Tuning - how you get it right

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
How do you guys tune?

Do you have a system or do you wing it?

To a note? To the drum's optimal tone? Try for another drummer's sound?

Do you tune every lug to one note? Or are you not fussy, just as long as the note next to each lug is harmonious with the others?

Round the clock? Criss cross?

Just interested ...
 

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
I don't know if I do get it "right" as your title's suggesting, but generally this is what I do. :)

I tune for the sound I'm "hearing" in my head, which has not changed for many years now, an open sound with attack, depth and warmth.

When I put new heads on the kit, I use initially the criss cross method, later, to check tuning after a few days, I use the "round the clock" method to adjust the tension, often, only one lug or two are out fo tune.

I also use my own method for intervals between each toms and their relative tuned note by playing a little song from a children french song to ensure that they're tuned correctly (as a melodic instrument) with a nice interval.

For the bass drum, the reso is fairly tight and the batter is higher than your average JAW tuning, I like to have a good rebound, on a "regular" head, I just place a small rolled towel against the batter head inside the shell, no dampening if I use a head with a muffling device within the design.

For the toms and snare, I have sused the same combos for years, so I got used to tune them on my kit, which itself is over 20 years old.

I'm currently looking for an alternative head combo on my toms, so I'll guess that I'll have to experiment with some tuning once I've choosed the new combo, although I will try my "proven" method first. ;-))
 

bobdadruma

Platinum Member
I will install each head on the drum and set them both to 75 on the Drum Dial.
I then find the tone that I want for the batter head by tightening a slight bit more. (I use single ply heads) I equalize by ear.
I then tune the reso head slightly higher until I like the sound.
There is no correct answer for this Polly.
Some drummers like their heads equal in pitch.
Some like the reso lower.
Some like it higher.
 

con struct

Platinum Member
I shoot for the drum's own pitch, it's "happy place."

A good drum always has a happy place, a combination of heads and tensioning that shows that drum in its best light, so I go for that, and I always get the best results by tuning high.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
I tune within the limits of the drums. I also tune in 3rds or close to it descending from 8, 10, 12, 14, 16 toms. Not particular notes but all drums within the same chord so to speak.
I was at a clinic last nite with Tony Coleman, BB Kings drummer and he was begging the younger drummers to find their own niche. Trying to match someone else is next to impossible
due to drum make, wood, heads, venue or room, Amps, EQ, all of that. Have some one else help you by hitting the drums while you stand out front or tune them to your liking and don't
frustrate your self trying to match someone else.
 

iontheable

Senior Member
Man, so many different answers and I'm sure many more of them to come.

I actually pick out a chord, I place that chord over my main 3 toms(I've always used 3 toms, and now 4!)

If I were to have a smaller/higher tom, I would just add an equal interval to that high tom and the same goes for if I had another low tom.

Also, now that I have two snares, I actually 'fit' my 8x14 in between my rack and floor toms, tonally speaking. It just gives me a fun voice to play with, but the sound is so much different, due to it being a snare and skinned as such.

My 'main' between my legs, that I generally have tuned quite high, to the point of a 'crack sound'

My bass has always been quite loose on the reso, but also really tight on the batter. Great rebound, and a good thud thud thud.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
My 'main' between my legs, that I generally have tuned quite high, to the point of a 'crack sound'
Hehehe. All I have to say is, ouch!

Anyway, I like to tune batter and reso to the same pitch and find a sweet spot where the drum really sings. I also like intervals of a perfect fourth between the toms. Sometimes, it's a challenge to do both depending on the drum and the size, but I would rather have the drum in its sweet spot than force it to an interval where it doesn't sound as good.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Some detailed answers, which is good.

We have a mix of for-the-drum and intervals. For those using intervals, obviously you're going to be aware that each drum has its "happy place", as J put it. So the happy place has a little wiggle room that allows to you go for intervals - perhaps an element of trade-off between individual tone and the tones of the full kit.

I'm not very good at tuning. I normally do the criss cross method (which I read when I was young and it stuck). What's always messed me up is that each turn of a single lug affects the tone of three other lugs - those adjacent and the one opposite. How do you work around that?
 

tkav1980

Member
Some detailed answers, which is good.

We have a mix of for-the-drum and intervals. For those using intervals, obviously you're going to be aware that each drum has its "happy place", as J put it. So the happy place has a little wiggle room that allows to you go for intervals - perhaps an element of trade-off between individual tone and the tones of the full kit.

I'm not very good at tuning. I normally do the criss cross method (which I read when I was young and it stuck). What's always messed me up is that each turn of a single lug affects the tone of three other lugs - those adjacent and the one opposite. How do you work around that?
Best results for me are 1/4 to 1/8 rotation turns on the lugs. Slow and steady.

As for tuning, I just try to keep everything tuned so the drum sounds its best. not necissarily specific intervals.
 

Nodiggie

Gold Member
I cheat.

I get the heads on past wrinkles and tune the drum to itself where it sings. Then I get my .mp3 file of toms that are tuned perfectly and pitch match each tom. I can usually get pretty darn close without the file. Then again, I've been around the block a few times tuning drums. It is a skill that takes time. The best and easiest way to learn tuning is to find someone who knows how and can show you what to listen for. If you never have this "base" to start from, it can be a very frustrating experience.
 

bobdadruma

Platinum Member
Some detailed answers, which is good.

We have a mix of for-the-drum and intervals. For those using intervals, obviously you're going to be aware that each drum has its "happy place", as J put it. So the happy place has a little wiggle room that allows to you go for intervals - perhaps an element of trade-off between individual tone and the tones of the full kit.

I'm not very good at tuning. I normally do the criss cross method (which I read when I was young and it stuck). What's always messed me up is that each turn of a single lug affects the tone of three other lugs - those adjacent and the one opposite. How do you work around that?
When you get to the point where you are fine tuning it is best to tap near each lug and equalize the lugs that need attention. If you can't get the tone to be equal at one lug then try the oposite lug to see if that is the problem. At this point you will only be turning the rods about 1/16 of a turn at a time.

The most difficult kit that I have ever tuned was my 70's Gretsch with the round edges and the super thin shells without rings.
There was always one drum that wouldn't fit in with the others.
My modern kits are a cakewalk compared to that kit.
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
Best results for me are 1/4 to 1/8 rotation turns on the lugs. Slow and steady.

As for tuning, I just try to keep everything tuned so the drum sounds its best. not necissarily specific intervals.
Pretty much my take too. I have a sound in my head and I generally know what my drums are capable of......between the two I can get a sound I want to hear out of the thing. I've never been one to tune to intervals either. I let the size of the drum create the spread for me.

Pol, once I get to the fine tuning stage, I'll turn the rods in even smaller increments than an 1/8th of a turn if I need to. Less effect on the rod I'm tuning also translates to more even tension with the surrounding lugs and less effect on the opposite too. I don't start tuning with such small turns, but I certainly end that way.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
Polly, you should check out the Bob Gatzen tuning videos on YouTube. He goes into painstaking detail about all of that stuff, including the situation when the lug you're tapping the drum near is actually affected by adjusting the opposite lug. Bob is a master and his methods are easy to understand and follow.
 

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
For those using intervals, obviously you're going to be aware that each drum has its "happy place", as J put it. So the happy place has a little wiggle room that allows to you go for intervals - perhaps an element of trade-off between individual tone and the tones of the full kit.
In the past I had toms like 13"&14" or 12"&13", and upon tuning were sounding almost identical, you almost couldn't feel/hear the interval between them, they sounded good on their own, but too similar during a fill for exemple, so to avoid this "annoying" problem, I keep a minimum of 2" in diameter within my toms, my current set up is 10", 12" and 14".

When I tune them individually and I achived a good sound, I "check" the interval (difference of pitch) between them, and often they're "in tune" with each other, but they're not tuned to a specific note, then I play my little song to ensure that they're tuned correctly, if it's sounding out of tune to my ears, I adjust them, but it's very minimal tuning, an 1/8 or 1/16 of a turn on the lugs, I don't want to ruin all the effort I spend tuning them in the first place.

I also found my little song useful for checking the general tuning of my toms, it shows immediately which tom need a bit of re-tuning after a few days of playing.

You know, it's a bit like the video from our member marlonpatton with his "12 days of Christmas" drum solo, you can play a tune on the toms. :))
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Yeah, I'm fine tuning. I never thought of it was fractions of turns. Sometimes I'm turning 2 or 3 mm.. But it seems that once I get a couple of lugs to match it messes up others. There's be this phantom ring and I go looking for the culprit lug, I sort it out and then some other lug will have an unsavoury ring.

The 12" RT tom, with its small number of lugs is a bugger. I am always trying to find that tone that's deep enough for Little Wing but won't turn to mud in the chorus of our version of Cry Me a River (attached). Could be that I'm trying to make a silk purse of a pig's ear ... the drums you hear are the 12", an 8" and snare drum with snares off.


Polly, you should check out the Bob Gatzen tuning videos on YouTube. He goes into painstaking detail about all of that stuff, including the situation when the lug you're tapping the drum near is actually affected by adjusting the opposite lug. Bob is a master and his methods are easy to understand and follow.
True. BG is great. He knows tons and he's funny (at times unintentionally).
 

Attachments

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
In the past I had toms like 13"&14" or 12"&13", and upon tuning were sounding almost identical, you almost couldn't feel/hear the interval between them, they sounded good on their own, but too similar during a fill for exemple, so to avoid this "annoying" problem, I keep a minimum of 2" in diameter within my toms, my current set up is 10", 12" and 14".
I had the same prob many years ago with the 12" & 13". That all makes sense.


When I tune them individually and I achived a good sound, I "check" the interval (difference of pitch) between them, and often they're "in tune" with each other, but they're not tuned to a specific note, then I play my little song to ensure that they're tuned correctly, if it's sounding out of tune to my ears, I adjust them, but it's very minimal tuning, an 1/8 or 1/16 of a turn on the lugs, I don't want to ruin all the effort I spend tuning them in the first place.

I also found my little song useful for checking the general tuning of my toms, it shows immediately which tom need a bit of re-tuning after a few days of playing.

You know, it's a bit like the video from our member marlonpatton with his "12 days of Christmas" drum solo, you can play a tune on the toms. :))

MAD, you should post a small clip of you singing that little tune :)

One thing that kills me is when I get the drums more or less in tune with each other then we play a song and I hit the 12" and it's out with the bass.

I'd use a pitch pipe except that after a few taps my ears go haywire and I stop being able to differentiate between the tone at the lug and the general ring of the tom.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
Yeah, I'm fine tuning. I never thought of it was fractions of turns. Sometimes I'm turning 2 or 3 mm.. But it seems that once I get a couple of lugs to match it messes up others. There's be this phantom ring and I go looking for the culprit lug, I sort it out and then some other lug will have an unsavoury ring.

The 12" RT tom, with its small number of lugs is a bugger. I am always trying to find that tone that's deep enough for Little Wing but won't turn to mud in the chorus of our version of Cry Me a River (attached). Could be that I'm trying to make a silk purse of a pig's ear ... the drums you hear are the 12", an 8" and snare drum with snares off.




True. BG is great. He knows tons and he's funny (at times unintentionally).
Sorry, I shouldn't have assumed you hadn't already checked him out. Yeah, he's a cheeseball at times, but in an endearing way (at least to me).

What's wrong with the sound of those drums? I guess I'm not hearing what you mean about them turning to mud. They seem to speak clearly in that clip.

As for the game of whack-a-mole that you're playing with the lugs trying to find the culprit, have you ruled out the possibility that it could be attributable to the condition of the drums? If there are issues with roundness or the bearing edge, there's only so much you can do.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
I'd use a pitch pipe except that after a few taps my ears go haywire and I stop being able to differentiate between the tone at the lug and the general ring of the tom.
I've found that it's easier to just lift the drum by the rim or suspension mount, if you're using one, and strike the batter head with a good whack in the center to get the fundamental tone. There are formulas drummers have come up with where the pitch of one head by itself is 3 semitones higher than the overall pitch or something like that, but I don't mess with any of that. I just do the "Here Comes The Bride" and see if it sounds right. If it doesn't, I adjust one or both drums to get my perfect fourth. I find that's easier than figuring out if your tom is at a G or an Eb, because either you hear that interval or you don't (at least in my experience).
 
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