Drum Dial or Tune Bot?

C.M. Jones

Diamond Member
There are technically 4 methods: by ear, drum dial, tune bot and of course the Rob Brown. There’s something for everyone- how wonderful.
According to aspects of rock history, drummers now place a lot more import on tuning than they ever have. Jimmy Paige said in an interview that it surprised him to learn that John Bonham actually made an effort to tune his drums. Apparently, other drummers Paige had worked with didn't really trouble with it. Paige was a sought-after session guitarist when Zeppelin formed and had played with quite a few drummers by then.
 

C.M. Jones

Diamond Member
I didn’t like how the Drum Dial performed with 2-ply heads, especially after they’ve stretched out a bit. I find the TuneBot to be faster & more accurate.
What makes the drum dial react differently on two-ply heads? Does the extra ply throw off the reading in some way? I ask only because I don't know.
 
Last edited:

C. Dave Run

Gold Member
All this drum dial talk has me overthinking:

If a drum dial can detect tension differences in the head, that means the head is "softer" in some spots than others. Does this mean that a weighted sphere placed on center of the head will gravitate towards the areas of less tension if the head is flat?
 

I-P

Active Member
If guitarists just tuned by ear, it would be chaos.
⏫ Take away the tuner from a guitar player and ask them to do it by ear. Sure... They could. But we are talking ease, speed, and simplicity.
Why not make the whole drum tuning process easier. The tune bot is really helpful.

30+ years of doing it by ear. I recently splashed on the tune bot. Turns out my ear is great frequency-wise. My music theory sucks however.
The tune bot has been very interesting purchase for me.
 
Last edited:

someguy01

Platinum Member
I drank the Kool-aid, finally got myself a tunebot. I still tune by ear, but I can save those tunings w the bot and easily retune to the same frequency every time. Makes head changes a lot faster.
 

cbphoto

Diamond Member
What makes the drum dial react differently on two-ply heads? Does the extra ply throw off the reading in some way? I ask only because I don't know.
I found that, at lower tunings, I would get inconsistent readings. Place the dial on a spot, take a reading, remove the dial and place it back in the same spot and I’d get a significantly different value. This didn’t happen with 10mil single-ply heads.

I also noticed that, as a drum head got old and pitted/stretched in the strike zone, the tension values were the same as when the head was new but the head would not be in tune with itself.

Caveat: I had only one drum dial (the Tama Tension Watch) and it could’ve been imprecise to begin with.
 

Winston_Wolf

Platinum Member
I found that, at lower tunings, I would get inconsistent readings. Place the dial on a spot, take a reading, remove the dial and place it back in the same spot and I’d get a significantly different value. This didn’t happen with 10mil single-ply heads.

I also noticed that, as a drum head got old and pitted/stretched in the strike zone, the tension values were the same as when the head was new but the head would not be in tune with itself.

Caveat: I had only one drum dial (the Tama Tension Watch) and it could’ve been imprecise to begin with.
That's why I prefer the Tune Bot over tension-based tuning tools. In the end it really doesn't matter what the tension is, all that matters is that it sounds right. Tension is a part of the process of getting the right sound, but it isn't the end result, and as you mention the head type and condition are a variable that prevents tension alone from being a consistent guidepost.
 

C.M. Jones

Diamond Member
I found that, at lower tunings, I would get inconsistent readings. Place the dial on a spot, take a reading, remove the dial and place it back in the same spot and I’d get a significantly different value. This didn’t happen with 10mil single-ply heads.

I also noticed that, as a drum head got old and pitted/stretched in the strike zone, the tension values were the same as when the head was new but the head would not be in tune with itself.

Caveat: I had only one drum dial (the Tama Tension Watch) and it could’ve been imprecise to begin with.
It's odd that the dial would read the same spot differently, regardless of the heads involved, but perhaps double-plies thwart the device's sensitivity in some way. I have no idea.

For me, achieving the proper feel from a head precedes the attainment of tone. If I don't approve of a drum's tactile response, its tone does little to sway me. I tune for feel first, then fine-tune to pinpoint tone. That's been my process since day one, and it's exactly how my instructor advocated I go about it. I recall with perfect clarity, at the age of eleven, adjusting my snare batter and reso to get a friendly feel from them. Each drummer processes feel uniquely. I know I'm there when I arrive. Then I adjust for tone.

There are types of heads I've sampled and completely written off because their feel repels me, sound be damned. I look at it this way. When it comes to drums, there are countless "acceptable" sounds. Calling one sound "right" and another "wrong" is completely impressionistic, bordering on irrational. The musicians with whom I play, and the audiences who hear us, are happy to entertain various drum sounds, but I'm the one who has to strike the instrument comfortably, sometimes for several hours straight, so feel sits atop my value system.

I will deviate from my feel platform for situational tunings. Example: I don't like a hard feel from my snare, nor do I want a mushy one, but I'll go to both extremes for select purposes, always returning to my ideal feel as soon as possible.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry" - Administrator
Staff member
What makes the drum dial react differently on two-ply heads? Does the extra ply throw off the reading in some way? I ask only because I don't know.

One thing I learned from the DD...

If I want to tune my drums to a certain note or pitch, a 2 ply head will require more tension (as read from the DD) than a single ply head requires, to sing the same note/pitch. Fact.
 

C.M. Jones

Diamond Member
One thing I learned from the DD...

If I want to tune my drums to a certain note or pitch, a 2 ply head will require more tension (as read from the DD) than a single ply head requires, to sing the same note/pitch. Fact.
Have you experienced @cbphoto's issue with the drum dial -- consistent readings with single-plies but inconsistent ones with double-plies? Just curious.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry" - Administrator
Staff member
Have you experienced @cbphoto's issue with the drum dial -- consistent readings with single-plies but inconsistent ones with double-plies? Just curious.
I can't say I have. I do know that inconsistent readings are an indicator that the head is cocked to one side on the shell, no matter how many plies.

The DD is a bit of a struggle at times. It taught me to be aware of and to make sure that my head is not cocked on the shell, a very important tuning lesson for me.

The DD taught me enough where I don't need it anymore. The TB...I never gave it a fair chance. I know exactly what to do to get my drums sounding the way I want them to, and I thought my way was simpler than fiddling with the TB.

Not downing the TB at all. It is the best thing for keeping drums in tune since mylar heads. It's a godsend to new drummers learning to tune
 

C.M. Jones

Diamond Member
I can't say I have. I do know that inconsistent readings are an indicator that the head is cocked to one side on the shell, no matter how many plies.

The DD is a bit of a struggle at times. It taught me to be aware of and to make sure that my head is not cocked on the shell, a very important tuning lesson for me.

The DD taught me enough where I don't need it anymore. The TB...I never gave it a fair chance. I know exactly what to do to get my drums sounding the way I want them to, and I thought my way was simpler than fiddling with the TB.

Not downing the TB at all. It is the best thing for keeping drums in tune since mylar heads. It's a godsend to new drummers learning to tune
I can certainly see how an imbalanced head (cocked seating) would corrupt the reading. I'm sure a flawed bearing edge or an unlubricated tension rod could be problematic as well. To work optimally, a sensitive device needs everything to be in place, but in the real world, a lot can be out of place. Conundrum.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry" - Administrator
Staff member
IMO, to get a drum tuned the best I can, the rods MUST turn silky smooth. I'm generous with the oil. I oil both sides of the rod washer, the hoop where the rod goes through, the lug threads, and the rod threads. It's gotta turn smoothly for me. THEN I can tune it properly.
 

cbphoto

Diamond Member
One of the things that bothered me about the Tension Watch was different readings around the perimeter when the head was in tune with itself. After a week of use I began to distrust it, and that just led me to tuning by ear (which I prefer anyway). I would calibrate the unit constantly (on my coke mirror) and just never felt I was getting reliable, repeatable results.

Has anyone tried the Drum Dial on a Remo Pinstripe or Evans EC2 head? I gotta believe the material inserted between the plies will affect the readouts.
 

C.M. Jones

Diamond Member
IMO, to get a drum tuned the best I can, the rods MUST turn silky smooth. I'm generous with the oil. I oil both sides of the rod washer, the hoop where the rod goes through, the lug threads, and the rod threads. It's gotta turn smoothly for me. THEN I can tune it properly.
Same here. I apply Lucas White Lithium Grease on a regular basis. Great stuff.

01478e08-9e82-4645-aa59-f4174b1cf152.jpg
 

C.M. Jones

Diamond Member
One of the things that bothered me about the Tension Watch was different readings around the perimeter when the head was in tune with itself. After a week of use I began to distrust it, and that just led me to tuning by ear (which I prefer anyway). I would calibrate the unit constantly (on my coke mirror) and just never felt I was getting reliable, repeatable results.

Has anyone tried the Drum Dial on a Remo Pinstripe or Evans EC2 head? I gotta believe the material inserted between the plies will affect the readouts.
The only point sticking with me is the mirror reference. :D
 

Lefty Phillips

Well-known Member
I'm not sure it's an either/or proposition.

When I restring a guitar, the first thing I do is stretch the strings, which is a pretty vigorous process, involving bringing the string to approximate pitch by ear, then pulling it away from the guitar body a few inches to set the strings at the bridge and tuners. THEN I tune, and retune, and retune until the guitar is totally in tune, then play for a while, then a final tune, at which point the guitar usually stays reliably in tune.

I don't have a Tune-Bot, and I will probably experiment with a cheap Snark tuner first. I do have the Drum Dial, and it's perfect for setting the heads on the bearing edge. I then leave the drum alone for the night, and actually tune it (by ear, for now...) the next day.
 
Top