Tuning to pitches...yes? no?


Silver Member
I tune to pitches when I'm doing maintenance, and just try and keep minor thirds if spot tuning on, or between, jobs.

boltzmann's brain

Senior Member
Mr. Boltzmann, I am not attacking, but I wouldn't mind debating the matter. (offers peace pipe)
ugh, me smokum peace pipe with youse.
my take: no two drums are alike. some drums have multiple sweet spots, some do not. i was called in strictly as a drum tech to a friend's studio a couple of weeks ago, and he was incredulous that i didn't tune to a specific pitch, so we did an experiment on a ten inch tom, completely detuning it, and then retuning. it ended up almost exactly the same pitch every time (we had a little time to play around). he was also amazed that i didn't use a tunebot. we then proceeded to finish tuning the rest of the set (drum by drum), and, as usual, the drums sounded great (a nice set of pearls with new remo heads). i've always tuned drum by drum, for maximum sustain and resonance (maybe it helps that i have perfect pitch- thanks mom. not RELATIVE pitch, but absolute pitch. i get teased about that a lot by my "legitimate" musician friends. "a drummer with perfect pitch- what a waste!"). anyway, of course you know that often times we take this perfectly tuned drum, and attach it to its mount, and it loses some or all of its glory. that drives me nuts. it happens with any kind of mount, given the right (wrong) conditions, at which time either the mount will have to be modified (maybe there's something attached to the mount that's causing a critical frequency to be cancelled), or the drum will have to be retuned, moving it out of its sweet spot. i have an 8x8 sonor birch tom like that. it is outrageously sensitive to tuning and mounting, but man, does it sing when you get it right. in a nutshell, that's why i think tuning to a specific pitch is lame.

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Inspired by an opinion from Boltzmann's brain...

Is tuning to pitches something you do, or don't do? Talking strictly toms here. I contend that no matter where a tom ends up, it has some kind of pitch, it's inescapable. So my thinking is, why not make the pitches complement their fellow toms, rather than the alternative. In my experience, a well tuned drum with 2 cleared heads makes a definite fundamental note. I find a drum has multiple sweet spot tunings, and multiple non-sweet/phase cancelling/castrated tunings.

Every tom I know has at least one good high, medium, and low tuning. Plus some fine in between tunings mixed in with some not so fine dead zone tunings. For instance I love my high and low toms at the same note only different octaves, and the middle tom either a 4th or 5th below the high tom, so when I do a descending run down the toms, it's "chord" sounds like it resolves.

Mr. Boltzmann, I am not attacking, but I wouldn't mind debating the matter. (offers peace pipe)
I sorta disagree because drums are an indefinite pitched instrument. But, Drum Workshop certainly uses this as a marketing ploy with their timbre matching of shells, but when I owned two of those kits I found I could tune them to any pitch I wanted and they'd sound ok. Maybe if you played for Phil Collins, this would work because you could leave your toms in the same key since he tends to stay in one or two keys in all his songs anyway ;)

boltzmann's brain

Senior Member
another inane observation. i've talked to many drummers and drum techs, and almost invariably (seriously, damn near always), the more technical their approach, the more likely it is for the drums to sound like absolute shit. i kid you not, i get to sit in and play on a lot of drumsets, and they sound so bad, it's quite amazing. one guy was an acoustical engineer, and was talking some very impressive stuff about cylinder acoustics, and yet, when i sat in on his dw collectors (beautiful drums), they were HORRIBLE. they sounded "ok" in the mains, but ambient sound was gawdawful. some sound men like dead drums because they're easily dealt with, but a GOOD sound man will always appreciate lively drums (if tuned correctly- no weird overtones and so on), and have no problem reproducing that out front. i'm kind of passionate about drums sounding good. sorry if i'm coming across a bit strong. :)