Tuning intervals for brighter sounding toms?

TMe

Senior Member
Most of the music I play is rather upbeat so it isn't great that my toms sound like the drums of doom. That was a great sound when I played hard rock, but now I'm trying to get something more bright and lively.

I've been using a Tunebot and I've tried a number of different intervals, but nothing's really worked yet.

I'm using a Jazz kit with thin shells and small toms (12" and 14"). The toms sound a lot bigger than they are, which is great. I just need them to cheer up a bit.

Can anyone suggest a tuning approach that would make the toms sound a little less serious and gloomy?
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Tighten the reso up. I go a full octave higher on the reso. Try that.

Tighten the batter a bit too.
 

cdrums21

Gold Member
Since your drums are 2" apart in diameter, a perfect fourth interval between your 12" and 14" tom should work well and land you in the sweet spot range of notes for each drum. From experience, I would say your 12" tom would sound great with the batter head tuned to about a G (196 hz), bottom head about a minor third higher B flat (233 hz.) The 14" tom would be about a D (146 hz.) with bottom head at F (174 hz.) Try those pitches and see if that doesn't get you close. I'd be curious to know. Good luck!
 

TMe

Senior Member
I go a full octave higher on the reso.
Wouldn't that put a lot of strain on the shells? I imagine the bottom head would be nearly as tight as the reso on a snare drum. I can see that working with heavy, thick-shelled drums, but I'm worried about damaging the thin shells on my kit. Not a concern?
 

cdrums21

Gold Member
Wouldn't that put a lot of strain on the shells? I imagine the bottom head would be nearly as tight as the reso on a snare drum. I can see that working with heavy, thick-shelled drums, but I'm worried about damaging the thin shells on my kit. Not a concern?
I know it works for Larry and he swears by it, but a full octave higher is extreme in my opinion. I don't think I could get my 13" tom reso head that tight and if I did, it would be super choked off and have no value in adding a full, resonant tone to my tom. I don't want to start a flame war about tuning, whatever works for you, but the norm for a higher reso is anywhere from a half step to a fourth. Rarely do I see it higher than that....except in Larry's case. :)
 
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TMe

Senior Member
...a full octave higher is extreme in my opinion.
I can see how it would work, and I've heard of other people using that approach. I'm just worried I don't have the right drums for it. If my kit had thick, heavy shells, I'd give it a go.
 

Winston_Wolf

Platinum Member
I've been able to get my reso heads about a fifth higher than the batter, but even that's reaching the limit of what seemed useful. An octave seems like an awfully big jump, and because octave intervals are really dissonant when even slightly out of tune I think it would mean a lot of maintenance tuning.

I guess I'm off to do some experimenting... :)
 

TK-421

Senior Member
I normally tune my resos about a third higher than my batters, which produces a nice, round, full sound. But for high-pitched jazz tunings, I reverse that and tune the batters about a third higher than the resos. That produces a very bright and articulate tone, albeit at a higher pitch. I have not tried that approach at lower-mid tunings, but considering how much brighter the toms sound this way, I think it'd be worth a shot.

So long story short, try tuning your batters about a third higher than your resos.

Also, you didn't mention what heads you are using. If you're running something like Evans hydraulics over ebony pinstripes, you will never get rid of that "drums of doom" sound, so make sure the heads are correct for the sound you're trying to achieve. My recommendation is coated Ambassadors over clear Ambassadors or equivalent.
 

TMe

Senior Member
...because octave intervals are really dissonant when even slightly out of tune I think it would mean a lot of maintenance tuning.
I tried tuning the heads to the same pitch, and found the same thing. It's a nice sound, but after I play for a while they go slightly out of tune and sound dreadful. I was wondering if the same thing would happen with octave tuning.

My recommendation is coated Ambassadors over clear Ambassadors or equivalent.
That's what I've got. I'm wondering if I should something lighter.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Wouldn't that put a lot of strain on the shells? I imagine the bottom head would be nearly as tight as the reso on a snare drum. I can see that working with heavy, thick-shelled drums, but I'm worried about damaging the thin shells on my kit. Not a concern?
Not a concern. the head will break before the shell would fail.

I broke a 2 ply coated emperor batter head on a thin shelled steambent snare drum once. I was seeing if I could choke the shell as a test, and the head ripped at the bearing edge.

Considering the force with which I play, (medium) octave tuning never gave me a problem. The head is pretty tight and tends to stay there in my experience. I can't comment how they would stay in tune with a really hard hitter, but any tuning would be subject to going out with a really hard hitter.

The batter is the one that detunes the most on my kit.
 
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larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I know it works for Larry and he swears by it, but a full octave higher is extreme in my opinion. I don't think I could get my 13" tom reso head that tight and if I did, it would be super choked off and have no value in adding a full, resonant tone to my tom. I don't want to start a flame war about tuning, whatever works for you, but the norm for a higher reso is anywhere from a half step to a fourth. Rarely do I see it higher than that....except in Larry's case. :)
My philosophy is...with the heads tuned to the same note in the same octave, the drum will make it's best sound. I like the pitch bend thing that happens with a tighter reso. So I go the full octave to get the tonal benefit of the same note (constructive...not destructive interference) but an octave higher for the pitch bend part..

As a reference, using a drum dial, with 2 - 10 mil single ply clear heads on the toms...I put the batter at 75 and the reso at 83. I'm not a tune bot user so I can't transpose the numbers. My point is there's not that much extra tension on the reso to make a higher octave.
 

Winston_Wolf

Platinum Member
I tried tuning the heads to the same pitch, and found the same thing. It's a nice sound, but after I play for a while they go slightly out of tune and sound dreadful. I was wondering if the same thing would happen with octave tuning.
Well, I went off and grabbed a 12" tom to play around with some tuning yesterday, and I had to tune the batter a lot lower than I usually would to have the room to get the reso an entire octave higher. I thought what I ended up with was pretty weird. The resulting overall tone was just a dead thump mixed with the whine of the pingy reso head. I also didn't get a pitch bend, just the slap of the initial strike followed the ringing sustain of the reso head.

As a reference, using a drum dial, with 2 - 10 mil single ply clear heads on the toms...I put the batter at 75 and the reso at 83. I'm not a tune bot user so I can't transpose the numbers. My point is there's not that much extra tension on the reso to make a higher octave.
I'm not very familiar with a drumdial, but that doesn't sound like nearly enough tension to get an entire octave higher in pitch. I wonder if we are talking about the same concept of an octave?

YouTube
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Well, I went off and grabbed a 12" tom to play around with some tuning yesterday, and I had to tune the batter a lot lower than I usually would to have the room to get the reso an entire octave higher. I thought what I ended up with was pretty weird. The resulting overall tone was just a dead thump mixed with the whine of the pingy reso head. I also didn't get a pitch bend, just the slap of the initial strike followed the ringing sustain of the reso head.



I'm not very familiar with a drumdial, but that doesn't sound like nearly enough tension to get an entire octave higher in pitch. I wonder if we are talking about the same concept of an octave?

YouTube
How I determine the octave...I put a finger on the center of the (cleared and tuned to the pitch I like) batter head while the drum is on the floor and tap near a tension rod to hear the harmonic tone.

I flip the drum over, do that to the reso side and tighten to get the same harmonic an octave higher from the reso head. I kind of have to remember the batter pitch while I flip the drum. I sing the harmonic note the batter makes and do the reso.
 

Paul Blood

Junior Member
I never thought about it much, but I just checked my drums with a chromatic tuner on my iphone. My drums are tuned anywhere from a major 3rd to perfect fourth apart. All the reso heads are a minor 3rd above the batter head. I didn't even realize that's how I tuned my drums until now, meaning I never contumaciously went for those particular intervals.
 

cdrums21

Gold Member
How I determine the octave...I put a finger on the center of the (cleared and tuned to the pitch I like) batter head while the drum is on the floor and tap near a tension rod to hear the harmonic tone.

I flip the drum over, do that to the reso side and tighten to get the same harmonic an octave higher from the reso head. I kind of have to remember the batter pitch while I flip the drum. I sing the harmonic note the batter makes and do the reso.
Hmmmmm......I wonder if the pitch of the head is indeed a full octave higher. The only way to know for sure is if you either find the resonant frequency of the pitch at each lug of both heads, or just quantify the pitch the head is producing when tapped with a piano or pitch pipe. As I stated in my earlier post, a full octave seems extreme. For example, my 13” tom batter head is tuned medium low, feels and sounds good at around an F. I can’t tune the reso head tight enough to get to an F above that. So common sense would tell me that’s probably not right. As I said, whatever works but I’d be curious to know what the actual pitches of your heads are. A full octave apart the way I’m thinking just doesn’t seem right to me.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
I know not everyone likes the sound, but tend to tune them even

In either case the resos don't move much. The batter does because the lugs loosen up a bit over time. It's generally the same lug(s), so it's a quick fix.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Hmmmmm......I wonder if the pitch of the head is indeed a full octave higher. The only way to know for sure is if you either find the resonant frequency of the pitch at each lug of both heads, or just quantify the pitch the head is producing when tapped with a piano or pitch pipe. As I stated in my earlier post, a full octave seems extreme. For example, my 13” tom batter head is tuned medium low, feels and sounds good at around an F. I can’t tune the reso head tight enough to get to an F above that. So common sense would tell me that’s probably not right. As I said, whatever works but I’d be curious to know what the actual pitches of your heads are. A full octave apart the way I’m thinking just doesn’t seem right to me.
Yea, I don't know if the pitches of the heads are actually an octave apart, but the tapped harmonics are, so I just kind of assumed the head pitches are too. It would seem to make sense to me that the actual pitches are an octave apart but I never put that to the test.
 

Stroman

Platinum Member
Yea, I don't know if the pitches of the heads are actually an octave apart, but the tapped harmonics are, so I just kind of assumed the head pitches are too. It would seem to make sense to me that the actual pitches are an octave apart but I never put that to the test.
Like Clint and others have said, I don't think the pitch is a full octave above the batter. I tried tuning that way when you mentioned it before, and I couldn't get the reso head to go that high.

Not a concern. the head will break before the shell would fail.

I broke a 2 ply coated emperor batter head on a thin shelled steambent snare drum once. I was seeing if I could choke the shell as a test, and the head ripped at the bearing edge.
Actually, it can be a concern, depending on the drum. I had a couple of concert toms basically pull themselves apart when trying to tune as high as Neil Peart's old concert toms. They were cheap drums, but I would never a assume that it isn't a concern at all. Seeing a drum turn itself into a polygon and then have the lugs rip through the wood was eye-opening.

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