Over the decades different styles of music in all genres shaped the sound of our instruments and created a need for our instruments to have certain sound characteristics that enhance the music we’re playing over years of time.
We have so many choices for drums to buy these days. Making them sound up to their potential is really the bottom line. The tuning of the drum kit is the other part of the equation that will put your instrument sounding over the top and create a better environment for you as a player and the overall sound of whatever your working on. It will also make it easier to play and listen back to whether you’re just learning or an accomplished pro.
Regardless of drum head type, dampening, shell type or musical style, the drum should be in tune with itself starting with every point of tension (key rods) being the same pitch achieved by tightening every key rod the same amount all around. The tighter the tension on the key rods the higher the pitch of the drum. Imagine what it would sound like if some of the rods are looser than the others, The drum will be very out of tune with itself creating a harsh, undesirable tone.
If you are replacing your drum heads, be sure that the bearing edge the head will rests on is clean. Removing any dirt, debris or dust will ensure good clean contact with the head. Place the new head on the drum making sure it is seated flat on the edge all the way around and not hung up anywhere, preventing it to be tightened. Place the counter hoop on the head making sure it’s flush with the head and everything is seated flat.
To start tuning your drum, make sure you are isolating the opposite head from from vibrating. This can be achieved by putting in on a surface that will constrict the head from vibrating and not conflict with the head you’re about to tune. Place every key rod in each lug and hand tighten each one evenly all around. Now your ready to use the drum key. Look at the drum as numbers on a clock and start at 12:00 by tightening that key rod 1 full turn. Then go to the opposite side at 6:00, doing the same full turn. Follow this procedure for all of the other key rods opposite each other until completed.
Check each pitch by hitting the head with a stick or your finger approximately 1 1/2” from the edge in front of every key rod you just tuned. Make sure the opposite head is not able to resonate while doing this. Try to get the pitch as close as possible on every one. Repeating this process turning the drum key a quarter of a turn or less tapping and checking each one will fine tune and create the most even tension as possible. Do this on every key rod until your desired pitch of your drum is achieved. You will see that a little turn goes a long way, so be careful as tightening is something that is sometimes over done. Keep in mind thatlarger drums sound best tuned to the lower pitches rather than the higher perspective. Over tightening anything would not work and defeats the purpose especially on the larger 14” 16” & 18” toms.
The links below will point you to some tuning devices that will help you accomplish getting your heads tuned evenly to their most optimum sound:
- Tama TW100 Tension Watch
- Overtone Labs Tune-Bot Electronic Drum Tuner
- Drum Dial Digital DrumDial
- Evans Magnetic Head Torque Drum Key
Be patient as this process can take a fair amount of time to get the results your looking for. Try and get your hands wrapped around it, the more you try the more you will understand how to get best results that work for you.
If you have any questions about tuning your drums – or about drums in general – feel free to give me a call or drop me an email – Mike