Every music enthusiast wants to have an instrument that sounds best as possible. The key to a good sound is good tuning. This of course applies to drums too.
So, if you own a drum set or planning to start playing you probably want to find out how to properly tune them. It’s not uncommon if you wonder if you can tune your drums with a guitar tuner, as many people out there are wondering the same.
The truth is, you could tune your drums with a guitar tuner, but you’ll need to have a tuner that can register drum frequencies. So, it’s not recommended to tune drums this way, as there are plenty of drum tuning devices out there that work with these frequencies.
Tuning your drums the right way will take some time. So, you need to gear up with patience, especially if you are a newbie. But, with time you’ll be more confident.
Today’s topic is going to provide some useful info regarding drum tuning, so every drum lover out there can have an easier time doing this inevitable task.
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Why Is Proper Drum Tuning Important?
Actually, there is no “right” way to tune drums, the correct way to do it is to tune drums to suit the person who plays them and to the music piece. But, that doesn’t mean drums can be left untouched when it comes to tuning.
There are two things to have in mind when tuning drums.
- Aim for pure-pitch sounds. If you’re tuning toms, this is very important. You need to have a sound that a person can sing. A clear sound is best because you can recognize it in a mix of various tones.
- Quality drums are easier to tune. If you can opt for drums with quality shells. They tend to tune faster and stay at the right pitch.
Proper drum tuning should suit both the player and the song. It’s very important, as it can make a difference in music quality and overall playing experience.
What Is the Best Way to Tune Drums?
Every musician has their own way of tuning drums. Some opt for tuning by ear (takes a while), others use drum tuning devices. Which might be the best option. Just like guitarists wonder if they can plug a guitar into a power amp, drummers have their own struggles.
So, you may have come across talks about tuning drums with a guitar tuner. That’s not impossible, but you will need a guitar tuner that can register drum frequency.
A bass guitar tuner may register drum pitch easier. But, this can be a possible solution if you already own a guitar tuner, so you can try using it in more ways.
How Often Do Drums Need To Be Tuned?
Pro musicians tend to tune their drums frequently, at least twice per one week. But, you need to have in mind that these people sometimes play for 10 or more hours daily, so they end up tuning drums twice in the same day.
That doesn’t mean you need to do the same. It’s best to hear how your drums sound and decide when it’s the best time for you to tune them.
How to Tune Drums
Before you start with your drum tuning, you’ll need some tuning essentials. A must-have is a tuning key, or the best, multi-key tool.
These are quite inexpensive, so you should have them by your side, as they are necessary for drum tuning. Besides keys, you can opt for a drum tuner device.
Aside from all of these, the only thing that’s left is your much-needed patience and practice. So, take a look at the steps below, and start tuning your drums even today!
Tuning Snare Drum
Snare tuning can be done by tightening the lugs on the drum head. When doing this, try to use a diametric pattern, that way you can avoid uneven tension. Once you start fine-tuning your drum, do it by moving around the drum lug after lug.
- Place the snare on your lap. This way you will eliminate the sound coming from the bottom head, and you will easier hear a clean tone.
- Hit the drum in the center (open). If you want to find a fundamental drum tone, you should do this.
Your toms’ sound may be different depending on their size and material. But, their tuning is quite similar to snare tuning. Tough, there are some differences.
- Tune the bottom head higher than the top. This way you can get a more controlled tone.
- If the top head is tuned to A, the bottom one should be at a D.
Tuning Bass Drum
Tuning your bass drum is very important as it presents the main part of your drum set. You should try to tune it as low as you can. Ideally an octave below the floor tom.
- Place the hand right in the drum head middle. Use the key to loosen up the lungs.
- When the wrinkles show up, tighten the lungs.
Top to Bottom Head Ratios
Resonance and decay can be affected by tuning the top heads to bottom ones. If you opt to tune both heads to the same frequency, your drum will have max resonance.
But, if you tune the bottom head higher than the top one, you will have more control over the sound. So, a lot of drum experts say that the bottom head should be tuned on a 4th above the top.
If you tune the bottom lower than the top head, the sound will have a descending effect.
Drum Tuning Intervals
It’s good to know there are a few options for drum tuning intervals. That way you can set the fundamental drum tone. With practice, you’ll be able to adjust intervals easily for your drums.
So, just do it regularly and remember you can always choose a different tuning for your drums, it’s not permanent.
Fine Tuning Drums
You can use a specific tuning tool, ears, or tone generator for the fine-tuning process. While doing this you should turn the key very lightly, so you can avoid over-tightening.
This may be the case with the floor tom, so you’ll need to do it a bit slower.
Mistakes to Avoid When Tuning Drums
When learned properly, tuning drums is a matter of own preferences. However, there are a few things to avoid when tuning, despite personal wishes.
Tuning Drums Too Quickly
Many drum newbies often try to tune their drums too quickly. As a result, they get lower quality sound. Drum tuning is a skill that takes practice and time, so rushing it won’t do much good.
So, do it slowly, and pay attention to fine-tuning, it may take most of the time to do it right. Always make a pause to listen to tones. That way you’ll know if your drums are tuned correctly.
Too Much Dampening
If you add too much dampening on toms you may end up with some lousy tuning. That’s because dampening can mute the sound of improper tuning.
So, if you want to have the right feel for drum tuning, skip the dampening if you can.
Wrong Snare Tension
Players sometimes forget to keep snares loose. Tension in snares is very important, almost as the tension in the drum head. But, too tight snares are going to be partially muted.
So, you’ll need to take some time and set the proper snare tension. That way the sound of your drums will be better.
It may sound funny, but wearing proper clothes is really important for drum tuning. You need to have a good balance and free movement.
So, any tight clothes or uncomfortable footwear may cause a problem.
Therefore, wear clothes in which you can kneel, squat, and sit on the ground.
Missing Out a Sweet Spot
This is a common newbie problem. Many new drum players can tune for obvious tension, but miss the best tone. That clear tone is also known as a “sweet spot”.
This is the note at which the drum sounds best. So, while tuning, listen carefully.
If you’re new in the drum world, ask your drum teacher to explain to you how to find this tone. That way you’ll be able to do it by yourself easier.
The Bottom Line
Drum tuning is a special process that requires practice and time. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t do it easily at first, as this can be a lifetime of learning. Especially because tuning is also a matter of personal preferences, music genre, and style.
That means, what works for one player, doesn’t necessarily mean it works for the other. So, mastering a specific drum tuning is not easy.
Just make sure to do it regularly, ask for help if you need it, and use some of the handy drum tuning gadgets. That way drum tuning can become your other passion besides playing drums.