tuning: what does this mean ???

mxo721

Senior Member
2 weeks ago, I put new heads on my toms ( 12" ) and (14") I have been tuning them 2 times a week ( as needed ) I'm new to drum tuning, and I read everthing I could on here and elsewhere and watched every youtube vid about tuning...what happens is, I detune a little bit, then tune back up, to a pitch that sounds good, but always ( 1 ) lug will be only finger tight, I put a drum dial on it, and it shows being lower, but if If tune that lug back up with the others, it's WAY higher, both by ear and the dial. ? any ideas what's going on here ? thanks
 

Stroman

Platinum Member
Tuning a drumhead is a bit complex, in that it is hard to get a pure tone from it (there are a lot of natural harmonics in the best-tuned head) and every adjust you make with one tension rod affects the rest of the head to some degree.

I don't use a drum dial, but at a guess I would say that the tension rod directly across the drum from that one is too tight. Maybe several on that side.

Then too, it could be an equipment problem such as a bent hoop, bearing edge or head defect. Make a small mark on the head where you are having problems and then try rotating the head on the drum. If the problem occurs at the same spot, you've got a bad head. If the problem recurs at the original spot, rotate the hoop, etc. This should help you isolate the problem.
 

Bertram

Silver Member
Really. Tension and pitch is two different things. While high tension usually produces a high pitch, and low tension produces lower pitch.
To get a drumhead sounding all the same at every lug, doesn't mean that htey all have the same tension. That's just what i've experienced.
Try to take of the head. Put it back on. Tension up the head, but slower than before, ie. smaller turns, in the star pattern i guess you know. I believe it will be more equal then. Good luck with it. I suck at tuning too, but i just practice with it once in a while.. I find drummers who play piano has something with tuning.... hmm....
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
I would suggest tightening this lug up a little and the others down a little. I would also suggest tuning up and then detuning to the spot you want and not the opposite. As above turn the drum head on the drum, put the rim on a counter top in the kitchen and see if it is bent. Turn the hoop to a new spot and try. Finger tighten all lugs then turn one full turn in a star pattern then one -half turn each to a little bit above where you want it then tune down to your spot.
 

harryconway

Platinum Member
Drum dials make good paper weights. Listen to your drum.​
I use a marimba mallet to tune with. It just gives a nicer, rounder sound, than a drumstick ... but if a drumstick is all you have ... go for it.​
Put the head on the drum. Rim on top of that, then tension rods. Hand turn those, until everyone's "finger tight" ... Then, with your key, start putting tension on the head 1/2 turn, star pattern ... work slow ... you can build up speed later. Watch the head. It'll tighten, and you want it to tighten evenly. Smooth. No wrinkles. Tap the drum head near the rim, under each tension rod point. Even if the head still sounds like paper, you want the same paper tone, from spot to spot.​
Eventually, bam, the drum will start to sound like a drum ... and then bam, the drum will sound great. And that's when you know you've hit the "sweet spot" of the drum. The drum tells you ... you don't tell the drum.​
Since you've tuned the head slowly, adding half turns to each tension rod in a star pattern, you know each tension rod "has" tension on it.​
Tapping near the tension rod lets you hear each spot, relative to all the other spots, so you know you're even around the head ... and hitting the center of the drum, that's where the full bodied tone will be.​
Since you mentioned only a 12 and 14, is that a 12 rack, 14 floor combo? And what brand/model drum kit are we dealing with? Because certainly, not all drum kits are the same. I have 4 kits ... some 20 drums ... and I use the same technique on all of them, but each and every drum is its own instrument ... the more you tune, the better you'll know your drums. The faster you'll be able to tune. The better sounding your drums will be.​
 

mxo721

Senior Member
thanks all, great advise all around. and Harry, right on the rack tom/ floor tome, it's a gretsch catalina jazz. I have read more than once, that these are difficult kits to tune. tomorrow, I'll move the head and see if I can isolate the problem. I really don't use the dial that much. I try to do everything by ear, I only put the dial on it, to make sure I'm way overtight..really nervous about that Iam.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
In my experience, the biggest negative factor I've seen that stands between you and getting a solid note from the drum... is uneven head tension. It is critical, as soon as that head will make a note, to get the notes at the lugs (using the tap method) singing the same note. It has to be even right from jump street. Once it's nice and even there at that low pitch, then keep it even all the way up to where you like it, tapping and listening often. 2 keys works great. Turning without tapping is tuning blind so to speak. When that head is in tune, tapped at the lugs it will sing a long pure resonant note.
 

tamadrm

Platinum Member
In my experience, the biggest negative factor I've seen that stands between you and getting a solid note from the drum... is uneven head tension. It is critical, as soon as that head will make a note, to get the notes at the lugs (using the tap method) singing the same note. It has to be even right from jump street. Once it's nice and even there at that low pitch, then keep it even all the way up to where you like it, tapping and listening often. 2 keys works great. Turning without tapping is tuning blind so to speak. When that head is in tune, tapped at the lugs it will sing a long pure resonant note.
+1.Uneven tension not only results in a drum not in tune with itself,but at higher snare drum tunings,will result is broken drum heads.Also I have seen more that a few drum videos,one in particulr by Dave Weckl,whre he taps the drum head with a tuning key as he tightens the head.That metal to wood contact can result is dented bearing edges.

HarryConway is spot on about using a mallet to tune,and thats what a lot of drum techs use.You seem to get a rounder/ truer note.

Steve B
 

mxo721

Senior Member
all advise taken, I'm gettting a pretty nice sound out of the rack tom tonight, one last thing though...Grunter's dad...start high and then tune down ? This won't "overstretch" the head ? i was de-tuning then slowly going up, thinking the heads will last longer if they never go past a certain point ? is my thinking on this completely wrong ? are the heads durable enough to tune up, then tune high as needed ? thanks again.
 

Bertram

Silver Member
all advise taken, I'm gettting a pretty nice sound out of the rack tom tonight, one last thing though...Grunter's dad...start high and then tune down ? This won't "overstretch" the head ? i was de-tuning then slowly going up, thinking the heads will last longer if they never go past a certain point ? is my thinking on this completely wrong ? are the heads durable enough to tune up, then tune high as needed ? thanks again.
There's practically no real limit of tuning. But if you put an uneven and HIGH tension, then it can destroy the head. And then it will never tune. So, be careful, but not too careful. I usually tune my snare head past breaking point :D hahahaha.
 
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