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How To Tune Drums

Drum Tuning: How To Tune Drums

There are many techniques to achieve different types of sounds and tones, you should have even head tension to eliminate unwanted ring and overtones. The tension should be the same at each tuning lug. Take your drum stick and hit it about 1 inch in from the lug and make sure the tone is the same all the way around the drum. When tuned properly, you should hear the same pitch when you tap on the head in front of each lug. Different shells sound different depending on how high or low they are tuned.

Tuning the Kick Drum:

Put a pillow into the bass drum as a way to help with the overtones and tuning of the drum. It's possible to achieve a good punch without it, most folks (at least other band members and recording engineers) prefer to have a solid "thud" sound with a slight over-ring. Whether you choose to use a pillow or not, the tuning procedure is still the same.

Start by tightening the lugs until they are all finger-tight. You will notice wrinkles in the head around the edges. Choose any tuning lug and tighten it 1/2 turn. Then, go directly across the head and do the same with that lug. Continue in this fashion around the drum until the wrinkles are gone and you hear a tone when you tap on the head. Once you begin fine-tuning, you will want to turn the lug no more than 1/4 turn.

Tuning the Snare Drum:

Because there are so many different types of materials used to construct snare drums, including wood, steel, copper, plexiglass and brass, the snare can be tuned to any number of tones and textures. Experiment with different tunings to find the tone that works for you.

If you prefer a very tight, fat snare sound. Start with the bottom snare head. Using the same technique as the bass drum, make sure the tension is even as you go around the head. Get the bottom head as tight as possible, which gives the snare a tight snap when hit. Use your own judgment.

The top head is quite a bit looser, in order to "fatten" the snare sound. If you still have too much over-ring, a small piece of duct tape will help to alleviate this. Place it approximately 1" from the rim of the snare, directly across from you (this will keep you from hitting that spot with your sticks).

Tuning the Toms:

Even tension on the top and bottom heads is critical for good tom tone. You may want to take each drum off the mount to tune the bottom head (using the same technique as above). Find a pitch that sounds good to your ear, and try to tune the drum to that pitch.

There is no right or wrong tuning for your drums, as long as they sound good to you. It will take a while to tune your drum set. Use small increments when you begin to fine-tune the drums. 1/4 turns are usually enough.

Place the drum flat on a carpeted surface. This dampens the other head, letting you hear just the head you are tuning.