quick Drum Dial/Tension Watch question...

Goreliscious

Senior Member
I live in a flat so I can't play the drums properly to check their tuning - I can do pitch tap tests then give them a gentle hit to get an idea, but it's not till I get to band rehearsal that I really find out how they sound...and then I often find that what sounded OK in my flat is actually not what I'm looking for at all.

Do you think it would be worth me getting one so that I could hire the rehearsal space for a couple hours, tune my drums by ear to how I like them, then measure the tensions with the Drum Dial/Tension Watch so that when I'm tuning them in my flat I can get nearer to the sound I'm after by tuning them to the readings I took before?
 

tard

Gold Member
It may work that way when putting new heads on if you use the same reading from the last time but after playing the heads for a while and stretching them, tuning them to that same number will not give you the same pitch it did when they were new. I have had faster and better results just loosening the head off then starting with finger tight then + the number of turns you usually tune to, then tap and tune. If you do it that way I will bet you can do it faster than using a drum dial and when yo go to tap and tune they will even closer in pitch to each other than using the drum dial as well. The only thing I have seen that works better than even steps and then your ear is a resotune but they are $350, plus the more you do it manually the better you will get at it. My drum dial hasnt been out of its box in years and the only thing I use a memo key for now is to quickly tighten up a tension rod in between songs that has come loose from too many rim shots.
 

Stroman

Platinum Member
Another option that is quite accurate is to tune your drums til they sound the way you want, and then check the PITCH of each head. Then you can use a pitch-pipe or other means to exactly replicate the tuning. It is much more precise than any other means of replicating a tuning I have tried.

EDIT - if you don't have a pitched instrument handy, here is an online resource -

http://www.seventhstring.com/tuningfork/tuningfork.html
 
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Doctor Dirt

Guest
I can't believe this tuning technique wasn't taught to so many of the members here but here goes again.
Knock on the middle of the shell tune the reso to what you hear from the shell. Do the same to the batter side. When your finished with the kit go back and fine tune each drum, then if you want to change a pitch do it. Tuning drums means tuning the drum shell to the pitch/tone they produce. This should be how you buy drums and it also teaches you the suttle differences from wood applications. Tune your drums to themselves, makes sense?
Why yes it does!! Start with the smallest sizes, when you get to the bass drop down slightly under your floor tom. Get your batter tension firm and the reso as firm, tune your reso as the beater strikes and find which lug(s) do the most detuning. Find your lowest depth of sound then go back to the batter and slightly detune. Go back to the reso and quarter turn all the lugs up. Go back the next day and listen to were the tuning is at on the kit.
This is another way to understand quality lugs,rods and shells from the sets ability to stay in tune. Each time you set the kit up put some pressure on the middle of the heads on each drum before you set them up. Use the palms of your hands and give the drum a squeeze a few times then go over them with a key, and minor adjust.
I can't believe how many drummers young & old don't tune their shells to the sound the shell natural produces. These aren't electric guitars theres NO gizmozs needed to tune other than a key and some fine tunes EARS!! Practice tuning your drums you'll feel better for it. Nothing like an instrument thats fine tuned. Doc
 

tard

Gold Member
hey guys, I dont think he actually has a problem tuning drums, I believe the question referred to being able to tune at home without making noise and still get consistent results.
 

Stroman

Platinum Member
hey guys, I dont think he actually has a problem tuning drums, I believe the question referred to being able to tune at home without making noise and still get consistent results.
That's what I thought, too. That's why I suggested the method that I did... No louder than a finger tap at each lug.
 
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audiotech

Guest
hey guys, I dont think he actually has a problem tuning drums, I believe the question referred to being able to tune at home without making noise and still get consistent results.
Yes, this is also how I'm reading his thread. Goreliscious, it seems as if you're between a rock and a hard place, as the saying goes. Trying to quietly tune your drums will not give you the same results as when you actually lay into them at practice or at a gig. Finger or stick tapping at each tension rod will basically let you know if each head is in-tune with itself, but not the sound quality of the entire drum as a whole. You won't get an accurate pitch and most likely not be able to hear the pitch bend or harmonics that are associated with proper tuning.

I Never do this, but in your case Maybe a DrumDial or the Tama equivalent might be of some help to you to achieve a total view of the tension of the entire head, to give you a starting point to get the results and pitch you want. If you have good heads on your kit, tune them by ear the next time your in a room where you don't have to be overly cautious of their sound. Make sure the heads are in-tune with themselves because this will also affect the numbers that are displayed on the dial when trying to get a reference number from the dial. The Drum-Dial readout might be different from tension rod to tension rod, but as long as your ears are telling you that they are the same pitch, go by your ears. This is where your ears are much more accurate than the numbers on a DrumDial.

Now, DrumsDials cannot hear and they are fallible in being able to depict accurate tensions. Here again a lot of this inconsistancy is associated with both the DrumDial and its user. I never heard a drum tuned by just a drum dial to be in perfect tune, usually far less than perfect. This is why at some point before any critical playing, your ears must be the deciding factors on how the drums sound. So find the time to fine tune your drums with a stick and your ears to get the best sound possible.

Dennis
 

eric_B

Senior Member
I can't believe this tuning technique wasn't taught to so many of the members here but here goes again...These aren't electric guitars theres NO gizmozs needed to tune other than a key and some fine tunes EARS!!...Doc
I can't. I only hear bing, bang, boing, bam, thwoing, thwing, thwang, kaboing, while tuning my drums up or down. Very difficult to hear a note/tone. I need artificial crap to get my drums sounding any decent.

However, I can distinguish an Em from an Em7-5 chord in a snap...can you?

I've been reading so many threads where people ask advice for drum dial/tama tension watch settings (I could have started them as well). The average advice they get is: "All you need is a drum key and your ears". Right, if they could hear it, they wouldn't have asked in the first place. What to listen for is the key, so please explain.
I seem to be only able to hear a good drum sound after a recording, not while (or prior to) recording.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
This is how I hear a note from the drum. What I listen for is the harmonics. I lay my index finger dead center of the drum head, and with the other hand, tap close to a lug with the stick tip. This makes a definite pitch, laden with harmonics. Tension so all the lugs are making the same sound. Now get your pitch pipe and match whatever harmonic note the drum is at, to a known pitch. Once you know that your 12" tom likes a batter harmonic of G (for example), then you are much further along than before.

After I get the batter head done I tune the reso harmonic note so it doesn't clash with the batter harmonic note. I tune the reso to the same harmonic as the batter, except it's one full octave up, for that pitch bend tom sound I like. The reso is very important to the overall sound. Specifically how you tension the reso in relation to the batter is extremely important, and an often overlooked aspect of tuning a tom. The pitch relationship/ratio of the batter head to the reso head.... that's where the real fine tuning of a tom takes place. Both heads in tune with themselves, and both heads tuned to established intervals along the same scale, as determined by the harmonics. Then all you have to do is tune all the drums in relation to each other. Yea tuning a set of drums takes skill.
 

eric_B

Senior Member
Thanks Larry, useful information.

I can get all the lugs to sound pretty even (although larger tom with lower sounds are harder to hear - but I guess that's human). But I'm having problems finding the best pitch for a tom, then the right balance between reso and batter heads and finally getting all toms sound good with nice intervals between them.

Somehow I seem to be getting 'tone deaf' when I'm tapping on a drum head for a couple of minutes, it all starts to sound the same to me. My initial reference point is gone.
 

Goreliscious

Senior Member
hey guys, I dont think he actually has a problem tuning drums, I believe the question referred to being able to tune at home without making noise
Bingo.

I should have been a bit more specific...it's the skin tension/feel that's way off when I tune them in my flat.

What I mean is - I tune my drums in my flat and get them to practice and they sound good, but they feel dead. In one particular song I do a fairly tiring tom rhythm that lasts a while and is made a million times easier when the skins are reasonably tight...which is never how my toms end up when I tune them in my flat. Probably because I'm playing death metal and I'm intuitively tuning to the lowest possible pitch.

That's why I'm wondering if a tension watch might help - as it's a "feel" thing. But as 'tard' said, that'll vary depending on their age.
 
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Doctor Dirt

Guest
Theres no loud sounds until you get to the kick drum actually when you tune a shell to itself. If boom boom and bang bang is what you hear eric_b you have a big problem, if you can't hear the pitch omitted from a knock on a wood shell your hearing is very poor. As to chords on a guitar or piano yes I can tell the difference from major/minor, flat 9 dim#; or any other chords, I"ll play any chord you can think of too on either instrument. First off I know how to tune my main instrument the correct way also when someone explains how you can do it and you comment without even trying to do it explains why you hear boom boom & bang bang as if the drummer doesn't play notes, just noise huh? Listen and learn I already explained the process, no one said its easy you need to practice and develop your ears to maintain a pitch in your ears while tuning a drum to that pitch. If you want to use a note off an instrument to retain the pitch go for it but the correct way to start tuning a drum is to its own sound. Then you make adjustments. Doc
 
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