Drum Tuning

Drum Key on drum

Recently I had the pleasure of hangin’ out with “The Drum Doctor,” Ross Garfield.  I asked him how he approaches tuning his toms.  He said to tune the top and the bottom head to the same pitch at first, then if he is tuning a drum without reinforcement hoops then he will tune the bottom head lower than the top head by an interval of a third to a fifth lower, and if it is a drum with reinforcement hoops then he will tune the bottom head higher.  Each drum with its unique characteristics, wood quality/type, and drumhead quality/type will react to tuning differently.

So, for young drummers who might not know what an interval is in music, you might be wondering,  “What is an interval?”  Well, here is a little music theory lesson for you.  An interval is the distance between two pitches/notes.  Intervals come in different qualities and sizes.

So let’s say you tapped your bottom drumhead and checked the pitch/note with a standard instrument/guitar tuner.  The tuner will do it’s best to track the pitch/note and will show a letter from A to G.  Let’s say for example that the bottom head pitch/note is an A.  Now you would tap the top head and see what the tuner shows.  Let’s say it is a C.  Now you have the interval of a third.  A to B is a second.  A to C is a third.  A to B is a fourth and so on.  Now you get it?  These are nomenclatures for the size of interval.

The explanation for the quality of an interval gets really interesting fast.  The best way to understand quality of intervals is to go do a little research.  Here is a link you can check out to read more:  http://library.thinkquest.org/15413/theory/intervals.htm

So without all the music theory knowledge you would just use your ear and tune the bottom head even with the top at first then tune the bottom head either higher or lower than the top head depending on what sounds good to you.  Fresh new heads are easier to work with and are recommended if you are taking your drums to the studio to record.

Sometimes a particular drum may be hard to tune.  It could be due to a number of issues like bad bearing edges or the drum not being true or cut uneven.  If that’s the case you might send your drums to Ross or take them to your local drum shop for an overhaul.  Remember, tuning is a skill you have to develop.  Keep working at it and good luck.  For more info I recommend reading this article that has tips from Ross Garfield.

http://blog.discmakers.com/2009/10/drum-tuning-advice-for-recording-and-gigs/  Scroll down the article to find: Tuning tips from the famous “Drum Doctor.”

Post originally appeared at www.tnrproducts.com.

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