Vintage Drum Tuning anomaly


Platinum Member
I refinished another 60's 3 ply floor tom today, put heads back on and tuned it up. I noticed and marvelled how, after the tension rods are screwed in finger tight, that the 3 ply floor toms tune up with only 1/4 to 1/2 turn of the tension rods with a drum lug key. They go through a large tuning range with a quarter to half turn. Given the number of threads on a tension rod, that seems like very few turns, but thats the way it is.

Does anybody else who plays 3 ply kind of drums with low bearing edge have the same thing? Is it the bearing edge? Or modern drums simply have more threads on tension rods?


Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
Without leaving my chair to measure, I think my 14 inch Renown floor tom is tuned low and probably at about 1/2 turn beyond finger tight.


Gold Member
Yeah, I agree with Gruntersdad. The threads on traditional tuning rods are a "medium" pitch (won't go into specifics here, only indicating that they are between a coarse and a fine pitch), and one turn of that rod multiplied across six, eight, even ten rods equates to quite a variation in tension. Having owned the type of three ply classic drums you are referencing (bought when they were new!) and now a more modern kit with "true pitch" tuning rods, I can tell you that I can detect no difference in the quick-tuning properties between old and new. Very, very minor adjustments on either shell style results in quite dramatic changes in pitch. Maybe others can tune in more specifically what you are describing, but from my experience with lots of quality kits over the last fifty years, I've come to expect what you've described from any quality drum. Wish I could have been more helpful.



Platinum Member
It all depends on the tuning pitch that you are after and what heads you are using. For Rock tuning I tension between 1/4 and 1/2 turn after finger tight. 2 Ply batter heads sometimes go to 3/4 turn.
For Jazz tuning I tension from 1/2 to just above 3/4 turn. I use single ply heads.
The thread pitches on 60's American made drums are standard with most modern drums except for modern DW and Sonor I believe. They use fine pitch threads.

Round over bearing edges do make the vintage drums behave different that sharp edge drums. They produce warm tones and less volume at looser tensions than sharp edge drums.
Vintage drums with reinforcement rings can't tune as tight as vintage Gretsch 3 and 6 ply drums that don't have re-rings. Ludwig and Slingerland 3 ply drums choke sooner when tensioned tight.

Hoops also play a big roll in the sound. Die cast hoops sound way different than 1.6 mm flanged hoops.
I like to use 2.3 mm flanged hoops on my vintage Luds. I find the stock hoops to be too thin for my tastes.
I removed the original thin Stick Chopper hoops and I installed new 3 mm thick Stick Chopper hoops on my 50's Gretsch kit. It really changed the sound.
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