The best drums for tuning high without choking?

LittleLegs

Senior Member
I've been getting into high tension tunings on a 10 / 12 / 14 configuration - I love the feel and how they activate with the lightest touch.

I wondered what kits / drum construction to look at to maximise resonance under high tension. I have a Sonor Prolite at the moment and I’ve found that the 10 and 14 retain resonance even when timbale tight, but I’m struggling to get the 12 to sound happy.

Thanks!
 
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C.M. Jones

Well-known member
Consult Stewart Copeland. He can elaborate profusely on the intricacies of extremely high tensions. He once described his tuning formula by stating that he tightens a head "until the thing's about to pop."

Don't overlook head choice in this equation. Some heads take higher (or lower) tunings better than others. If you want maximum sensitivity at cranked tensions, single-plies are probably your best bet on every drum.
 

SomeBadDrummer

Well-known member
Now this sounds very interesting, I’ve been thinking about retuning the kit to higher pitches. Not sure how scientific but I’ve always tuned my drums by ear but I can also tune a guitar by ear so that probably helps.
Rock and roll is quintessentially an E based genre at least for many (no gang tackling from the dissenters!) so I generally go with E on the snare and 12” tom, tuning the others to compliment those and the cymbals.
As a side note, in marching band we cranked the snare drum batter heads to unison with a ratchet to maximum tension before every performance. It was like hitting a piece of oak with some give. But it allows maximum precision because of the superior response.
 

LittleLegs

Senior Member
Consult Stewart Copeland. He can elaborate profusely on the intricacies of extremely high tensions. He once described his tuning formula by stating that he tightens a head "until the thing's about to pop."

He was my hero when I was a kid. I had the same Tama Imperialstar with the heads cranked. I kept splitting them but couldn’t afford new ones so they quickly became more gaffa tape than skin! If it wasn’t for that I would have sounded just like him : )

These days I’m using ambassadors top and bottom. Is their any received wisdom about the tuning range of thick vs thin shells? Straight sides or re-rings? I’d imagine a sharp bearing edge would be best but maybe not?
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
These days I’m using ambassadors top and bottom. Is their any received wisdom about the tuning range of thick vs thin shells?
If you have 2 drums of the same depth and diameter, same heads, head tension, and wood species, the one with the thicker shell has a narrower inner cylinder and therefore will have a higher pitch. How much more, who knows?
 

mrmike

Silver Member
I always liked the way a 5x14 brass snares takes to high tunings. My black beauty in this size pops really nice. The Stewart Copeland snare which he once described as having the ability to knock a bird out of the sky is very similar. Really lots of options from old Rogers and Slingerland to Pearl, Tama and many other would probably do the trick.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I don't think drums choke, that's a head thing right? A single ply head will put less tension on a shell than a 2 ply head tuned to the same pitch.

If there is choking, it's because the head is tuned too tight. I agree with Johnny, single ply heads for tight tunings
 

LittleLegs

Senior Member
Yes, I always use single ply at any tuning for small toms (but have had a lot of success with Emperors for 14” +).

We often talk about this or that kit having a wide tuning range, so I was just wondering which drums - in anyone’s experience - can take high-tension tunings well before they choke?
 

incrementalg

Gold Member
I have two sets currently. A Gretsch USA and a DW Performance Series, both with Evans UV1 heads. The DWs lose their resonance at higher tunings whereas the Gretsch drums sing...especially when I lay into them. I'd recommend checking out some of the Gretsch drums.
How high do you typically tune? I think of bop set tuning when someone says high tuning.
 

Rock Salad

Junior Member
Could it be that the top head is simply out of the range of the bottom head and so, chokes. I've done that. Had to split the difference and all was well.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Single ply heads = definitely.
Coated heads = can assist in reducing higher overtones often accompanying high tensions.
Less tension differential between batter & resonant head = assists with retaining energy between the heads.
Lower mass instrument = assists with retaining energy within the instrument.
Option of lower resonant tension compared to batter tension = can help maintain fuller tone at especially high pitches.
Lighter sticks = can assist with head slap vs. tonal delivery balance.
 

CommanderRoss

Silver Member
The Stewart Copeland snare which he once described as having the ability to knock a bird out of the sky is very similar.

If my snare doesn't sound like a gunshot, then I need to keep turning the key! ;)
 

Bonzo_CR

Silver Member
Maybe a thick shell would be less likely to choke. I have heard Jojo Mayer talk about tuning a snare head so high that the shell begins to deform! He was using a 25-ply snare at the time...
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
Single ply heads = definitely.
Coated heads = can assist in reducing higher overtones often accompanying high tensions.
Less tension differential between batter & resonant head = assists with retaining energy between the heads.
Lower mass instrument = assists with retaining energy within the instrument.
Option of lower resonant tension compared to batter tension = can help maintain fuller tone at especially high pitches.
Lighter sticks = can assist with head slap vs. tonal delivery balance.

this pretty much sums it up for me as well

and people have mentioned really tight marching head tuning (which we call "reefing")...that is done for a different reason than really high drum set tuning, at least for me. I would never reef a drum set head on wood shells. Those reefed up marching snares have really thick metal bearing edge parts that those heads go over, and are tuned that tight so that you can hear all of the minute and really fast articulations used in modern writing.

i do "reef" my drum set snare b/c I am a Stewart Copeland fanboi, but it is a metal shell...and it is "reefing" a single play mylar head versus an Aramid head on a marching snare...2 totally different PSI situations.

when i think of high pitched drum set stuff, I think of be bop jazz right away, and for me, i want those tunings to still have some ring...not to be real dry. And like Andy referenced above, you get into some physics of sound issues when tuning high, like the energy between the heads, and a thicker shell ply cutting down on some resonation. You have to be carefull not to tighten the batter head too tight, or it won't project the air column through the drum down to the reso head to activate it...I also
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
The first tuning on this video is what I consider to be medium high, & about where I like it still retaining full tonal depth to the note. These are similar sizes as the OP kit of interest, but of course, they're not exactly "standard" drums. Nevertheless, to me, this represents a tuning that covers a lot of ground without sacrificing tonal interest. Of note: No EQ or audio improvement used in this recording.

 

Rock Salad

Junior Member
Andy,
That first one seemed pretty high to me? The second was just outstanding to my taste. Was it just different heads same tuning or different tuning?
Ok, put my glasses on and watched again. Different heads and tuning. Man, those kits are legendary.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
That first one seemed pretty high to me? The second was just outstanding to my taste.

When we hear a solo/exposition, we tend to have a bias towards tunings that have more dynamic range. It simply fills more of the void. When it comes to higher tunings like the demonstration of the 1st kit, they are extremely important to the accompaniment of lower-pitched instruments (stand up bass) because it makes room in the sonic spectrum for everyone to be heard. This is especially apparent in acoustic performances.
 
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Rock Salad

Junior Member
Thanks KamaK, I don't know what that is like yet, to play with all acoustic group. Hopefully one day I will get to try- life goals.
For now it's just a crisp batter side so I hear well and stay tight, but as low as possible on the resonant to be full sounding with all those MASSIVE amps lol
So, ok the first is considered med-high 10-4.
Wonder if op got his deal sorted out. Some drums get structural problems if they get too tight.
 
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