Advice on Drum Tuning

owr

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Happy to see this as a recent thread. I've been a mediocre tuner for awhile now, and dedicated a good deal of my drum time during these last few months to trying to get better. Essentially every night I have time to go into my little drum room to play (every other night more or less) I de-tune at least one drum and put the time in getting it tuned back up. My goal is to develop my ears, which is going slow... In a frustrated moment last week I ordered a tune bot pro, I've used in exactly one time on a floor tom so far, but already learned more about tuning in that session than in the last 2 months. I think Ptrick nailed it above - I see these devices as tools to help me learn what to listen for, and have some quantitative information around what sounds good to me so that I can apply it elsewhere, not to replace my ears.

One tip I can share that I learned in my first session, maybe others are having similar frustration. When I first started using the tunebot the other night I was getting the same reading at every lug. This was on a tom I tuned by ear in a previous session, so at first I was like "great, I'm already an expert!". What I realized is that as I was moving around tapping each lug, even though I couldn't hear the head vibrating anymore from a previous hit, it must have still been producing a tone. I think the tune bot probably grabs onto a freq really quick in its analysis and tends to hold onto it. Once I started dampening the head with my hand in-between each hit, then I stated to get different results at each lug. I had tried putting a finger continuously on the middle of the head, or a moon gel as Ive seen in videos, but was still tap-tapping fairly continuously around the drum.

Anyone else have any good tune-bot tips to share? thanks
 

jb111

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First, be sure to figure out the tone/feel you're going for based on the musical context. Sounds like you have an idea what you want.

Get the heads finger tight (until you physically can't turn them with your fingers anymore).

Start with the bottom head and do a 1/4 or 1/2 turn to start. Tap around each lug and use your ear to get as even a tone as possible. (Note: As you do this, some of the finger tight lugs will loosen. Get them back to finger tight before tensioning them)

Keep tensioning up at equal turns and re-check for even tones. When you get a tone you like, turn it over and do the top head.

Whether you go for the top head tighter or looser than the resonant head is a personal choice. BUT, volume and projection can be an issue here. And what you hear from your throne is different than what the audience hears. For my two toms (8x12, 14x4) I tune the top head a bit tighter than the resonant head.

For the snare, I typically crank the bottom head, but not so much that it's choking the drum and creating a resistant feel. Tune up the top head to where you like it (feel and tone). Don't forget how important your snare wires are. Tension them to your taste.

For kick drum, I play it wide open, no muffling inside (sometimes an external muffler on the reso, sometimes a small towel lodged between the pedal and batter head). For a while I tried going with the batter head tighter than the reso. For low volumes and not burying the beater, this can be fine. Ultimately I went slightly looser on the kick drum batter than the reso. This would switch if I was going to tune the BD up higher and play in a jazz context.

Whatever you decide, make sure any differences in tension between the top and bottom heads create a pleasing interval between the two. I have never once tuned to specific notes. Nor have I used any tuning mechanisms, so I can't say anything about those. And I've never tuned both heads to the same tension.

This may be more info than you want, but I remember my earlier playing days and tuning was a question for quite a while. Trust your gut. Trust your ear. If we slow down and just take the time, we know more than we think we do when it comes to what sounds good (maybe musical tastes, excluded).

Hope this helps in some way.
 
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Seb77

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Essentially every night I have time to go into my little drum room to play (every other night more or less) I de-tune at least one drum and put the time in getting it tuned back up. My goal is to develop my ears, which is going slow...

Anyone else have any good tune-bot tips to share? thanks
Sounds like a great plan, really practising tuning and using the device to help you learn to recognize pitch differences by ear.
One tip for tuning in general (maybe not bass drums) is get an even pitch all around at a the lowest tension possible, then just tighten the head evenly and it should remain "true". Just a bit tighter than finger tight there is no way the lug points could sound the same even if they are at different tension (which can happen with higher tension).
If there are pitch differences to correct, tightening is preferable. If you need to loosen, press on the head afterwards.

Why not with bass drums? To my ear, with loose large heads the pitches are too low to recognize, for the ear, but proabably for the tunebeot, too. I go for a mechanical truing here:
1) fingertighten all around, head/hoop should seat evenly
2) tension each t-rod one full turn (or more), roughly the ame, doesn't really matter
3) loosen one t-rod until fingertight, then re-tension it 1/2 turn
4) do this with every t-rod, just going around the drum (use a star pattern if you like)
5) you might have to do this two rounds or so until there is no difference before and after this step. You feel it, see it (tuning key in the same position before and after) and hear it, same pitch before and after. The result is a very even "half turn" tension all around, and with a round drum, even bearing edge, good head etc, the pitches should also be even.
 

rculberson

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Used a DD for at least 15 years and it performed exactly as described. Also, as has been mentioned before, it gave me confidence to explore and experiment with different tensions and still be able to turn back to baseline easily. Now, I’m too lazy to bother with it and just start turning tension rods till the drum sounds good to me.
 


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