. I will say that I use the DD to get my heads very, very close. After that, it's all by ear. I've had one ever since I started shipping complete, tuned drums. I can not imagine doing it 100% by ear. I simply don't have that kind of time. I also use pretty unique lugs that allow for ridiculously fast head changes, having the DD really ensures consistency. I can just mark tension on the head before removal, etc.

All this having been said, nothing will ever take the place of tuning by ear. But I use and recommend the DD whole-heartedly. But it's only a means to an end. It won't teach you how to tune a drum, but it will get you close - in a hurry.

Eric
 

Deathmetalconga

Platinum Member
Harbor Freight sells dial indicators for like $20. If you can't fix your Drum Dial, you might be able to switch out the dial indicator part with a replacement one.

There is a better alternative though... Your ear! We've tuned drums by ear for thousands of years, and we did it just fine without any fancy-schmancy machinist tools.
Yeah, and we also lived in caves for thousands of years and played hide-tensioned drums!

It would be interesting if someone could build a DIY Drum Dial with parts from Slave Harbor Tools. It's certainly worth a try.

I like my Drum Dial because I don't like to fuss with tuning any more than I have to. My drums are especially difficult to tune and sound awful if not tuned extremely well (I use tightscrew.com to help keep tuning). The Drum Dial gets me 80 percent of the way there in 10 percent of the time, but I do have to use my ear for final tuning.

It's a mistake to assume - as some people do - that you can just slap a Drum Dial down and violá, instant tuning. The Drum Dial is just a convenience for people who are impatient, lazy or feel they have other stuff they'd rather be doing. Like me.
 
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