Drums can't be tuned -- Buddy Rich

swarfrat

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When I think of Buddy, I think of Frank Zappa. At Zappa's passing, someone said something to the effect of 'Frank's musical genious was sometimes obscured by his childish need to offend those easily offended.' Though not in exactly the same way, Buddy appeared to have a similar need, not to offend people, but to just water them off, and it too sometimes obscured his genius.
 

Monty

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Buddy's statement about the weather and room conditions is very revealing. Even though he now uses mylar heads, his mindset is from a calfskin head perspective.
I could be mistaken but I don't believe he's using any drum heads these days.
 

JDA

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Drums have never been part of the "tuned" instrument family. (it's not Buddy's "opinion" it's accepted musical practice for centuries) Idiophones (and membranophones) or some discussion; tympani are different (maybe because of 1 head enclosed bowl; same with concert toms when they first came out- for concert work; kind of insinuated they were "tunable"; Roto-toms same thing.

But drums traditionally never have been in tuned instrument category.
If into changing tradition going back a thousand years to bach & beethoven forward.. Good luck with that.
Ultimately technically a losing proposition.
Just accept drums aren't a Tuned instrument. Are not in the Tuned instrument family.
(tympani, marimba, vibes etc. glockenspiel are) It's not that difficult to grasp.

You have Hi Med and Low not A# C and E
 
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CSR

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I agree with JDA. Drums are classified as memranophones, though, not ideophones. You can generally tune drums, but especially in the butter bearing edge/calf head era, you won’t get an accurate note. With sharp edges and thin heads you can get closer today.

Even the Drumdisl instructions say, “DrumDial can be used to tension equally both tuned and untuned membranophones. While most drums with heads are classified as instruments of indefinite pitch, DrumDial can aid in maintaining the “relative pitch” you desire once the pressure values are established to your liking. Membranophones of definite pitch such as timpani, tablas and boobams may also be tuned accurately with DrumDial.”

Even timpani are tricky due to overtones. A timpanist should tune a bit flat because what the audience hears is not the note the timpanist hears...they hear his perfect Bb as sharp. Triangles and cymbals are not tuned to notes; the desired instrument has a range of overtones to be pleasing in any key.

In any event, you don’t want to tune drums to an accurate note, even if it was possible. If you tune to specific notes for a song, you’ll be dissonant for the next song in a different key.

A Buddy quote not worth arguing about. It’s an opinion.
 
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CSR

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More information than you ever wanted to know about the physics of drums: http://circularscience.com/about-drums

“When we say we are “tuning” a drum, what does that really mean? With the exception of kettledrums and tympani, drums do not make single identifiable notes when played. Drums actually make several different notes simultaneously.

What we call “tuning” mainly consists of several steps. 1) voicing the batter head tension for the initial lug note sounded when struck. 2) voicing the resonant head for agreeable after-ring decay after the drum strike. 3) clearing the lugs to perfectly agree with each other. This third step is the secret sauce that makes the difference between a drum that measures like it should be in tune, and one that sounds like it is in tune.”

“The tympani and kettledrum are special cases of one headed drums designed for orchestral use that are perceived as making single note pitches when played. Their sealed back air cavity suppresses resonances like the typical lowest fundamental mode (0,1), that would compress the internal captive volume of air. Their sound character is dominated by vibration modes (1,1), (2,1), (3,1), etc. where half the drum head area is moving up while the other half is moving down so don’t increase or decrease the internal air pressure.

The tympani/kettle drum is designed so that these lower resonances fall on a pitch spacing that while not perfect harmonics of each other, this spacing mimics them being upper harmonics above a missing lower phantom fundamental note. Our brain is trained to interpret that specific overtone spacing, based on our experience with naturally occurring musical sounds. Our brain assumes this missing lower note must be present, and hears the complex note as if the missing fundamental was present. This musical psycho-acoustic trickery allows the tympani/kettle drum to appear to make notes at lower note pitch than their physical dimensions can actually support.”

You can tune timpani; you can’t truly tune drums.
 

Ptrick

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It’s all semantics.

Everyone ‘tunes’ or tensions their drums to relative pitch differentials.

If it was just as simple as tensioning without regard for pitch, or ‘tuning’ the lugs to match pitch, our drums would sound like crap.

So everyone is right. Drums can’t be tuned to absolute notes like other instruments. They are tensioned.

But they are tensioned to relative pitches, and tuned to match frequencies at the lugs, and tuned to have musical intervals between them. So they are tuned.
 

supershifter2

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if the heads are calfskin you cant. in the 9th grade all our marching drums had skin heads and they never stayed in tune. plastic heads stay in tune. maybe Buddy was referring to skin heads
 

Drummers & Dragons

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Thank goodness drums don't have to be tuned to a note! Heh.
ever see Buddy Rich on The Muppet Show? That was awesome.
I always just thought of it as, and called it, a tone. Like: "This drum needs a deeper tone".
I suppose someone with perfect pitch might hear a symphony of weird notes every time a tom was struck.
It'd likely drive them mad too.
And even though you might ballpark a series of notes each time, good luck getting it precisely the same when you retentioned, or changed the heads.
Too many factors.
Orchestra is a different animal. It's more like a laboratory. Sterile. Clean. Full of assistants and supervisors and such.
Even so, we have all heard the wrong notes boomed out at the end of some climactic hoopla before.
Drums are still wild. Electronics tame them I guess, but otherwise they have their own way.
 

Houndog

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I willed myself to beat the whole shop arm wrestling , it didn't hurt that I had Popeye forearms from using a pair of tin snips every day ,one in left one in right ,I could go for hours without even using my hands...

I turn the drum key until it says drum to me..

Also , Marco Minneman is better than Buddy..Yes I know Marco would deny it ....
 

cutaway79

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I willed myself to beat the whole shop arm wrestling , it didn't hurt that I had Popeye forearms from using a pair of tin snips every day ,one in left one in right ,I could go for hours without even using my hands...

I turn the drum key until it says drum to me..

Also , Marco Minneman is better than Buddy..Yes I know Marco would deny it ....
Marco is a damn beast!
 

lrod1707

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So he would have loved the Drumdial but would've hated the tunebot?
 

Rick

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I can hear the fundamental pitch of my drums. For example, my 10” tom is an Eb. If I play an Eb on the piano and then strike that tom, I can hear that it’s the same note. But it’s not so clear/pure of a tone that you hear that note when the tom is played in the context of music or even a drum solo. I guess that’s because of the overtones?
 

trappemann

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Buddy was not only the greatest drummer ever to live, he was a person who, as you see throughout his career, stayed true to his craft.

Music was not his HOBBY.

He was most entitled to his point of view.

He could do more with one hand than most can do with 4 limbs.

If he wanted to call his drums, potatoes, who cares. Let him call them potatoes.

When you do as much for the advancement of the craft as he did...
 

sksmith-1

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Drums have never been part of the "tuned" instrument family. (it's not Buddy's "opinion" it's accepted musical practice for centuries) Idiophones (and membranophones) or some discussion; tympani are different (maybe because of 1 head enclosed bowl; same with concert toms when they first came out- for concert work; kind of insinuated they were "tunable"; Roto-toms same thing.

But drums traditionally never have been in tuned instrument category.
If into changing tradition going back a thousand years to bach & beethoven forward.. Good luck with that.
Ultimately technically a losing proposition.
Just accept drums aren't a Tuned instrument. Are not in the Tuned instrument family.
(tympani, marimba, vibes etc. glockenspiel are) It's not that difficult to grasp.

You have Hi Med and Low not A# C and E
And there's the technical answer to my response!
Steve
 

Markkuliini

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When I think of Buddy, I think of Frank Zappa. At Zappa's passing, someone said something to the effect of 'Frank's musical genious was sometimes obscured by his childish need to offend those easily offended.' Though not in exactly the same way, Buddy appeared to have a similar need, not to offend people, but to just water them off, and it too sometimes obscured his genius.
Exactly my thoughts too .
 


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