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Drum Tuning Tips

Tips on Drum Tuning
Do you struggle with how to tune your drums? Well here are some tried and
tested drum tuning tips and techniques for getting the best sound out of your drums.

  • Tune from one side of the drum to the other, similar to the way you would take the lugs off when changing a flat tire.
  • If you have lugs that are backing out when you play due to vibration, you can use "lug locks" to keep them in place.
  • When you're tuning the bottom reso head on your snare drum head, put a stick underneath the snares (to sit on the rim of either side of the drum). This way you don't have to remove the snares to tune the bottom head.
  • When you're taking your drums out of their cases at the venue, check to see that no lugs vibrated out. Also, check this at the end of the gig when you're putting the drums back in the cases. The vibrations of the band sometimes cause the lugs to back out. You may occasionally find one lying on the floor underneath your set.
  • Factors that affect drum sound are:
    - the acoustics of the room
    - the type of drum shells
    - how hard you hit the drums
    - the quality of the drums
    - how well they are tuned
    - what types of heads you use
    - what type of muffling you're using
    - what type of finish on the drum (laminate or stain)
    - the venting of the drum. Size and placement
    - suspension mounting
    - how round (or not) your rims are
  • Work to find that "sweet" spot on the drum you're tuning. Every drum seems to have a certain place where it sounds the best consistently.

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  • Write the date in the upper corner (well ok, there's no corner on a round head, but you know what I mean) of the drum. This will help you know how long since you've last changed the head on that drum.
  • If you want a more natural tone from your toms, consider mounting them with suspension mounts. This will allow the drums to sound out and ring more freely with a more natural tone.
    Did you know that professional drumsets have more lugs on the drums than cheaper, beginner drumsets? This is a major consideration to getting a more refined drum sound. The more lugs on the drums, the better.
  • To tune your drums fast, use a speed key of some sort. You can use a rachet type or buy a drum tuning bit that goes into the end of your drill or cordless screwdriver.
  • For Drummers with complex setups: They don't make memory locks for everything, so you have to get creative. I have my drum rug marked off with duct tape, so that I know EXACTLY where to place everything. I also have my cymbal arm tilters marked straight across with a black Sharpie. When the two marks line up, you know you're set. This has saved me HOURS of setup time at shows, as well as in the studio (plus, your band can't give the excuse "I don't know where it goes" anymore!). The lengths I have gone to to simplify setup is legendary, but, with a little extra effort, it can really help you. - Jim ".50 cal" Deabenderfer
  • Be patient. I can't stress this enough. It takes time to dial in everyone's sound and individual parts. Find a book you can read or something else you can work on when you're waiting on the other musicians.
  • There are lots of drum tuning devices on the market (Drum Dial, Tension Watch, Robo Key, etc.) but remember that most important drum tuning device is your own ears.

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  • Duct tape, napkins, and zero rings all help to muffle drums but be sure not to overuse them. Some drummers put so much muffling on their drums that they choke the natural resonance of the drum. Let your drums sing! That's what they're designed to do.
  • Many drummers don't realize that there are different drum tuning methods for different styles of music. For example, a jazz drumset sound will usually be more open and resonant while a funk drumming sound will usually be a bit more muffled down. When you're listening to the different styles of music, pay close attention to how the drums sound within those styles. You'll start seeing a pattern.
  • Drum tuning dampeners:
    - napkins
    - zero rings
    - duct tape
    - drum gum
    - moon gel

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methods for tuning drums and getting that perfect pro-drummer sound.

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