tuning nightmare...

BigBelly

Member
First, I have been thru the archives and read so many tuning posts my eyes hurt. I have taken the advice and watched every video from Bob Gatzen and it boils down to this...

I suck at tuning drums. I am as frustrated as it gets!

My kit is a new Sonor special edition Birch 6 piece. 10, 12, 14, 16 with a 22x20 kick and a 13x7 snare. I have new Evans G2 coated batter heads and am using Remo Ambassador reso's (shop was out of Evans G1's). With all of Bob's videos and help at Drummerworld, I have gotten my drums way closer than where they were but I'm still not happy. When these heads are in tune with each other, the resonance is mind blowing! You would think I would be happy with that but they carry on sooooo looooong! I have tried to fine tune a bit of the resonance out but then I get the dreaded "Doom-wow" or I end up with a funky flapping kind of sound (I think it comes from the top head).

Maybe it's just me being too picky, I don't know. Are there any video's that specifically address this problem? That "doom-wow" sound, how do I know if that is caused by the top or bottom head? For what it's worth, I have tried tuning by ear and a Drum Dial. I usually have my rack toms a bit lower on the batters than the reso's and my floor toms, because I like them low, are just about equal in tone. Maybe a tiny bit lower on the reso's than the batters.

Sorry for the long rant, just frustrated.
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
I suck at tuning drums. I am as frustrated as it gets!
It's an art form mate.....no doubt about it.

Much like every other aspect of your drumming, it all comes down to practise. You've done all the right things, followed all the advice in tuning threads and so forth......just keep at it.

I advocate taking a drum from JAW and then tuning all the way through the tuning range in small increments until it chokes.....this will give you a good idea of the full range your drum can offer and also helps determine where it sounds best. Sometimes this is not always exactly where you'd like to tune it.

Unfortunately, like everything else, it comes down to time, patience and repetition.

Good luck.
 

BigBelly

Member
True. My sons drum teacher keeps telling me the exact same thing, "keep messing with it, you'll get it!" I have no doubt that I'll figure it out, just kinda wish there was a short cut I guess.

All of these tuning videos seem to lack a bit of "real life" examples (to me anyway). I'd really like to see a video of someone that has a floor tom that sounds like garbage and watch what they do to fix it or fine tune it.

I appreciate the advice and the shoulder to cry on, lol!
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
I have no doubt that I'll figure it out,
Nor do I. It does take time though. I've been playing for around 25 years and there are still times I get stuck trying to find that sound on a particular drum. Play around enough and you find it.


just kinda wish there was a short cut I guess.
Don't we all. :)

Unfortunately, there's very few opportunities for short cuts in the drumming world, I've found.


All of these tuning videos seem to lack a bit of "real life" examples (to me anyway). I'd really like to see a video of someone that has a floor tom that sounds like garbage and watch what they do to fix it or fine tune it.
Problem with vids is that they are great at showing you the process, but so much of it comes down to feel......and individual feel at that, it's almost impossible to portray.

What I'd do is take the drum to a store, your kids drum teacher or any other drummer that can tune well and get them to run through it with you. Watch what they do, what they listen for etc and get a more "hands on" approach to it.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
I have tried to fine tune a bit of the resonance out but then I get the dreaded "Doom-wow" or I end up with a funky flapping kind of sound (I think it comes from the top head)
That sounds like you're getting rid of the undesired overtones by tuning so low that the batter flaps a little. Maybe go to a local drum shop with a tom and ask if someone can tune it for you? I find that watching good tuners do their stuff and asking questions helps.
 
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ambientgreg

Senior Member
First of all, find what you want your drums to sound like,as in a certain song or drummer. Then realize that your end result sound IS going to vary due to your specific drum sizes and depths vs. whats in the song or what the drummer uses...but this will give you a starting point. If it were me, the two funkiest sizes to dial in would be the kick ( due to the 20" depth) and the snare ( due to the 13x7 size). Everything is change-able and it's all about sound, so if you have to do something unusual to get a sound you like, go for it. If you need to muffle using rings,gel or tape ( gasp) then do it. I've also found that on some drums ,if you like it tuned real low and use coated heads, youre going to get flap, it's pretty much unavoidable. So get yourself a nice beverage, grab a drum key and play around with the tuning of your new drums. Just be patient with yourself. That kick is going to be deep no matter what,and the snare will have some low end but mostly pop and crack. And if you get a sound you like on the kick and the 16 that involves a wrinkle or two, so be it for now at least. You will find your sound eventually. Have fun!
 

Soupy

Silver Member
When these heads are in tune with each other, the resonance is mind blowing! You would think I would be happy with that but they carry on sooooo looooong!
I think in part, you need to evaluate how you listen to your kit. When you're sitting in your quiet practice space by your lonesome, right next to the drums, and hit one drum at a time, sure, you're going to hear every bit of that resonance. But when you're actually playing a fill, the resonance of the first drum you hit will be completely lost behind the next drum you hit in the fill. And it'll all be completely lost behind the crash you hit at the end.

So try playing a groove for a few measures, play a fill, and then go straight into the groove again. The resonance won't seem nearly as obvious. Even better, record yourself doing that, and take a listen. It'll sound different when recorded as well; the recording will help you step back and listen to what the whole fill sounds like, and you want to judge what the entire drum set sounds like, not just a single drum.

And keep in mind that when you're playing with a band, all that resonance will be completely lost behind the guitars and other instruments. What the drummer hears isn't what everyone else hears, after all.

With that said, since you've got thinner reso heads than batter heads, you probably want to tune them a bit higher than you have been. Lots of tuning guides talk about intervals, and a major third or fourth interval between the pitch of batter and resos will get you well past the doom-wow stage.
 

harryconway

Platinum Member
I have new Evans G2 coated batter heads and am using Remo Ambassador reso's (shop was out of Evans G1's).
Tuning is "indeed" a matter of practice, but head selection (and knowing your kit) go hand-in-hand with your tuning skills. G2's over G1's ... Emperor over Ambassador .... tried and true combo's .... but, not the "only combo's" out there. If the sound you're after is Powerstroke 3 over Ambassador, no amount of tweeking on a G2 is gonna get "that" sound. If Emperor over a Controlled Sound (Black Dot) is the sound you're after, then a Controlled Sound reso. is the head you need reso., not an Ambassador.​

Maybe it's just me being too picky...
If something sounds too open, then you need to muffle it, maybe just a tad (like a moon gel) ... or maybe a bit more (like a felt strip). Experimentation is the only way to find "all the cool sounds" .....​
 

Stroman

Platinum Member
I think Soupy and Harry (among others) have great suggestions. When you get to that spot where you think there is too much resonance or the sustain is too long, have someone else play the kit and listen from a distance. That resonance is what keeps the drums from sounding flat and cardboard-like, esp. unmiked. If the sound quality is right but the sustain really is a bit too long, do as Harry says and muffle slightly.

Keep trying. You're on the right track!
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
If they resonate too long, it sounds like you have a good tuning. If you want to lessen the duration of the resonance without muffling, you could try tuning it tighter. Usually the notes shorten the tighter you tune them. You have to find the sweet spot where the note is not too long, and the tone is still nice and satisfying.

Drums that sound tuned a little too high from behind the kit...not crazy tight, just tighter than usual,you'd be surprised at how good they sound from the audience. A tighter tuned drum sounds better and carries further unmiced, and sounds lower in the audience than it would seem from up on the stage. I had to adjust my perceptions once I realized this...if the drums sound really good onstage, meaning low and wet, they probably sound too slack in the audience. If the drum heads sound a little tight onstage, they probably sound beautiful from the audience, talking unmiced here.

This is what I've learned from open mics where others use my set. The very first time I heard someone else on my kit, the first thing I did was remove any muffling. It just killed the drum. Next I tuned them to sound good from the audience's perspective, meaning I tightened them. Doing this, they sounded too high onstage, but really it was my perception that was off. Now I tune higher as a result, because they sound way better from the crowd that way. I had to adjust my perceptions. I think most would feel that they sound a little high onstage, but I know they come across as lively, well tuned drums from the audience.
 

Stroman

Platinum Member
If they resonate too long, it sounds like you have a good tuning. If you want to lessen the duration of the resonance without muffling, you could try tuning it tighter. Usually the notes shorten the tighter you tune them. You have to find the sweet spot where the note is not too long, and the tone is still nice and satisfying.

Drums that sound tuned a little too high from behind the kit...you'd be surprised at how good they sound from the audience. A tighter tuned drum sounds better and carries further unmiced, and sounds lower than it would seem from the stage. I had to alter my perception once I realized this...if the drums sound really good onstage, meaning low and wet, they probably sound too slack in the audience. If the drum heads sound a little tight onstage, they probably sound beautiful from the audience, talking unmiced here.

This is what I've learned from open mics where others use my set. The very first time I heard someone else on my kit, the first thing I did on my return was I ripped off any muffling. It just killed the drum. Next I tuned them to sound good from the audience's perspective, meaning I tightened them. Doing this, they sounded too high onstage, but really it was my perception that was off. Now I tune higher as a result, because they sound way better from the crowd that way. I had to adjust my perceptions. They still sound a little high onstage to me, but I know they come across as lively, well tuned drums from the audience.
Exactly my experience.
 

BigBelly

Member
Wow, guys! Thanks for the help here. Larryace, I think you have hit the nail on the head....

I am wanting my drums to sound as good to me as the would in the audience and unless I mic the kit and listen to myself thru a mixer as I play, I am probably not going to get the exact sound I am looking for. I am going to tune them a bit higher than normal and have my son play while I stand back and listen.

Someone else had mentioned that I should take it to my sons teacher or music store and watch them tune it. I have done that and I think this thread has made me realize (with Larryace's help) that maybe I need to not be so damn picky, let them ring with resonance and deal with it.

I'll go back at it tonight and post up how I did tomorrow. I wish I had the ability to record them so I could post it here for your opinions. You guys would probably tell me I am really crazy then...

Lots of great replys here, thanks to all of you as you each had something to say that has helped.

Thank you!

Chad
 

bromasi

Senior Member
If you could get a fellow drummer to play your drums while you listen you might like what you here from a distance. I thought my tuning sucked until I heard another drummer play my set at a jam and I really liked what I heard.
If you can't get a drummer, use one of your friends to play the drums. Good Luck
 

stillgroovin

Senior Member
I have always found that the smallest turn of the key often yeilds the biggest results. Tune in very small increments when you are in the fine tuning stage, be patient and remember it's all FUN. Practice, and let those babys ring!!!! Lots of great advice in this post!!!!
 

ricc333

Senior Member
I feel your pain, man. As far as the "doom-wow" thing, and the flappy sound goes, I struggled with that for a long time, specifically my floor toms.

Like Larry said, the huge resonance is probably about where you want it. You can always take some out if it's really too much. It's probably not a bad thing, except that you're not used to it.

As far as the other thing, I'm guessing you're talking about your floor toms. If my experience, and what I've learned is worth a damn, you're in luck. The heads are barely out of tune. I don't know if you're familiar with tuning a guitar. But if you ever pay close attention to one being tuned, right when the reference pitch and the string are almost in tune, it'll sound kind of wavey. That's what the "doom-wow" and the flappiness on the floor toms is. Tweaking one head or another just a bit always takes care of that for me.

I usually like my tom heads in tune with each other, but if you want it to have a bit rougher(word choice?) sound, you can leave the bottom heads tuned a bit lower than the top.

Don't feel bad, man. I've been at it for a couple decades, and I only recently feel like I can tune drums fairly decent. It'll click for you sooner or later.
 

brady

Platinum Member
If they resonate too long, it sounds like you have a good tuning. If you want to lessen the duration of the resonance without muffling, you could try tuning it tighter. Usually the notes shorten the tighter you tune them. You have to find the sweet spot where the note is not too long, and the tone is still nice and satisfying.

Drums that sound tuned a little too high from behind the kit...not crazy tight, just tighter than usual,you'd be surprised at how good they sound from the audience. A tighter tuned drum sounds better and carries further unmiced, and sounds lower in the audience than it would seem from up on the stage. I had to adjust my perceptions once I realized this...if the drums sound really good onstage, meaning low and wet, they probably sound too slack in the audience. If the drum heads sound a little tight onstage, they probably sound beautiful from the audience, talking unmiced here.

This is what I've learned from open mics where others use my set. The very first time I heard someone else on my kit, the first thing I did was remove any muffling. It just killed the drum. Next I tuned them to sound good from the audience's perspective, meaning I tightened them. Doing this, they sounded too high onstage, but really it was my perception that was off. Now I tune higher as a result, because they sound way better from the crowd that way. I had to adjust my perceptions. I think most would feel that they sound a little high onstage, but I know they come across as lively, well tuned drums from the audience.
Exactly my experience.
Same here. Once I realized this, I came to embrace the higher pitch, complete with overtones that most people try to muffle.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
Exactly my experience.
Mine too.

Only tricky part of the picture is going to be the kick, because of it's size. Sometimes a thinner, single ply head will get a boomier result, sometimes not. I have a 20X18 with a ported front head, my batter head of choice is the Aquarian Force 1, single ply with a dampening ply around the edge, plus some little vent holes. I was not happy will a PS3, Powersonic, or Emad, but I've heard all these heads sound great on different drums.
 

nicotine25

Senior Member
Also two other things to consider are room acoustics and ear protection. If you are playing in a concrete cave...(i.e. garage) the drums are not going to sound good to you. You may have to treat the room. Really almost any bare room is going to have bad acoustics, mainly because they are big square boxes. However there are many inexpensive things you can do to make the room sound better. I have also found that wearing ear protection (either stereo-isolation headphones or plugs) will cut out the troublesome frequencies. When I practice I will usually start off playing very softly with out ear protection and then throw the headphones on to really jam...It sounds like im in a studio. Everything is clear and smooth. Plus it protects your ears...
 
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