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Drum tuning can be a little mysterious. There are endless possibilities; how high/low to tune each drum head, how to tune relative to the top and bottom head AND tuning relative to each tom. Knowing how to properly tune and maintain your drums is a big factor to having a great sounding drum kit and can make playing the drums more enjoyable. Here are 6 Tips to help you get the best sound out of your drums:
1. Avoid completely loosening each tension rod at once:
It starts even before you get your new heads on. Use a diagonal pattern when loosening and tightening the rods. This will prevent the rim from bending and help keep even tension with your rods.
2. Clean and inspect your hardware:
When you remove the drum hoop, tension rods and old drum head, wipe the inside and edge of the drum with a dry piece of fabric. Tap the inside of the drum to check that your drum lugs and mounting hardware is tight. A loose drum lug can cause a buzz in the head. Keep your tension rods and drum lugs clean and lubricated.
3. Break in your new drum head:
Prevent your drum from repeatedly going out of tune by pushing down in the centre of the drum with your hand. You should be able to put a good portion of your weight onto the drum. Don’t be concerned if you hear popping or glue-cracking sounds, you are helping seat the head. Once you have the new head seated and the tension rods finger tight, you’re ready to start tuning the drum.
4. Get a Drum Dial or Tune Bot tuner:
The Drum Dial measures the tension near each lug and can allow you to tune a drum evenly. This is a huge help for getting your drums in tune. The Tune Bot takes it a step further as it is a digital tuner that can register the pitch and allow you to tune to specific frequencies. I personally use the Tune Bot and have found it very helpful for tuning my drums. They even offer specific settings of a number of professional drummers that you can try yourself. These drum tuners will improve your natural ability to tune drums just like a guitar tuner would. The more you accurately tune your instrument the better your ear will get for tuning. A nugget I came across online was a suggestion for John Bonham like snare tuning. Very tight resonant snare head 400HZ and batter about 275HZ. I believe he might have used a 40 strand snare wire, however I found a little too much buzz and better results with a 30 strand.
5. Tom Suspension Mounts:
If you haven’t already, consider adding suspension mounts to your rack toms. These mounts place rubber barriers between your tom mount and toms to eliminate vibrations between your toms and mounting hardware. This will allow your drums to resonant more and help get rid of unwanted overtones caused by these vibrations. This is a great way to upgrade your kit without breaking the bank.
Above all, the most important thing is to experiment with different tuning. The more frequently you tune your drums the better your ear will get. Drum tuning is a skill you need to practice just like every other facet of drumming. Make it a part of your practice routine and you will be on your way to having a great sounding kit.