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tuning drums

Discussion in 'Drums' started by alphajerk, Mar 8, 2001.

  1. alphajerk

    alphajerk Active Member

    how do you come up with the correct pitch for each drum?

    basically i have been working the head until the sound "comes together". im new to REALLY tuning drums and would like to get better. ive read all the basics of tuning. when i finish with a head, they tend to [what i think] be pretty tight and high pitched for the sizes. [13x12/14x13/16x16 toms and 14x4 snare, 22x16 kick]

    are there specific notes i should be tuning them to? does the depth of the shell [wavelength] determine the note?

    any sort of tips or suggestions would help alot.


    has anyone used those drum watches that measure head tension, do they help?
     
  2. Greg Malcangi

    Greg Malcangi Member

    Hi Alphajerk,

    The point of tuning a tom, or just about any type of drum, is not to achieve a specific pitch but to get the richest sound. Every decent tom has a "sweet spot", which can only be found by adjusting both heads. On most toms this sweet spot is quite large, covering a range of about 5 or so semi-tones. When you get down to the small toms 6"-10" the sweet spot range becomes much smaller. Usually the bottom head is tuned somewhere around a minor third below the batter (top) head.

    My usual method of tuning is to totally slacken off both heads then to gradually tighten up the batter head by tightening the lug a 12 O'Clock then the lug a 6 O'Clock, then 9 O'Clock then 3 O'Clock, until I've worked my way around the drum. Once the batter head is in the sweet spot I do the same for the bottom head. I then return to the batter head and fine tune it. I do this by hitting the head about half an inch to an inch away from each lug and adjusting each lug until the pitch is the same all the way around the outside of the drum.

    Things to watch out for:

    The head quality is the main concern. Most batter heads are 2 or more laminated layers. After a bit of pounding the layers can sometimes begin to separate, nothing visual but there might be a slight slap to the sound and/or a slight buzz.

    After a lot of pounding the batter head will deform, requiring further tuning. After a while you will notice in the fine tuning stage that it is impossible to get the head in tune next to each lug. This is because the head is now too deformed. The only solution to this problem and the de-lamination problem is to fit a new head.

    Basically, tuning toms is quite easy, once you've learned what you are listening for.

    The very top drummers have their own drum technicians who keep their kits in optimal condition. However, this is not always the case for other professionals or amateurs. Heads usually deteriorate gradually and many drummers don't realize how bad the head has become until they fit new ones and suddenly hear the difference.

    If you want to hear the ultimate in drum tuning listen to some of the solo stuff by Terry Bozzio.

    Hope this helps,

    Greg
     
  3. alphajerk

    alphajerk Active Member

    not really, im looking for how to determine the intervals between each drum. those are actual notes and its the difference between a good sounding KIT and a bad one. sure all my drums are in "tune" by themselves but not with each other.

    i thought you wanted you top and bottom head at the same pitch, not at thirds...
     
  4. Bear's Gone Fission

    Bear's Gone Fission Active Member

    i thought you wanted you top and bottom head at the same pitch, not at thirds...



    Depends what you're shooting for. You can play a bunch of games with what a hit is going to sound like. There's a nice basic primer at http://www.musicyo.com/planet/tune_drums.asp which ought to be required reading for any kid getting a kit. Not to deep, but it gives the essentials, and it's helped me, a non drummer, to get okay sounds from a guy who was a bit less of a non drummer.

    da Bear
     
  5. alphajerk

    alphajerk Active Member

    no, thats too basic.

    whats the difference between:
    If the top and bottom heads are the same tension, the drum will have increasedsustain or resonance.

    If the bottom head is tighter than the top the drum will have more sustain and resonance.

    anyways, there is something more here to make a kit sing together.

    i guess nobody does this?
     
  6. Aaron-Carey

    Aaron-Carey Active Member

    Alphajerk, if what I think you are talking about is correct, you are taling about tuning drums in intervals to fit a key ? or at least to have the toms cover a wide YET distinct range of notes ?

    May not be your style but check out the album The Dark by a band called Metal Church, for toms that were tuned to each song...its pretty nifty :) I know, everyone says its an 80's thing, and metal church were certainly 80's but hell, it sounds KILLER!
     
  7. Greg Malcangi

    Greg Malcangi Member

    Hi Alphajerk,

    << im looking for how to determine the intervals between each drum. >>

    I wrote: "On most toms this sweet spot is quite large, covering a range of about 5 or so semi-tones. When you get down to the small toms 6"-10" the sweet spot range becomes much smaller."

    If you want to pitch tune your drums you still have to work within the sweet spot range. The sizes of toms you mentioned you had in your original post are too close together to get a wide range of intervals. I have occasionally tuned to specific pitches but it's time consuming, requires a good ear and often doesn't give you the results you were expecting. I'm not certain why this is but it's my guess that in some situations the harmonics are masked or mask similar harmonics from other instruments in the mix. This can happen in both live and recording situations. It is often better to delibarately tune the drums away from the key to get better separation. Obviously this is down to taste and the specific situation.

    << i thought you wanted you top and bottom head at the same pitch, not at thirds... >>

    Depends on what you are looking for and on the drums themselves. Tuning both heads to the same pitch will produce more resonance which can really "muddy up" the mix, especially if the drum part is at all busy. On some drums going for maximum resonance can also produce a nasty metallic ring, simliar but not quite so pronounced as the ring you can get on an undampened snare drum. I personally never tune the bottom head to the same pitch as the batter head. Most of the top drummers I know feel the same way.

    << whats the difference between:
    If the top and bottom heads are the same tension, the drum will have increasedsustain or resonance.
    If the bottom head is tighter than the top the drum will have more sustain and resonance. >>

    This is not neccesarily true. It depends on the drums, the acoustic in which they are played and the type of heads. Usually having the bottom head tighter than the batter is not as resonant as having both heads at the same pitch. It produces slightly different harmonics which on some drums may mean greater resonance, especially if the tuning of the batter head is slightly below the centre of the sweet spot in the first place.

    The only real solution is to spend a few hours trying out the different tunings and relative tunings of the heads, to understand for yourself the effects on the particular set of drums you are working with.

    Aaron: << check out the album The Dark by a band called Metal Church, for toms that were tuned to each song >>

    The reason I mentioned Terry Bozzio is because he has gone way further in drum kit tuning than anyone else. He has a specially made kit which covers two octaves of tuned toms along with specially made cymbals by Sabian which are also tuned to be in octaves with the drums. The downside is that his kit usually takes about 5 hours to setup!

    Greg
     
  8. Dave McNair

    Dave McNair Active Member

    Alphajerk:
    One thing that hasn't been mentioned, is that an old kit and newer modern drums are different beasts. A new shell with sharp edges and still close to being perfectly round in circumferance, is MUCH easier to tune, with a wider sweet spot. Older drums,(60's and earlier), can't sound great, but require a little more work. I usually see drumers with heads that are too tight. It only takes barely one full turn, and sometimes less, for an older shell to hit the sweet spot. Also when the drums are interacting in a negative way, things can get tricky. If you tune the drum away from the kit, and it sounds good, but attach it to it's place in the setup and it sounds shitty, the pitches are working against each other. This sometimes is also affected by the accoustics of where the drums are in the room. When this happens, you have to compromise a bit, and tweek a lug or 2 on one drum, while hitting another, and hearing how that affects things. This applies a great deal to the snare drum tuning, especially. Hope this helps, and is not too confusing.
     
  9. Dave McNair

    Dave McNair Active Member

    Sorry about the typo, I meant to say older drums CAN sound great. In fact, I don't care how much of a bitch they can be to tune, I much prefer an old kit.
     
  10. hathabr

    hathabr Guest

    are there specific notes i should be tuning them to? does the depth of the shell [wavelength] determine the note?

    any sort of tips or suggestions would help alot.


    has anyone used those drum watches that measure head tension, do they help?[/QB]


    Hey,
    I think I know where you are coming from - yes the depths will make a difference. The ratio of depth and diameter decides the tone, but I think diameter has the biggest factor.

    Anyway, I (and many others) don't tune the drums to an exact note, but of course will keep the interval between the drums the same. Usually 1/3's. If it is tuned to an exact note, this may cause conflicts depending on the key of the song. However, if you have the time to do this, it will make the drums blend in the mix more.

    As for the tensioning, I just took my custom-made Fortune drums back to their maker for a checkup, and we took off all the heads and examined everything. We put all new heads on and tuned them up great in a about an hour.

    He gets such great tones out of his drums. I helped with the initial part of putting the heads on, and he did all of the tweaking. The drums would start off all even, top and bottom, and then he'd detune adjacent lugs, matching top and bottom, from 2-4 lugs. Just fabulous - a nice pitch bend with good sustain. The bass drum - nice and fat with plenty of attack. Already sounded pre-gated with no muffling, except for two (1" x 3") strips of foam on the inside of each head. I can tune drums good, but man, he is better, and I have no problem admitting that. He does it a ton more than I do.

    Here's the tripper of it all - I put a DrumDial on all the lugnuts top and bottom, to document it & get a good starting point for the next time I change the heads, and I was a bit suprised by the results.

    I saw which lugnuts were detuned top and bottom, but in some cases the bottom lug was tighter than the top head, usually adjacent by a lugnut that was looser than the top. Generally, the bottoms were looser, or the same in most cases. The point I want to make here, is that it doesn't have to be consistent- if it sounds good!

    The DrumDial works pretty good at measuring head tension - it is pretty sensitive, and does what is says.

    Good luck! I wish everyone could watch a pro like Dale @ Fortune Drums tune them at least once - it will change the way you do things.
     
  11. hathabr

    hathabr Guest

    One other thing - you can tap the side of the shell and will tell you where that drum wants to be tuned at. DW also prints recommended tuning notes on the inside of their shells.
     
  12. Lots of good advice here. I've been tuning drums, timbales, marching drums, congas, etc for quite awhile now. This is my theory on it.

    1. A drum head is an infinite number of strings criss-crossing the diameter of the drum and intersecting at the center point.

    2. These strings have to vibrate at the same frequency otherwise they will be interfering with each other.

    3. Frequency is a function of tension and mass.

    4. Many heads have variances as to thickness and material density (mass), thus equal tension does not mean equal frequency. This is especially true with conga skins.

    5. In double sided drums. Unison tuning of the batter and resonnant sides equals longer fundamental note and less harmonics. Intervallic tuning such as thirds, fourth, fifths generally results in wider range of harmonics and weaker fundamental.

    6. Geometric precision of the head is crucial. If a head is slightly oval(in terms of head material), the LONG axis will need to be <pulled> farther to achieve equal Frequency.

    7. Pulling further on one axis of the head will cause the hoop to warp and a feeling that the head in that axis is tighter than it really is.

    8. Putting your finger dead center on the skin and lightly tapping the edge will allow you to hear the first harmonic (octave) of the skin and help in locating the flat or sharp axes and make necessary corrections.

    Hope this helps,

    Mario
     
  13. jscott

    jscott Guest

    The link below may help? I don't want to get into shameless self promotion, but it has helped many with the original question at hand.

    The problem with giving an absolute answer is that there are so many possibilities. The shell material, weight, heads, how you hit, style, etc, etc., all go into what each drums "sweet spot" may turn out to be. So there's often a conflict between where a so-called "stock" drum sounds good, and the actual pitch you prefer.

    I think many (actually way too many) drummers buy without any thought as to whether the size drum they purchased can really produce the pitch they desire. In the end, the size does effect the optimum sound of the drum, and the interval possible to enable all the drums to sound as if cut from the same cloth, so to speak.

    Consider The Drum Tuning Bible as it was formulated to get into the depth of the question and teach you how to get the most out of each drum.
     
  14. Thanks guys. I am actually going to try out a few of the neat ideas I have heard here.

    Chris
     
  15. chrisperra

    chrisperra Active Member

    drums are an odd thing, they come from a tree, they are cut into little peices, steamed and glued together, then, they holes cut in then and different hardware slapped on, some have control rings inside them to deaden the sound. some are wide open, all of them have different bearing edges and snares have different beds cut with varying strainers on them. unless you pay top dollar fo a kit like some dw's, ayottes ect. a matched pitched kit is hard to find. tuning to pre defined pitches can be cool in concept, but does'nt translate well to a kit. jazz guys like to tune a kit to sympathetic pitches. ie: when you hit the first tom, the rest ring from the sympathetic overtones. you tune the top head of the first tom to a pitch, the bottom head of that tom get tunes to a third or fourth down from the top head. the top head of the second to gets tuned at the same pitch as the bottom of the first tom. the bottom of the second tom gets tuned to a third or fourth down from the top head. the top of the third tom gets tuned to the same as the bottom of the second to, and the bottom of the third tom is a third or fourth of the top. so when you hit one they all ring sympatheticly. this is all right for some things. i like to find the resonate pitch of a drum. when you get an acoustic guitar you have to set it up to get proper resonance and tone, you cant just start playing it, the intonation, action string sizes have to be worked for it to sound good. if you take a guitar and stick 17's
    on a guitar that was set up for 11's
    it's gonna sound like $*^t, if you stick a capo on a gutiar that hasn't been well maintaind for intonation it won't sound right either. drums are the same. it dosen't matter what you do what skins, extra special drum keys that give torque values. if you don't have the drum sitting in the resonant range you will fight the tone. you can get certain sound here and ther but most people will identify with and like resonant drums more often that not. i, when i get a new kit and don't know the sound of it, pull off the rims and skins, some people actually pull of all the hardware, then tap the shell,get out a pitch pipe or keyboard of what ever you can use to define a pitch, and figure it out,. if you tune the skins to that pitch you will get max tone and sustain. the chances of getting a kit that is pitch matched are very slim so you have to deal with as best you can. if you look at the inside of the high end dw's you will see a note stamped that tells you the resonant pitch of the drum. as far as tone goes theres a lot of variations. this is where skins, and tuning are more important. alpha jerk what tone are you looking for? on my drums i likea wide open max sustain tone, i don't like major overtones ringing everywhere. my main studio kit has ambassadors on the bottom and coated emperors on the top. some times i use fyberskin 3's as well. i star tuneing the bottom head of each drum without a pitch in mind. i do the star/ tire lug thing in "very tiny increments" a 1/4 turn each tapping when a tone starts, i go untill the drumm starts opening up it's sort of like a plane takeing off, you feel when everything is in alignment, everything vibrates and feels warm. tune all the lugs so that they are in tune with themselves. then go to the top skin. the top skin is mostly for feel. the bottom one controls 90% of the pitch and tone if you need to do a drastic pitch change the bottom has more effect than the top. i personally like the top not to tight, it usualy works out that the top is a little lower in pitch than the bottom for me. for drums to resonate the skins don't have to be too tight. the top doesn't neccesarily have a set pitch in relationship with the bottom i tweak it till it soundsgood. if you near a music store get the bob gatzen video " drum tuning" he's the god of tuning, and drum design. it's by dci publishing i think.

    good luck

    chris perra
     
  16. chrisperra

    chrisperra Active Member

    alphajerk... i just noticed your drumsizes. my first kit was 13, 14 ,16 ,18, toms and i could always get the 1st,3rd,and 4th to tune no problem but getting the 2nd to match the 1st and 3rd in tones that were distinct and sounded good was always really hard. nowdays i make sure that the toms sizes i use are 2 inches from each other:ie: 10, 12 ,14 ,16, ect 13 to 14 is the worst to deal with. i think most student kits are made that way so when drummers come of age and want to sound good they go out and buy another kit. it's really hard to tune drums that are only 1 inch apart from each other. most of my pro friends leave one at home. i see alot of 10,12,and 14 or 16 as a floor tom. or just 12 and a 16, or 13 and a 16. it makes life easier.

    good luck

    chrisperra
    ;)
     
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