Tuning Drums

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mjau
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Post by mjau » Thu Jul 03, 2008 8:09 am

The drum dial's been helpful for me, but it doesn't get me all the way there. My ears probably get me the last 20% of the way.

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theDan
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Post by theDan » Thu Jul 03, 2008 8:34 am

There is no way to come close as quickly tuning by ear. In particular with regard to top and bottom head tensions. Considering the level of noobies on this board, I can't condone "going it alone and learning by trial and error trying to tune by ear". Isn't this the era of quick gratification? Make it simple and be done with it.
hmmm.... i think this is the wrong approach, simply BECAUSE there is so many newbies on this board (me included, no disrespect intended to your experience) but i would say that alot of people that want (and need) to learn this stuff aren't on the clock with clients every day like you are, and have the time to do the trial and error thing and learn to do it by ear.

it sure is the era of quick gratification, and that is a big reason why i think alot of shit is so obviously half-assed. (again, not implying you)

oh well, whatever, nevermind

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Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Thu Jul 03, 2008 8:52 am

jeff.

for the 8 millionth time: is it really necessary to for you to get on here and say something insulting every fucking time i make a post?

it would be fine if you were capable of doing it in an entertaining fashion, but you are not.

i write a thoughtful post in an attempt to help someone learn something and you counter with "just buy a drum dial". great. really helpful advice. that's like telling someone who wants to learn to sing "just get autotune."

that's great the drum dial works for you. i found it very helpful years ago when i was a newb and totally struggling with tuning drums. now that i'm better at it i prefer to do it by ear and haven't used the dial in ages.

anyway, this:
@?,*???&? wrote:There is no way to come close as quickly tuning by ear.
is Pure Bullshit. maybe there's no way for YOU to come as close, but people who know how to tune drums would chuckle and pat you on the head if you suggested they use a drum dial.

is there a mom and pop drum store where you live? go in there and have the old guy behind the counter tune a snare for you. watch as he goes around the drum and tunes it up, not even looking at it or seeming to pay any attention to it at all, all the while talking about the weather, the upcoming presidential election, the fate of the Tigers, and what he had for breakfast that morning. 3 minutes later he will hand you a perfectly tuned snare and wish you a good day.

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Post by RefD » Thu Jul 03, 2008 10:20 am

MoreSpaceEcho wrote:jeff.

for the 8 millionth time: is it really necessary to for you to get on here and say something insulting every fucking time i make a post?
i think it's his version of punching you in the arm and then smiling shyly.
?What need is there to weep over parts of life? The whole of it calls for tears.? -- Seneca

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James B
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Post by James B » Thu Jul 03, 2008 10:37 am

Thanks a lot for the replies, especially MoreSpaceEcho, your help will go a long way I hope.

Besides which, a drum dial costs money, I don't have that, but I do have a few hours spare before the session, so I guess I'll be doing it the old fashioned way.

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Post by Chris_Meck » Thu Jul 03, 2008 10:59 am

I'm not a drummer, I'm a guitar player. I'm no recording expert, either, but I DID get into recording from watching and learning from people I would consider wise in the art.

And I would say it is almost ALWAYS a good idea to learn how to do things "THE OLD FASHIONED WAY". Even if that's not how you'll always do it, it's important to learn it.

I usually use an electronic tuner on my guitar. But not always, and when I was learning to play, I had a teacher that insisted I learn how to do it "THE OLD FASHIONED WAY." now, when I re-string a guitar, I can get damned close to perfect without using a tuner. A lot of people that never learned to match pitch from a fork or a piano or whatever can't do that. It's a critical ear thing. I think drums are the same thing.

Just my opinion.
greetings from Flyover Country...

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Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Thu Jul 03, 2008 11:00 am

reffie wrote:i think it's his version of punching you in the arm and then smiling shyly.
it's real charming.

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Brett Siler
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Post by Brett Siler » Thu Jul 03, 2008 11:21 am

Since I am mainly guitar player, I bought a drum dial. It really gave me a good idea on how to approach tuning drums, when I had no idea of how to approach it and have used it with great success. I still am not good at doing drums just by ear yet, but to say that the drum dial is far suprior than using your ears is silly. I would still recommend one for someone just starting out tuning drums, as well as learning traditional techniques for tuning drums.

Just cause yr a newb doesn't mean they have to sound like shit! :wink:

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Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Thu Jul 03, 2008 12:13 pm

the drum dial can be really helpful when you're starting out simply because tuning drums is just totally mystifying the first time you do it. or the first 20 times you do it. you haven't learned what to listen for yet, and so it's alot easier to just put the dial on the head and go around and make everything "70" or whatever.

so if you look at it as a tool to help you learn, then great. but it's not something you really wanna rely on, just like you wouldn't want to *have* to have a tuner in order to get a guitar in tune. much better to develop your ears...eventually you will be on a session where there's no drum dial around and what are you gonna do then?

i STRUGGLED with drum tuning for a long time. maybe there are some people who are just naturally good at it, i dunno, but i am not one. but if you do it a lot, eventually you just sort of get it. letting the drums tell you what to do is a big part of it.

and eventually you get to the point where it's just quicker and easier to do it by ear. also, once the session is rolling you're going to want to keep an ear on the tuning and touch it up here and there. it's not like you're going to take the drums off the kit and get the dial out, it would be way too time-consuming and it wouldn't even work at that point anyway, because usually the sort of tweaks you're doing then are SUPER tiny nudges on a lug or two.

i actually kind of ENJOY tuning drums now, and i never thought i'd say that. it's kind of nice to to be able to sit down with nothing but a drum key and your ears and know you can make it sound good.

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Post by Brett Siler » Thu Jul 03, 2008 1:05 pm

MoreSpaceEcho wrote:i actually kind of ENJOY tuning drums now, and i never thought i'd say that. it's kind of nice to to be able to sit down with nothing but a drum key and your ears and know you can make it sound good.
I actually have enjoyed my experience of learning how to tune drums so far. I find getting a good drum sound on a recording is very satisfying.

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mjau
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Post by mjau » Thu Jul 03, 2008 1:26 pm

Amen to that.

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Post by mattwhritenour » Thu Jul 03, 2008 2:23 pm

when I did try out a drum dial it didn't get me even close to a good sound.

it made my drums sound worse.

http://www.saecollege.de/reference_material/index.html

the drum tunning section on that site is what helped me a lot.

what helped me the most is that i bought a studio set (i'm not a drummer)
then i started learning how to play. So since i would practice a lot it made me
worry about getting a great sound that much more.

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Post by aaronburr » Thu Jul 03, 2008 7:00 pm

i just tune the top heads to really deadened thud and then tune the resonant heads so that the are all sound close to the same note. sounds fine to me all the time. im not real "pro" though. and i pretty much just try to make my drums sound like ringo.

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8th_note
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Post by 8th_note » Fri Jul 04, 2008 10:20 pm

Is it just a matter of making the skins tighter until it sounds basically "good", or should we tune to specific pitches? what would you suggest?
I'm a firm believer in tuning to freqencies. Tune the snare and toms to the key of the song. This can take a long time but once you get it right it's amazing how much better the drums will sound in the context of the song.

Here's a few other tips from my experience:

1) Moon Gel. This is good stuff. It will allow you to carefully control the amount of resonance in the drums. You dont' want the toms to sound like a cardboard box and you don't want them to sound like timpanis either.

2) Allow a lot of time. It sounds like you won't be in a hurry but tuning drums can take a lot longer than you think it should. Don't let your drummer get frustrated. Tuned drums can make a huge difference and it will give your drummer greater confidence to play his best.

3) Use pieces of cloth to dampen the wires of the snare. Experiment with this to get the right snare sound. If you've got enough inputs, micing the snare on the top and bottom can be a big help at mixing time.

4) If your songs are in different keys take the time to retune your drums. This is a major PITA but it's amazing how much better it sounds.

5) Have fun and consider this a learning experience.

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DrummerMan
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Post by DrummerMan » Sat Jul 05, 2008 12:50 am

Here's just a couple things that I haven't seen mentioned in previous posts. If they're there and I missed them, I apologize for being over-redundant...

When tuning lugs, always tune in an opposite criss-cross order. Like, turn one lug, then turn the lug directly across from it, then turn the one directly to the right of the first one, and then the one directly across from THAT, and so on. Doing this in small increments (like, 1/2 turn) from the start allows you to more easily get even tension around the drum head.

Tune the bottom (resonant) head lower than the top (beater) head, otherwise, you'll choke the drum and end up with obnoxious overtones and a severe lack of body. (this is slightly different with snares, as the bottom snare head is so thin, that it's almost always a higher pitch, even if it's at a lower tension)

Each drum has a pitch-range where it sounds good. Don't try to force it to sound different than it wants to. If you have the time, try to find that tuning spot where the drum just seems to open up. THAT's where it wants to be. If you try to make a small drum sound too big and deep, or over-tighten a large drum to raise the pitch beyond what it should be, you'll never get the sound as good as if you just played the instrument you have...

Here's something I've been doing for years to dampen bass drums without using a pillow, which i find can take too much away from the body of the drum (just my personal taste). It's especially nice if you're going for a more open sounding kick, but don't want it to ring too much:
-take a small washcloth (I like the little terrycloth ones, like around 10"x6" or something like that) and hang in from the the edge of the inside of the beater head, between the rim and the head, so the majority of it hangs loosly down inside the drum resting on the head. I'm actually confusing myself trying to describe this, so here's a quick diagram:
Image
what this does is: when you strike the drum, the air pressure pushes the cloth back away from the head for a second allowing the full tone of the drum to come through, but in a split second the washcloth flaps back on to the head deadening the resonance. This, in essence gives you the full sound of the drum, without any more sustain than you (I) want. It's almost like a low-rent kind of gate, maybe... au naturale... :lol:
unfortunately, positioning only allows this to really work on bass drums.

On a similar note, though, when using a wallet on the snare, if you can avoid it, don't tape the wallet down, or if you must, use one piece of tape attached to the rim (not the head). This way, when you strike the snare, the *bounce* will lift the wallet off the drum for an instant, allowing the full tone to come through, but then stopping it short a split second later when the wallet bounces back down. Taping the wallet too much and directly to the head will not serve you a whole lot better than just using a crapload of duct tape, which I try to avoid.

Reason for avoiding a crapload of duct tape: unless you're really careful with it, it'll choke the sound of your drum, more likely getting rid of the deep tones you want, leaving a bunch of crappy overtones. If you must *duct*, first off, use gaffer tape instead (that's obvious to most people). Second, start on the outside of the drum head with your taping (that's where the high freqs live and breed), and make little folds in the tape, as such:
Image
this fold creates a kind of *trap* for the high frequencies. a couple of little tapings like this will go much farther than 10x the amount of flat taping alone.

That's my 2 cents for now...

enjoy! :D

(Oh yeah, and +1 on what MoreSpaceEcho originally posted.)
Geoff Mann
composer | drummer | Los Angeles, CA

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