Do you tune your drums before you record?

Discussion in 'Drums' started by anonymous, Jun 3, 2005.

  1. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    Feb 10, 2001
    Do you tune your drums by ear or with a UV meter? (and if so, which product)
    I just wanted to know how many guys out there use what to tune the entire drum kit with.
  2. I use the Drum Dial everytime I have a drummer come in that can't decently tune his own drums by ear.
  3. dynomike

    dynomike Guest

    By ear. A dial won't tell you how to get DIFFERENT sounds... ie. if you want a falling pitch tom, or if you want to eliminate the ring from the snare in the rack tom, or if you want a deep, round snare vs. a tight slappy snare.. all these things are drum tuning TECHNIQUES, not just making sure the drum is "in".

    If you have the time, it really really helps to take off the batter head and tune the resonant head first from zero tension. Once that rings like a mofo (in a good way), then you've found the resonant frequency of the drum. From there, you can adjust the top head for more slap or more ring with its tuning. This works for me anyway. I'm a drummer, first, though, so I find it perhaps easier than others may.
  4. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    Feb 10, 2001
    First off thanks Brian! You guy's are the best! How could I live in a world without guys like you here @ RO 8)
    Yeah I play bass, so I am "one of those guys" (hehe)
    I know some about drums, but I never have tuned any before that's for sure. And my drummer is good, but he just tunes them by ear. And we are going to record them. And quite a few people here on RO said that it is VERY important to tune the drums before tracking. I personally do NOT think that his drums are in any given key, and much less likely are they "in tune".
    And I think this because when I ask him, about what key or what note is his kick drum tuned to. He just says..."huh?" :?
    So Brian is that Drum dial the best one on the market? Is the drum dial easy to use IYO.
  5. dynomike

    dynomike Guest

    Drums aren't generally tuned to a specific note per-se... they just have to be in tune with themselves. Most drums will sound best (or most resonant) at certain tunings - not a certain note for all drums.

    This is why your drummer is looking at you funny. Its important to tune drums so there are certain INTERVALS between the notes - ie. rack tom is a 5th above the floor tom which is a 5th above the kick kind of thing... but the notes themselves, unless you're talking about melodic drums like tympani, are generally not considered to be important to the song. Have you ever seen a drummer retune his toms for each song? Rarely, I bet.
  6. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    Feb 10, 2001
    So if you are playing in 440 or "E", or standard tuning, whatever you want to call it, it doesn't matter how far away from that root note the kick is?
    And what about a band like Tool, Slipknot, MachineHead, ect. since the guitar and bass are tuned down to D and lower, how should that change my tuning efforts.

    tell me more! :)
    Hell, I can't find a drummer that knows how to correctly tune his drums :lol: :cry:
  7. dynomike

    dynomike Guest

    I'm pretty sure you're joking.. but its not conventional wisdom to keep the drums in tune with each song, as the drumset is not considered to be a pitched instrument. So if you are playing a song in 440 (lets say, A major) then it doesn't matter if your rack tom is tuned to an A#, for instance, which isn't in the scale of that song. Unless of course, this sounds really bad, which in very rare cases it may depending on how ringy the drum is and if it REALLy clashes with the song.

    What I'm trying to get at that is more important is keeping the drums where they perform best- which is usually a fairly small range of notes - usually the fundamental resonant frequency of the drum, or a harmonic of that note. Second to this, you'll want to keep the drums (especially toms) at good intervals to each other so when they ring together it sounds good, and so that the notes are distinct from another, which makes them easier to mix. Thats why I suggested a 4th or a 5th away (if the rack is a C, the floor should be F or G), for 4 piece kits anyway.

    In terms of heavy bands like Tool or Slipknot..well I won't go down the slipknot road because their drumsounds pretty much suck. Triggered samples on a lot of that stuff...

    But for OTHER heavy bands, because there's a lot going on in the fundament drum range (low mids, bass) the drums tend towards being less resonant and more slappy for presence in a dense mix. To do this, use two-ply heads or heads with built in damping (remo powerstroke 3) and tune the top head looser than usual (for toms and kick). Same rules still apply though. Hope this helps!

  8. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    Feb 10, 2001
    Thanks a million Dynomike! You are truely..Dyno-mike! (like J.J says)
  9. dynomike

    dynomike Guest

    Hehe yes! After years online under this username someone finally says it.
  10. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    There's no rule that says a drum kit canNOT be tuned to the elementary key of a particular song.In fact. I find it to be a very pleasing effect for ballads and such. The biggest drawback would be to tune them to a key that is contra to the fundamental of the drum itself...thus creating some wierd and unusable overtones.I think that even beyond a proper tuning of the drumkit PRIOR to recording, there needs to be a complete going over of the lugs,the seating of the heads,the hardware attaching the drums together,the springs in the pedals,the newness of the drum sticks(makes a HUGE difference),cracks in cymbals,and foremost, a careful and direct discussion of the drum arrangements.I say this because, IF you are recording a song that has no need for a large number of drums, then why set that many possible resonant surfaces within sympathetic range of each other when you simply dont need em.It certainly makes things a lot easier as an engineer.

    This will get you into how 'Pro' your drummer really is. A majority will balk at this citing the need to have all the drums there to play on if they feel it.....The really pro drummer only really needs a trapset to track basic tracks.Its amazing to find out how much drumming can be produced with a well mic'd and recorded 4 piece set with a couple of cymbals.And talk about your separation, its basically a natural thing without the need for a lot of enhancement or electronic manipulation.It really helps to tighten the sound noticably. Makes tuning a lot easier.
  11. Rimshot

    Rimshot Guest

    I agree there are many factors that make up a killer drum sound for a kit.. and its too detailed to list it all - but when it comes to tuning read this:

    everything you ever wanted to know ( and then some!)

    It would be nice if you could tune the drums for each key instantly.. but in reality percussion & drums don't really have a melodic pitch like other instruments.. which is why they generally blend in with whatever key you are playing - however, as posted above - it is important to make sure they are in tune with themselves. I usually tune my toms in 3rds - and starting with the fundamental tone of the drum.
  12. vividsonics

    vividsonics Guest

    I tend to tune the drums by ear for the particular application. I have a drum key with a tension dial on it I bought a couple of years ago at Guitar Center. You set the dial and then it clicks when all the lugs are at the same tension. Then I fine tune it by ear from there.

    One of the best investments I ever made to my modest studio was to buy a relatively inexpensive but good sounding drum kit. I also have a variety of cymbals for different applications. The cost was about the same as you'd spend for a high end pre amp but instead you're getting it sounding good at the source instead of screwing around with gates and other "fixes". Of course some people insist on using their own kit but I explain to them that it will cost them more in set up time if their kit's not up to snuff. Most of my clients are very budget concious and like the fact that they can have a very good drum sound without a lot of hassle.
  13. pr0gr4m

    pr0gr4m Well-Known Member

    Feb 9, 2005
    South Florida
    Home Page:
    I'm not a drummer, but I play one on TV... :)

    There are definite benefits to a proper sounding kit. It's rare to find a drummer who knows how to control/tune his drums properly.

    I have a friend who's been drumming for years and can work wonders with a drum kit.

    When I'm working with a band, if I think the drums could be improved by a good tuning, I'll recommend that the band hire him to come in and set up the drums.

    I do a lot of dance/electronic stuff. In that type of music, it definitely helps to have a kick that is in tune with the bass. Especially if it's an 808/909 type of kick.
  14. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    Feb 10, 2001
    Thanks for the link Rimshot! That was a LOT of information. My eyes hurt :shock: from reading all of it at once! :cry:
    Great info man!
  15. PhiloBeddoe

    PhiloBeddoe Guest

    My recommendation is to have your drummer friend teach you how to tune drums because there's no better lesson then doing it yourself. I'm in a similar situation in that I'm a lifelong guitar player. I bought a drum tuning video and read procedures online for doing it. As a guitar player it's natural to thing that the drums are tuned precisely to tones, but that's a secondary concern as others have said.

    What you're looking for is a nice resonance and relationship between the drums. Drums have natural ranges over which they can be tuned and can sound good in several different tunings, but it's not like a guitar where you can tune to C#,D, Eb, E and places in between.

    With some practice, you'll be able to spot an ugly sounding drum and that's half the battle. You'll also be able to recommend tension changes, which are particularly useful on snares. You might be able to recognize when tell the drummer to loosen the top head for example.

    In any case, you need to tune drums if you want a quality drum sound. All the high end mics and pres in the world won't help if your drums are sour (unless you replace them all with samples of course).

Share This Page