Is tuning drums a chore? Are you tired of your drums sounding dull and lifeless? Wanna take your drum sound to the next level? Tuning your drums correctly is one of the easiest things you can do to sound great.
The right tuning can make your drums sound rich and powerful while poor tuning can make them sound weak and muffled. In this article, I’ll reveal 5 secrets to getting your perfect drum sound, including tips on tuning your drums like a pro.
Check out my Pearl Midtown compact drum kit’s tuning below.
From drum head selection and tension, to tuning technique, dampening and mic placement, I’ve got you covered. Whether you’re a beginner just starting out, or an experienced drummer looking to fine-tune your drum tone, these tips will help you achieve the drum sound you’ve always wanted. So, let’s dive in and learn how to tune your drums like a pro!
Secret #1: Drum Head Selection and Tension
The first secret to tuning drums and getting the perfect drum sound, includes selecting the right drumheads and getting the right tension across each drum head.
Different drumheads have different sounds and characteristics. For example, a clear drumhead will have a brighter sound more projected sound than a coated head.
The drumheads I use are Remo Fiberskyns which are modeled after old calf skin drum heads. Fiberskyns are the warmest and most melodic sounding drum head of any I have used. They’re also great for playing drum brushes.
The tension of drumheads also plays a big role in sound. The tighter the drumhead, the more attack it will have and brighter it will be. To achieve the perfect drumhead tension for your drums, check out my drum lesson video below on how I tune my drum set.
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Drum Care And Storage
It almost goes without saying but it’s also important to clean your drums and replace drumheads when necessary. I recommend that you replace all of your stock drum heads that come with your new drum set.
These are usually substandard, cheap drum heads that don’t sound great and will break easily. It’s also a great idea to store your drums in gig bags in a cool, dry place when you’re not using them.
Secret #2: Experimenting with Different Tuning Techniques
When tuning drums, you’ll find that different tuning techniques can produce different sounds. Experiment with different tuning techniques such as relative tuning where you tune to specific intervals between your your drums. There’s also absolute tuning where you tune your drums to specific pitches.
Some drummers like to use specific tuning patterns from one tension rod to the next. A popular example of this is the Star Pattern Tuning Technique.
Other drummers like using a drum tuner like a Drum Dial. A drum tuner can help you achieve accurate tuning and make the process of tuning your drums much easier.
Again, be sure to check out my video above about how I tune my drums. I think you’ll find it’s the easiest and quickest way to get a great drum sound.
Ear Training For Drummers
One of the hardest parts about tuning drums is hearing the subtle differences in pitch from one tension rod to the next. To train your ears better to pitch, I recommend a little good old fashioned ear training.
Sit down at a piano and practice playing notes chromatically on the keyboard. Sing with each note that you play. By doing this, you’ll be reinforcing you’re ability to hear differences in pitch.
Secret #3: Tuning Specific Drums
Tuning drums such as the snare, bass drum, and toms usually require different drum head tensions. The snare drum, for example, is often tuned to a higher pitch for a sharper and brighter sound. That’s because we want the snare drum to cut through the music and be heard easily.
I usually tune my tom toms in between the snare drum and bass drum pitches. They’re the drums that connect the top end of my drum frequencies to the bottom end.
The bass drum, on the other hand, is usually tuned low for a deeper and more powerful sound. We tune the bass drum this way because it’s a drum that is felt more than it is heard. Kind of like the upright or electric bass.
Secret #4: Dampening Techniques
Another thing to think about in tuning drums is dampening. Dampening is the process of reducing the amount of unwanted overtones and resonances in your drums. This can be done using dampening materials such as moon gels, foams, or even a towel.
For my Jazz drum kit, I don’t use any dampening for my snare or toms unless I’m in the recording studio or sometimes when I produce my drum lesson videos.
For my bass drum, I use mostly external muffling by taping paper towels to the outside of the drum head. I don’t often put anything inside my bass drum to dampen the sound.
Another great tool for dampening the bass drum is Evans EQ Pad Bass Drum Damper. I’ve used it at different times in my drumming career and it seems to take out just the right amount of overtones while leaving your bass drum with a deep and full sound. The great Jeff Hamilton calls it my Bed Bath and Beyond Pillow. LOL!
Experiment with different dampening techniques to find the right amount for your desired sound.
Secret #5: Microphone Placement
If you’re recording, proper microphone placement is crucial for capturing the best sound from your drums. The microphone should be placed close to the drum, but not too close. I usually measure it 2 finger widths from the surface of the drum head.
This distance will prevent the microphone from picking up too many of the unwanted overtones and resonances that drum heads produce. Experiment with different microphone placements to find the perfect spot for your drums.
So the 5 secrets for tuning drums again are:
- Drum Head Selection and Tension
- Experimenting with Different Tuning Techniques
- Tuning Specific Drums
- Dampening Techniques
- Microphone Placement
By using these 5 secrets, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your perfect drum sound. Remember to experiment and have fun with the process.
Try different kinds of drum heads with different tensioning. Experiment with different tuning techniques until you find one that is easiest for you.
Try different tensioning in your drum heads for different-sized drums. Explore drum dampening options if that’s the sound you’re going for and try different mic placement.
Tuning drums does also take a bit of ear training and getting used to subtle differences in pitch in the beginning but you’ll soon get the hang of it. The goal in all of drum tuning, is to find the sound that you like and go for it!
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