Any drummer will tell you that learning to tune drums is an essential first step in your kit sounding the best. Drums that haven’t been tuned correctly (or at all), have unwanted overtones and a resonance that, simply put, does not sound good.
In this article, we are going to present you with everything drums-related, and everything tuning-related.
By looking into the why, how, and what behind tuning drums, you will become a more proficient, independent drum player who is ready to drum the house down the next time you’re allowed.
Why Do We Tune Drums?
Drummers use different materials to make drumheads. Mylar plastic is used most often because it’s cheap and easy to work with.
As you could guess, a circular sheet of plastic doesn’t sound good when played at random. Tuning helps eliminate unwanted overtones.
Two heads should be tuned together so they vibrate as one.
Different drums have different resonant qualities. Tuning them requires starting with an even tension around their heads and adjusting from there.
Animal hides used to make drum heads were often stretched over wooden frames.
Lugs and tension rods were added later to help hold the drumheads in place and ensure they sounded right.
Today, most drums are tuned with tension rods. The most commonly used drum set tuning is EADGBE.
How Often Should You Tune Drums?
A drum set should always be tuned regularly. This helps ensure a consistent tone throughout the entire kit.
Tuning a kit daily ensures the drums will stay in tune longer than if they were left un-tuned for weeks.
Drums can go out of tone for a number of reasons, including temperature changes, transportation, and playing too much.
To ensure your drums sound great, check them regularly.
How Long Does It Take To Tune Drums?
Drummers who practice regularly have a better ear than those who don’t.
A drummer who practices regularly will quickly learn how to tune his/her own kit. Tuning other kits takes time and effort, and unfortunately, there is no shortcut.
How To Tune Drums
The tuning process typically involves applying a force between two points, such as by using a screwdriver or other suitable tool.
For example, in order to tune a snare drum, a user may apply a downward force between the head and the shell with his/her thumb and forefinger while simultaneously applying a downward force between the rim and the hoop with his/her index finger and middle finger.
This procedure can be repeated up to four times until the desired level of tension has been achieved.
If you want to know how to tune your own drums, here are some tips:
- Make sure you’re standing on a stable surface (no carpet).
- Put your hands around the drum and push down evenly all the way around the circumference. You should feel the tension change.
- When you’ve got the right tension, start playing the drum. If it doesn’t sound right, go back to step 1 and repeat the process.
- Once you get the right tension, don’t forget to tighten the bolts that hold the drum together.
- Don’t worry if you mess up. Just start over and keep trying until you get it right.
- If you’re having trouble getting the correct tension, ask someone who knows what they’re doing to help you out.
- Remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
What Is Proper Tuning?
There are many ways to tune drums. Some people think that tuning is more important than playing technique.
But, the truth is, there is actually no right way to tune drums. What works well for one person may not work as well for another.
Tuning should be done based on what sounds best for the application.
Drums should be tuned by ear. Tuning by eye is often inaccurate.
Preparing The Head
You’re going to need a tuning table to tune your drum. You can use a carpeted lazy susan as a place to do this.
Make sure all tension rods are loosened before detuning them.
Then twist the hoop back and forth while tapping the shell. Record the pitch.
Finger tighten the shaft of each tension rod until you can’t twist anymore.
Order is important at this stage; order gives a common starting point (it’s the same as the order of the input).
Once all rods are finger tightened, start in with the Drum Key.
Tip: Whether you’re installing a new head or loosening one already installed, we’ve found the True Thunderhead replacement kit to be fast and dependable.
Fine Tuning The Head
Once you near your shell’s resonant frequency, it’s officially time to start fine-tuning.
First, tune them by tapping the edge of the head directly in front of each tension rod. Then move around the head until all sections produce the same pitch.
Finally, flip the drum over and do the same thing again.
To get the perfect pitch, aim for the same pitch or slightly higher or lower than the original pitch.
Checking The Sound
Tuning theory is important because each shell and drum-type reacts differently when being tuned.
Some drums require more than one adjustment before sounding right, while others need less.
Experimentation is key to finding out what works.
Dampening tips help make certain sounds louder or softer depending on how much air is allowed into the chamber.
What Are The Different Parts Of A Drum?
Learning the different parts of a drum is an important first step to becoming a proficient drum player.
The different parts of a drum include.
A drum head is a skin that covers the top of the drum.
There are many types of drum heads available including plastic, vinyl, leather, fiberglass, wood, and metal.
Each type of drum head has its advantages and disadvantages.
The drum shell is the wood body of the drum.
Drum shells can be made of any number of materials including maple, birch, mahogany, cherry, spruce, etc.
The thickness of the drum shell will determine the resonance of the drum.
Thicker drum shells produce deeper tones while thinner drum shells create higher pitched notes.
Tubing refers to the air chambers located under the drum head. These chambers allow the drum head to resonate without contacting the drum shell.
Tubing comes in various sizes and shapes depending on the size and shape of the drum shell.
Smaller diameter tubing produces lower-pitched tones while larger diameter tubing creates higher-pitched tones.
Tuning devices are used to adjust the tension of the drum head.
Most tuning devices consist of two screws that are tightened against each other to increase or decrease the tension of the drumhead.
Some tuning devices have a locking mechanism so that once the desired tension is achieved, the screws cannot be loosened by accident.
Other tuning devices use springs instead of screws. Spring-based tuning devices work much like a guitar string.
When the spring is compressed, the drum head becomes tighter and when the spring is released, the drum head returns to its original position.
A stick is the part of a drum set that you actually hit. There are two main types of sticks: mallets and brushes.
Mallets are made of hardwood and are typically used with wooden drums such as bass drums and tom-toms.
Brushes are made of synthetic materials and are typically used with electronic drums. Both mallet and brush sticks can come in various shapes and sizes.
Some common shapes for sticks include straight, curved, flat, rounded and pointed.
Straight sticks are generally used with acoustic drums while curved and pointed sticks are often used with electronic drums.
Flat sticks are used with percussion instruments like timbales and bongos.
Rounded sticks are commonly used with cymbals.
A snare drum is a small drum played by hitting the rim of the drum with a drumstick.
The snare drum is traditionally found at the front of a drum kit and is used primarily to accentuate the kick drum.
It is also sometimes referred to as a “kick” drum. In some cases, the snare drum may double as the hi-hat pedal.
A hi-hat is a foot-operated device used to play special patterns on cymbals.
It consists of two pedals connected by a spring mechanism that allows them to move independently from each other.
The hi-hat provides a way for the drummer to play different rhythms and accents on the cymbals by striking one pedal while another is held down.
Hi-hats come in many varieties including single, dual, and triple pedals.
Cymbal – Cymbals are usually metallic objects that are struck by the hi-hat or drumsticks.
They are used to add color to the music being played. Cymbals range in size from very large crash cymbals to very small ride cymbals.
Crash cymbals are the most common type of cymbal because they produce loud sounds when struck. Ride cymbals are smaller than crashes and produce quieter sounds.
Do Drum Heads Affect Tuning?
Yes, your choice of drum head very much affects its tuning.
While it’s true that there are certain types of heads that will always tune-up more easily than others, there are also some heads that require extra effort to get into tune.
For example, if you’re using an open shell (or open back) head, you’ll need to tighten the bolts holding the head onto the drum body before tightening the bolts holding the head to the drum frame.
If you don’t do this, the head won’t stay in tune. Also, if you’re using a closed shell head, you’ll want to make sure that the head isn’t too tight.
This is especially important if you’re playing a tuned drum. Tightening the head too tightly could cause damage to the head.
How Do I Know Which Head Is Right For Me?
The first thing you should consider when choosing a drumhead is whether you prefer a closed or open-shell design.
Closed shells have a solid cover over their top surface, which makes them less prone to warping.
Open backs, however, allow air to circulate through the drumhead, making them easier to tune. Another factor to consider is how well the head conforms to the shape of the drum.
You want a head that fits snugly so that it doesn’t slip around during the performance.
What Are Different Types Of Drums And How Do They Sound?
There are three basic categories of drums: steel-bodied, wood-bodied, and hybrid. Steel-bodied drums are made entirely out of metal, usually aluminum.
Wood-bodied drums are constructed from either all-wood or composite materials. Hybrid drums combine both wooden and metal components.
Each category has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Steel-bodied drums are durable and can withstand high volumes of sound without sustaining any permanent damage.
However, they tend to be heavier than wood-bodied drums and therefore harder to handle.
Steel-bodied drums also tend to resonate differently than wood-bodied drums due to their hollow construction.
Wood-bodied drums are lighter than steel-bodied drums and are often preferred by percussionists who like to use light sticks.
Because of their weight, wood-bodied drums are also easier to transport and set up than steel-bodied drums.
Wood-bodied drums typically have a tighter pitch than steel-bodied drums, but this characteristic can vary depending on the type of wood used.
Some woods, such as maple, have a tendency to expand slightly with changes in humidity.
As a result, a drum made from these woods may not maintain a consistent tone for extended periods of time.
Hybrid drums combine the best qualities of both steel- and wood-bodied drums.
These drums are generally lighter than steel-bodied instruments and are easy to play because they have a similar feel to wood-bodied drums.
The downside to hybrid drums is that they tend to be louder than other types of drums.
Which Drum Should I Buy?
When shopping for a new drum, you’ll probably find yourself asking questions about price, size, appearance, durability, etc.
But before you buy anything, you’ll want to think about what kind of music you plan to perform.
Will you be performing rock, jazz, folk, reggae or country? What style of music do you enjoy listening to?
Once you’ve decided what kind of music you’d like to play, you’ll be able to narrow down your choices based on the characteristics of each instrument.
For example, if you’re interested in playing jazz, you might choose an acoustic bass drum over a snare drum.
If you’re looking for a more versatile option, you could opt for a double bass drum instead.
So there you have it. You have officially become an aficionado of drum tuning.
Whether you are just touching up on the basics before you let loose on your trusty drum kit.
Or, you’re thinking about taking your first lesson or purchasing your very first drum kit.
We hope this article has been a useful stepping stone on the long road ahead to drumming glory.