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Drummer question

How do you tune your drums?

For example: I tune my bass drum (kick) to an E, my snare to an A, high tom to a D, low tom to an E, floor tom to an A. Anybody else do this? or do you just tune them until you like to way it sounds? I'm Just curious how others do things.
I like to have my drums in tune with the bass is why I tune mine this way. I like the way the deep sounds thump against each other.

Looking forward to some of the answers.

Peace, Tony


  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,346
    The kick I tune to a subsonic rumblethump with a pop in the high mids. Snare is tight with loose strands, Rings when you play at the rim, and a low thump to go with the crack, but no particular "note".

    Smallest tom tuned like a timbale, then a C, an A, an E, and either a low A or a G.

    Lots of songs have lots of C's or G's in them, and of course Rock songs often ride on an A or E. The C and G tend to go together.

    I do like to just tune until I get the best sound, but often I play with a 3-piece band, and riding a tom on an E or A can help to allow the guitarist to lay off the chords while he solos.
  • @highmtn Another question, When you record/mic your drums, do you ever have to re-tune them to get rid of unwanted rattles or hums due to the frequency of the drum hit itself?
    I ask because I was in a studio once, and the guy wanted me to re-do my whole tuning because of a hum we later discovered was from a floor tom, and we ended up just putting a piece of tape on it.

  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,346
    Yes, that happens in the studio all the time. I've been in studios where the house drums are taped and blanketed like crazy, just because they want to get rid of all unwanted buzzes. And then the kick pedal and hihat will squeak.
  • CalwynCalwyn 2.0 ENROLLED Posts: 4
    Personally, I prefer to tune my drums so they sound nice in themselves rather than tuning to specific notes. It always seems to me that IF you've tuned your kit to a specific note, then it's possible for it to be out of key... especially on drums with a long sustain like the bigger toms.

  • I used to tune my drums the same way Calwyn. I then read somewhere about tuning them to specific notes, and some of the Drummers that also do this.

    I play mostly classic rock, and the majority of songs are in the key of E, and A.

    I noticed the difference right away. The way the sound of the drums were thumping with the bass was incredibly cleaner, and tighter.

    Yes you do have to keep checking the tuning, but it's like that with my other instruments too so it's not much of a bother.

    Peace, Tony
  • singbetter67singbetter67 2.0 PRO Posts: 28
    Every time you stretch a membrane over a hollow cylinder, there's a range of frequencies which 'speak' with the right balance of attack and tone and the least amount of harmonic 'clutter' or distortion, often referred to as overtones. The trick is to choose instruments that reflect that balance while producing the tactile response and volume you feel is best representative of 'your' sound and style. A 14" tom can be cranked up to produce the same pitch as a 10" tom, but there is tonal nuance, harmonics and all the aforementioned attributes that also influence the resulting sound. Simon Phillips' toms sound glorious. He prefers high tension and bigger shells. I believe he uses thicker, 2 ply heads to deal with overtones without deadening the drum with gobs of snot rags and duct tape.

    To me, tuning drums isnt like tuning a stringed instrument because there are no hard and fast conventions like concert pitch to contend with. In my opinion, tuning to a definite pitch isnt worth the energy because it would create absolute chaos with any song that is not harmonically cohesive. If the bassist is peddling in A and your kick is tuned to a defined pitch of B flat or C, chances are it's gonna create some sort of psycho-acoustic cacophony. What if the piece modulates? Do you need a second kick tuned to resonate sympathetically with that section of the tune?

    Admittedly, I have never bothered to go all-in on the defined pitch thing so my perspective is anecdotal. Not criticizing anyone else; there's room for everyone to find and express their own signature sound, I just think it is a rabbit hole that isnt worth falling down because it's not as interesting to me as how people interpret a piece of music from a rhythmic standpoint.

    In summary, disregard all the above, and tune however you like, as long as you put as much energy into what youre playing. : )
  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,346
    Orchestral percussionists have to tune to the key of the song, and tune to upcoming key changes, as well.

    We're talking tympani, here. But I often use toms in the same context. Lots of Rock songs are in A or E and you can really get some awesome sound when the toms are droning along in E and then change to A with the guitars. That said, it's not for everybody.

    Atonal drums are tuned, too. Just to more random thumps and booms.

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