Why do some drums take to higher tunings better than others?

mrmike

Silver Member
I own a 1998 DW Collectors series kit that sounds great at lower tunings. What is it about some drums like Gretsch USA and Yamaha MCA that a lot of the jazz cats play and they sound really nice tuned medium and high? Is it just the edges? They all seem to have similar shell construction although DW has a thin re-ring, much less intrusive than old shells. I can tune my early 70';s Luddies pretty high but would like to to have a newer jazz kit.
 
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Anthony Amodeo

Guest
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larryace

"Uncle Larry"
If a drum is round and true, it can be tuned high. Material notwithstanding. It's all how they head it and tune it. The reso head is tighter than you may think on the tighter tunings. Its up there. It's not a magic combination of woods, hoops, and heads, or a certain brand, it's tuning skill. My DW's tune high, low, wherever I want them. They are by no means limited to lower tunings. In fact, they carry further and sound better, unmiced, when the drums are tuned tighter. Low tunings don't carry. I don't understand why you don't think your drums sound good high, they're DW's. A high tuned DW and a high tuned Gretsch should sound essentially the same, except for the timbre of each individual drum.
 
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Anthony Amodeo

Guest
If a drum is round and true, it can be tuned high. Material notwithstanding. It's all how they head it and tune it. The reso head is tighter than you may think on the tighter tunings. Its up there. It's not a magic combination of woods, hoops, and heads, or a certain brand, it's tuning skill. My DW's tune high, low, wherever I want them. They are by no means limited to lower tunings. In fact, they carry further and sound better, unmiced, when the drums are tuned tighter. Low tunings don't carry. I don't understand why you don't think your drums sound good high, they're DW's. A high tuned DW and a high tuned Gretsch should sound essentially the same, except for the timbre of each individual drum.

the question he asked about why Gretsch and some other companies sound the way they do tuned a certain way absolutely has everything to do with the type of wood, the thickness of the shells, the bearing edges , and if they have reinforcement rings or not ....even the hoops have a say in the matter

I had a set of DWs that hated being cranked high....they had as sweet spot around the mid range of tuning and sounded fine ...but I hated the re rings

I also had a set of custom Spauns that hated being tuned any other way than cranked...

I hated both kits

if these characteristics were not instrumental in how each companies drums sounded and took a certain tuning then all drums would be made the same and sound exactly the same
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Interesting replies, & some good first base stuff from the Steve Maxwells video. Having tested these theories/facts, the answer is both complexed in it's variables, & simple in it's basis. I'm interested in other opinions coming in. I'm busy right now with guests, but I'll chime in later with the basic principals applicable to this question.
 

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
A high tuned DW and a high tuned Gretsch should sound essentially the same, except for the timbre of each individual drum.
Not necessarily Larry, shell thickness will influence the percieved sound and the bearing edges are playing an important role too, I'm not sure about DW's, but Gretsch use the typical 30° rounded bearing edge, which will make your drum more "mellow" souding than say a sharp 45° bearing edge on a Tama Artstar for exemple, the lugs are important too, double sided lugs will whistand higher tuning better than separate lugs, thus, creating less tension on the shell itself, and I guess some type of heads takes better the high tuning than others, mmmh... we will have to wait for the expert to come back to enlight us all :)
 
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Anthony Amodeo

Guest
Interesting. My Spauns have the broadest tuning range of any kit I have ever owned or worked with.

mine sounded good up high but a little "boingy" for my liking .....a result of the double 45... ...but at lower tunings they sounded dead and lifeless

things very well may have changed ...the kit I had was from when Brian had first started the company

also the bearing edges were so absolutely sharp that they were too thin and would start to flatten out under tension of high tunings.....

just a bad experience for me.....I prefer a more earthy sounding drums than the sharp bright attack of Spaun drums
 
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Bull

Gold Member
mine sounded good up high but a little "boingy" for my liking .....a result of the double 45... ...but at lower tunings they sounded dead and lifeless

things very well may have changed ...the kit I had was from when Brian had first started the company

also the bearing edges were so absolutely sharp that they were too thin and would start to flatten out under tension of high tunings.....

just a bad experience for me.....I prefer a more earthy sounding drums than the sharp bright attack of Spaun drums

My old band bought the Spaun kit, 6 years ago. It was used and had been sitting in Sam Ash for 2 years. It's not a newer Spaun kit. I guess every kit is different. I actually think this kit sings at pretty low tunings.

It is a very modern sounding kit. It worked perfect for my old (I wasn't the drummer)but has been sitting in its cases, since I got my Ludwigs. The new Ludwig CMs are modern sounding drums but sound fairly classic compared to the Spawns.They are much warmer.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Not necessarily Larry, shell thickness will influence the percieved sound and the bearing edges are playing an important role too, I'm not sure about DW's, but Gretsch use the typical 30° rounded bearing edge, which will make your drum more "mellow" souding than say a sharp 45° bearing edge on a Tama Artstar for exemple, the lugs are important too, double sided lugs will whistand higher tuning better than separate lugs, thus, creating less tension on the shell itself, and I guess some type of heads takes better the high tuning than others, mmmh... we will have to wait for the expert to come back to enlight us all :)
You're basically saying the same thing I am. If you tune a 12" tom to say a high D, with both a Gretsch drum and a DW drum, you would hear both drums sing a D note, that's what I mean by sounding essentially the same. Then the only difference would be the timbre of each individual drum, ie the bearing edges, shell thickness etc.

So what, if you want to tune high you buy Gretsch? I'm not buying that. OK nobody said that but that's the message I'm getting. As long as the drum is round and true with good edges, it should tune wherever you want. My old Luds have 3 tunings, low medium and high, nothing in between because they are so imperfect. The drums today are so precise, tuning is a breeze.
 
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audiotech

Guest
By tuning the same size drums from different manufacturers to the same note, you should be able to get that same note, the only difference should be the sustain of that note. Some shells will sustain a note longer than others. Tuning to the same note is the apples to apples part of the equation, the sustain is the variable or X. I remember playing a DW Eco X kit about a year ago. You could basically hit a tom, walk out of the room and return to still hear that note emitting from the drum, lol.

I always believe in tuning to the shell's sweet spot and not torquing its sound out of this general range. The more drums you have in any certain kit, the more you might have tweak a bit to get them into their sequential order, another reason I don't usually tune to any specific note.

Dennis
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Talking modern drums, I find that a 10 inch tom for instance, will have essentially the same tuning range as any other 10" tom from any other manufacturer. And they will have a variety of different tensions they sound good at. Multiple sweet spots, many. Yea you can't crank them to the point of choke..... and you don't want them flapping in the breeze either, but anything in between works well. They're just wooden cylinders. An example of a given size drum, headed the same and tuned to the same note, from different makers, will exhibit most of the same characteristics. Meaning it will have attack, sustain, timbre, pitch, a fundamental, overtones... The different qualities of each drum will vary slightly, but in the overall picture, they will all sound like a 10 inch tom. Because they are.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Larry and Anthony are both correct. You can tune just about any good condition drum both high & low, but whether it sounds good is (excluding tuning skills & head selection) quite dependent on shell construction, bearing edges, venting, size, etc. Also, it's not uncommon to find differences of opinion, primarily because the definition of "high" is so different from one player to another.

There are many variables here, but as context to help focus, essentially, a drum moves through several stages of "performance" in it's tuning range:

Starting with very loose, the earliest point at which the head first produces a discernible tone. At this stage, (with some exceptions) the shell typically isn't contributing much to the sound.

Raising up the tuning range, the point at which the shell starts to be excited by the head, & in turn, shapes the sound produced by the head.

Up a bit more, the first "sweet spot". The point at which the head is vibrating in the same frequency range as the shell. This is the point of maximum shell involvement, & often referred to as the "fundamental".

Up higher, there can be further "sweet spots", although these tend to be less wholesome due to overtone dominance.

Up higher, (again, with exceptions) we're now starting to fall outside of the head's ability to excite the shell around it's fundamental frequency range.

To the choke point, at which any shell tone is completely lost & the head note is so short as to produce little discernible tone.

The ability to excite the shell is often a key element in adding tonal depth to higher tunings, but not always. Very thick/low resonant shells are much more difficult to excite, but that doesn't necessarily limit their effective tuning range, just the resultant tone. Bearing edges have an influence too. A rounded edge shortens head sustain, & affects the result in two primary ways. It delivers greater direct vibration to the shell, & also reduces the build up of higher overtones, so is especially effective at offering a full tone at higher tunings where head sustain is naturally reduced anyhow. Conversely, sharp bearing edges on thinner shells deliver less into the shell. In combination with increased head sustain, this encourages a rather thin initial tone & dominance of higher overtones, often described as "boingy".

Then there's venting, & that dictates low & high dynamic performance more than anything, but is often perceived accordingly to dictate the choking point. An unvented shell will offer a more satisfying tone at low dynamic, even at high tunings, but will limit the tone available in medium & high dynamic playing, especially at higher tunings.

Wood species/shell construction: The fundamental tone's frequency & ability to excite the shell is very much dictated by this, & that in turn affects tones available at higher tunings. You may be surprised to know that, in shells that are easier to excite, a lower fundamental actually increases fullness at higher tunings. This is partially because the shell encourages low overtones to flesh out the resultant tone. At higher tunings, rerings have little affect other than offering the possibility of a thinner shell that stays round, although they do add to the mix at lower & mid tunings.

Head choice is a fairly important one here too. Often, a thicker single ply head will offer greater head sustain at higher tunings, & especially on smaller drums. Coated heads do a nice job of dampening higher overtones and feature the fundamental. Tuning choices, especially tuning both reso & batter head to the same pitch, will add a degree of head sustain at higher tunings, & is especially effective in combination with more rounded bearing edge profiles.

Hoops: Can open up or dry out a drum, essentially by adding varying degrees of mass primarily to the head, but also to the drum in it's entirety. Other than affecting head sustain, & to a lesser extent, shell sustain, their affect on high tuning ability is small. Key areas to consider are tuning accuracy, & adding mass to very thin shelled drums.

Believe it or not, this is a very basic summary of points. Simple principals, but huge numbers of variables. I hope this helps a bit, but I suspect it will generate more questions than answers.
 

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
You're basically saying the same thing I am. If you tune a 12" tom to say a high D, with both a Gretsch drum and a DW drum, you would hear both drums sing a D note, that's what I mean by sounding essentially the same. Then the only difference would be the timbre of each individual drum, ie the bearing edges, shell thickness etc.
Yes Larry, reading your reply makes sense, if you tune both drums from different brand to the same note they will sing the same note, for whatever reasons, I was thinking in terms of sustain and percieved resonnance, which of course is a different subject altogether :)

I suspect it will generate more questions...
Very good post as always Andy, and so clear and very descriptif, all the knowledge you're sharing with us here on DW is absolutely brilliant, since I joined this forum, you have explained many theorical aspects of tuning, constructions and cause and effect related to drums, and I have a much broader picture because of it, your imput in these topics is like gold for many of us :)

On the high tuning topic, I thought that double lugs are a better option, especially for thin shells construction without re-rings, at high tuning I thought the shell could actually suffer from the high pressure, is this a myth?
 

mrmike

Silver Member
Believe it or not, this is a very basic summary of points. Simple principals, but huge numbers of variables. I hope this helps a bit, but I suspect it will generate more questions than answers.
Thanks for the very thoughtful and informed answer everyone. I guess I knew it was a bit of everything that gives drum their character. KISS, you have obviously done much more research on the subject than the average bear.

What I am after is which characteristics are better for higher tunings. Thinner shells? Die Cast? Rounded Edges? Coated single ply heads? Maple gum?

Here is a very unscientific comparison of two kits from the same company.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsjlw-Mfq0A

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9GXSm4bq0E&playnext=1&list=PL042233861D934A89&feature=results_video

As I watch both clips i realize that head choice plays a huge roll so it's not really apples to apples. My reason for the OP was that I can get my Collectors to sound like the second clip but not the first.
 

wsabol

Gold Member
I think the OP really had more to do with the location of the choke point: how some drums seem to have a higher choke point, and why. I'm also curious how shell thickness and bearing edges affect the choke point. I assume thinner shells will choke sooner than thicker ones. same with hoops: more robust hoops can raise the choke point and deliver higher tunings that aren't choked. but bearing edges?... i have no idea.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Thanks for the very thoughtful and informed answer everyone. I guess I knew it was a bit of everything that gives drum their character. KISS, you have obviously done much more research on the subject than the average bear.

What I am after is which characteristics are better for higher tunings. Thinner shells? Die Cast? Rounded Edges? Coated single ply heads? Maple gum?

Here is a very unscientific comparison of two kits from the same company.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsjlw-Mfq0A

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9GXSm4bq0E&playnext=1&list=PL042233861D934A89&feature=results_video

As I watch both clips i realize that head choice plays a huge roll so it's not really apples to apples. My reason for the OP was that I can get my Collectors to sound like the second clip but not the first.
Listening to the two clips (horrible phasing on the first clip :( ), the difference in setup is obvious. If you reference my earlier post, you can see how this rolls out. Shell construction aside, rounded bearing edges, cast hoops, coated heads, all contribute greatly to the overall vibe. I also think the second clip kit sounds far superior to the first clip.

I've explained some of the science, so my basic elements for the ideal high tuning kit are;

Classic depths
Rounded edges with the bearing edge peak towards the inside of the shell.
Thin team bent shell if you want an open high timbre
Thin stave shell if you want a shorter more immediate vibe
solid segmented or steam bent hoops
Ash, maple, purpleheart, or sepele shells
Low mass tube lugs
Coated single ply heads
reso & batter tuned to the same pitch


Ok, that's my ideal, but if you must substitute ply shells for solids, then go for a thinner shell with rerings, & preferably a softer wood species with a low fundamental tone. Mahogany's a good choice. Walnut if you fancy something a little on the dry side. Maple if you want mid range warmth.

These combinations should get you there, with enough variation to adjust to your personal taste.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I still don't know why you can't get your DW's to sound like that, it's not rocket science. Without being able to play your drums, I suspect that you keep your reso head tuned too low. I keep my reso head a full octave above my batter. So it sings the same note, only an octave up. My DW's are tuned very similar to the first clip. Your drums will absolutely do that too, with the right heads and an even tuning. Thin shells are harder to tune than thick shells. They flex more. You have to go slow and be very even about it. My DW's took me a while before I understood how the thin shell affects the way I tune. Again, I get the feeling your issues lie with the reso head. The reso head is paramount in getting a good tone. Paramount. If you tune just the batter.....that would explain your problem. Tell us the tuning relationship between your batter and reso. Meaning is your batter lower, the same or higher than your reso. If you're not sure, bingo, that's your issue.
 

mrmike

Silver Member
I like to tune my reso to the same pitch as the batter. I have had clear G2's over G1's on them for a while and copied Rick Latham's tuning of JAW. It was super easy and sounds great but maybe not the best choice for a piano trio kind of thing. It's been a while since I have had a coated single ply head on them so I will probably get some new coated over clear single ply heads and see what I come up with. I will try tuning the bottom head a full octive above to see if I like it. When I first got the kit 3 years ago they came with coated ambassadors over clear and I was tuning them fairly low with the bottom head either the same or higher to get a bit of pitch bend. I may not be the an expert at tuning but I do know the basics.

I believe you when you say you can tune your drums to sound like that. I can tune my early 70's Ludwigs to sound similar and they seem to have a wider tuning range. I just have not heard any examples of Collectors tuned like that but there are many examples of them tuned low.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
Recording issues aside, I'd take that Jazz Series in heartbeat. It sounds like a Gretsch set, blatant rip-off of the sound, but I don't care. I like that sound. To each his own.
 
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