tell me your drum tuning methods/tricks

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permanent hearing damage
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tell me your drum tuning methods/tricks

Post by permanent hearing damage » Mon Apr 21, 2014 10:59 am

considering i have been playing drums for nearly 20 years, i recognize i should be far better at tuning than i am. i mean, i'm okay, but when a pro tuned pearl export sounds better in my studio than my tama starclassic, artstar II or rogers kits, i feel like i gotta be doing something wrong.

i just have a helluva time hearing the pitches on the heads with overtones, etc. i even bought one of those fancy tune-bot tuners, hoping it would help me along, but i have only noticed a small improvement over tuning myself.

and are you guys tuning the heads in unison typically?

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Post by mwerden » Mon Apr 21, 2014 12:11 pm

I've never been able to get drums to sound good with the heads tuned in unison. Usually I'm tuning up existing kits as opposed to putting heads on from scratch, I generally get the top head to feel good tension-wise before doing the bottom. If you go as loose as possible you can usually get a good thud "Uhhhh". If you do the top head a little tighter (or the bottom a little looser, depends on how you look at it) you can get toms to pitch down "byoooo".

Broad strokes info, hope it helps.
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Post by The Scum » Mon Apr 21, 2014 12:19 pm

Assuming that you've got things close, but not great, try this:

Set the drum on top of the throne, so the seat muffles the bottom head. Take one fingertip and lightly touch the head, dead center. With a fingertip on the other hand, tap lightly near each tension rod.

It's like getting a harmonic on a guitar. Once you learn the touch, it's not hard...it's almost like you're plucking that area of the head.

You'll hear tones that are an octave up from the fundamental of the drum, and mostly isolate the the lug you're near. Relative differences are more noticable if you run quickly around the drum...you might hear "ping, ping, pong, ping" as you go around - the pong is probably looser than the pings. So loosen the pings, or tighten the pong. Get all of the tones to about the same pitch.

Sometimes the lug opposite where you're working has some influence - if you're really cranking one rod up or down, then check the opposite one.

Then hit the drum in the center a couple of times, and remember the pitch. Flip it over, and repeat on the bottom head.

For toms, I'll usually start with the top and bottom matched - sometimes having the bottoms tighter by a 3rd or 5th can be nice...I like it when the middle toms sound like power chords (or the TR909 toms), but sometimes it overwhelms the music.

For kick and snare, I'm usually taking the bottom head a bit tighter, for the rebound. Taking the front of the kick silly high can be a nice way to choke the drum a bit, too.

On a good drum, it only takes a few degrees on a lug the drastically alter the pitch.

If your heads have lots of dimples, they'll have more ugly, spurious overtones.
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Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Mon Apr 21, 2014 2:02 pm

+1 to all that. and i can tell you that the scum's drums sound really good.

not a whole lot to add...i like the top and bottom heads of my toms tuned the same, and from playing other people's kits at shows, i've found i tend to like my toms a little higher than most people. dudes always have the heads almost flapping. that can sound cool if you (or the mic) are right up close on the drum, but in a room it sounds like you're hitting a piece of paper.

anyway, i think the only way to really get better at tuning drums is just to do it a lot. eventually you learn to hear the pitches better, and it gets easier to separate the fundamentals from the overtones.

in general i think it's easier to loosen all the lugs and start over from scratch rather than trying to muscle a poorly tuned drum into shape.

i usually use two drum keys at once, on opposite lugs. couple half turns to start. then just keep going around and finessing it.

i'll get everything in the ballpark and then *important* fine tune it all on the kit in the room. especially with toms...and especially if you lean on the room mics a lot as i tend to...a tom that sounds in tune to you when you tap on the top head with your ear right above it can sound totally wonky in the room.

a little moongel can be your best friend.

if you smoke weed i recommend that you wait until AFTER you're done tuning, unless you enjoy spending hours being confused by overtones.

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Post by Jarvis » Mon Apr 21, 2014 4:15 pm

By tune bot tuner do you mean the digital thingy? I have no experience with that (looks complicated), but I have found the Drum Dial mechanical tympanic pressure gauge helpful especially when putting on new heads. I'm with you about not being able to hear through the overtones, but as a professional I make it a point to be high when around a drum set.
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Post by The Scum » Mon Apr 21, 2014 4:47 pm

I tend to think of tuning the kit like tuning a guitar. It's a continual, ongoing process, not a single static invocation.

I'll check it when I sit down to start playing - it usually needs a tweak here or there.

There are playing techniques that knock things out of tune, as well. You'd retune a guitar after playing some big divebombs, because the trem has recentered. Retune drums after hitting rimshots, because the lugs nearest where you catch the rim have backed out.
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Post by GooberNumber9 » Mon Apr 21, 2014 5:11 pm

+1 vote for a Drum Dial. Besides making it much easier to get even tension around the heads, you can note down different tensions and their sounds and experiment while knowing you can always go back to where you had it before (more or less as the head ages, but it's better than nothing).

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Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Mon Apr 21, 2014 6:56 pm

The Scum wrote: Retune drums after hitting rimshots, because the lugs nearest where you catch the rim have backed out.
lug locks really help for this.

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Post by numberthirty » Mon Apr 21, 2014 6:57 pm

GooberNumber9 wrote:+1 vote for a Drum Dial. Besides making it much easier to get even tension around the heads, you can note down different tensions and their sounds and experiment while knowing you can always go back to where you had it before (more or less as the head ages, but it's better than nothing).
Make that +2.

I wound up letting a curious drummer friend keep one because he was that sold on it being great.

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Post by drumsound » Mon Apr 21, 2014 10:34 pm

I'll add a couple of things:
First, dampen the head you aren't tuning. I like to put toms on carpet, so that I'm only hearing the top heads tuning.

Second, put a finger tip lightly in the center of the head while you tap near the lugs. This is similar to playing harmonics on a guitar. The tone is more focused and it's easier to hear the pitch variance.

Third, be very aware of the lug across from the one you're tuning.

Fourth, fine tune in the room once the drums are on the stands.

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Post by floid » Tue Apr 22, 2014 3:47 am

if you Don't damp the center of the head, tapping at each lug, you can hear an out of tune lug 'beating' more easily. this is more of a last step finesse, added to the great info above.
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Post by losthighway » Tue Apr 22, 2014 4:22 pm

So far everyone covered all the basics I know. The other thing to consider (opening pandora's box here) second to tuning your choice of heads can do a lot to change the sound of the drums. Especially the top heads. Clear heads have a crisper attack, coated heads have a slightly warmer bloom (this is more noticeable on toms). Some of the new fangled heads (like Aquarian) have a way of making the drums really punchy while losing some of their range of color, kind of like scooping a lot of the mids out of them in a mix. I tend to think of them as ideal for metal/hardcore, not quite expressive enough for my tastes in other styles.

I'm a big Remo guy, emperors and ambassadors can do just about everything I want. I know a lot of drummers and engineers that do amazing things with Evans heads too.

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Post by kslight » Tue Apr 22, 2014 7:33 pm

MoreSpaceEcho wrote:
a little moongel can be your best friend.
A little off topic but what is up with moonsnot? I mean I buy a can of them for like $7 and they are all stuck together to hell, and half of them rip apart? Actually that's a lie, I bought TWO cans that are like that. I also tried moistening them. Total bs, for that much money they should separate them with freakin' wax paper or something. And they aren't sticky enough. Jesus.

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Post by digitaldrummer » Tue Apr 22, 2014 7:48 pm

kslight wrote: A little off topic but what is up with moonsnot?
I've never had that happen. take it back or send it back.

or go to Walmart, look near the greeting cards, they usually have party supplies (no not that kind) and you can get a pack of the "stretchy hands". Cut off the string part and it's just like a moongel but in the shape of a hand, and usually cheaper... I think it was a buck or two for a pack of 12.
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Post by Gregg Juke » Tue Apr 22, 2014 7:54 pm

But... But... Moongel is...... blue.

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