how does your drum tuning differ from your top five drummers?

jdc

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a friend and i were discussing this the other day...how we tune our kits and fine tune our sound based or not on our top five drumming heroes.

my top five would be: elvin (low tuning), roy haynes (high tuning), joe chambers (low tuning), paul motian(low/mid) and ben riley (mid/high)

i would have to say that i tune closer to ben's tuning - the mid high - and that is the tuning that most inspires me. how about you guys?
 

Coelacanth

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Actually, I would say my drum tuning is completely independent of any of my drum heroes. I love my drum heroes because of how they play moreso than how their drums sound, but I love my drums because of how they sound, moreso than how I play them. :lol:
 

troymiller

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An interesting thought. I guess I could say that THE only specific sound I'm looking for is in my snare drum. And I'm looking for Bonham. Have I nailed it down?... no. Am I close?... yeah, I think so. (of course, there's just as much in the recording technique as there is in tuning) In any case, yeah... for me, just the snare. Bass drum and toms, I'm really not looking for anyone's sound but my own there. I do tend to tune on the lower side in general - I just sorta like 'em as low as they'll go and still have some tone (versus a dead 'thwap').
 

royal ace

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a friend and i were discussing this the other day...how we tune our kits and fine tune our sound based or not on our top five drumming heroes.

my top five would be: elvin (low tuning), roy haynes (high tuning), joe chambers (low tuning), paul motian(low/mid) and ben riley (mid/high)

i would have to say that i tune closer to ben's tuning - the mid high - and that is the tuning that most inspires me. how about you guys?

Can't fault your top 5, except for Motian,... I heard him live often... whose drum sound never stood out for me.
Otherwise, my listen experience runs counter to yours. It may be the time period, but when I think of Elvin, It's the high tuning of the 60s... recordings with Trane, Wayne, Larry Young and others, along wit the many times I heard him live with Trane.
Ben's tuning in the 90s... i heard him live with Kenny Barron at Bradley's.... surprised me with how low it was.
Joe Chambers' sound is fabulous, but it's his cymbal beat that's really special!

My guys are: Max (50s), Elvin, Billy Higgins, Jack DeJohnette (with Keith) & Philly Joe. Joe Chambers would probably be #6.

Ron
 

rondrums

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Thanks for bringing up Ben Riley. He always got a beautiful sound out of his drums. He's still playing, but he is having pain in his hands, so he has to wear very thin leather gloves when he plays.

As a kid, I was always tuning my drums to sound like Tony, Elvin, Roy, or whoever. I think we all go through that when we're younger.

As to Roy, there was definitely something magical about his snare drum sound on those great 60's records. I could never get it, even though I had the exact same snare drum. The batter head wasn't as tight as a lot of people think. He had some magic formula with the bottom head and the snares. It remains a mystery.

Nowadays, I play jazz, and I like a higher tuning because it stays out of the way of the acoustic bass.

We never stop exploring. This past week, I've been listening to some of the Bobby Watson Horizon records from the early 90's, and Victor Lewis' snare drum is just amazing. I have no idea how he does that.
 

DrumBob

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I have no clue, because I never based my tuning preferences on my heroes. My drums are tuned to get the sounds I want.
 

drumtechdad

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The drums tell me where they want to be tuned. If you don't accomodate their wishes you're apt to be in a certain amount of tuning frustration, partaicularly if the "sounds you want" are not the sounds that make the drums sound their best.
 

royal ace

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Thanks for bringing up Ben Riley. He always got a beautiful sound out of his drums. He's still playing, but he is having pain in his hands, so he has to wear very thin leather gloves when he plays.

As a kid, I was always tuning my drums to sound like Tony, Elvin, Roy, or whoever. I think we all go through that when we're younger.

As to Roy, there was definitely something magical about his snare drum sound on those great 60's records. I could never get it, even though I had the exact same snare drum. The batter head wasn't as tight as a lot of people think. He had some magic formula with the bottom head and the snares. It remains a mystery.

Nowadays, I play jazz, and I like a higher tuning because it stays out of the way of the acoustic bass.

We never stop exploring. This past week, I've been listening to some of the Bobby Watson Horizon records from the early 90's, and Victor Lewis' snare drum is just amazing. I have no idea how he does that.
I remember... I think it was a Down Beat blindfold test... Miles' saying that Roy's snare sound was what a snare drum should sound like!

I saw Ben recently at a Heath Bros. concert at Hecskscher Park in my home town. He was using a cane on account of sciatica, which is more or less severe, depending on...?
Whether loose or high tuning, Ben has the magic touch!

Ron
 

GeneZ

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Interesting to ask that one.

I have a question about the question of this thread.

Have you ever heard any two famous drummers that their drums ever sound the same? Same type of set?

I believe there is something going on that is very special about how we play the drums, not just the tuning. How we approach a set effects the sound just as much as how we tune them. At least, I find that to be true. Some drummer can tune high for your taste when you sit behind his set, but how he plays the heads can sound deeper than you playing the same set.

Just an observation. Anyone else notice the same?
 

DrumBob

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The drums tell me where they want to be tuned. If you don't accomodate their wishes you're apt to be in a certain amount of tuning frustration, partaicularly if the "sounds you want" are not the sounds that make the drums sound their best.

"The sounds I want" are easily obtainable on the drums I own, thank you very much. After 45 years tuning drums, I do have a clue how to do it.
 

avedisschwinn

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Interesting to ask that one.

I have a question about the question of this thread.

Have you ever heard any two famous drummers that their drums ever sound the same? Same type of set?

I believe there is something going on that is very special about how we play the drums, not just the tuning. How we approach a set effects the sound just as much as how we tune them. At least, I find that to be true. Some drummer can tune high for your taste when you sit behind his set, but how he plays the heads can sound deeper than you playing the same set.

Just an observation. Anyone else notice the same?

I definitely can say Blakey sounded like Blakey on Gretsch or Pearl or whatever - the greatest player have their own touch that is unique. Hearing Danny Gatton play bop on a telecaster was like that - sounded like a big fat hollowbody.
 

avedisschwinn

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The drums tell me where they want to be tuned. If you don't accomodate their wishes you're apt to be in a certain amount of tuning frustration, partaicularly if the "sounds you want" are not the sounds that make the drums sound their best.

I agree with this - if I start with tuning to where the drum "wants" to be, it isn't too hard to adjust a bit. If I have too strong a preconceived notion, I can feel like I'm fighting the drum.
I think this is more true when putting on new heads - once thing have settled in it gets easier.
 

royal ace

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The drums tell me where they want to be tuned. If you don't accomodate their wishes you're apt to be in a certain amount of tuning frustration, partaicularly if the "sounds you want" are not the sounds that make the drums sound their best.
I agree with this to a great extent. Max once said that each drum has it's optimal 'tonal center', which is why... for the music I play... my preferences are: 18x14 or 20x14 bd, with 12x8 & 14x14 toms.
I realize I'm following a modern jazz-historical convention... so be it.

Ron
 

pwc1141

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I do something that once learned from an old friend ... that is to try to balance the drums with the cymbals.
I used to have higher pitched cymbals and I would tune the drums lower but now have very dark and low pitched cymbals and tune the drums higher. Not sure if anyone but me hears it, but it does please my own ears.
 

SteveB

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a friend and i were discussing this the other day...how we tune our kits and fine tune our sound based or not on our top five drumming heroes.

my top five would be: elvin (low tuning), roy haynes (high tuning), joe chambers (low tuning), paul motian(low/mid) and ben riley (mid/high)

i would have to say that i tune closer to ben's tuning - the mid high - and that is the tuning that most inspires me. how about you guys?

To my ears all these guys mentioned tension the skins pretty tightly. I'm not sure what your basis for comparison is, especially with a distant mic'ing bunch of recordings. With close mic'ing pitch would be the first thing I would listen for, but that can be tough to nail also (top head tight..bottom loose..that sort of thing).

A lot of big band guys had their two main toms a fifth apart by the time they reached the ears and a lot of bop drummers went for a fourth, but that is VERY general. I personally don't have any special aim and am always changing tensions around to get different effects out of the set. How that comes out the other end can be radically different..under a set of mics in a big room, across a small coffee house acoustically, even upstairs while your buddy plays downstairs. :)
 

TommyWells

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Each of my drumsets are tuned differently and for different purposes. The BIG session kit is tuned very low. The other session drums are a little less so, but they are different sized drums as well. 22, 12, 15, 18--- and ----24, 13, 16, 18. So those kits sound a little different. My set that is 18, 12, 14 that is set up for jazz and swing gigs is tuned much differently. Tighter and with different heads. It is all in the "right tool for the job" category.
 

ruanddu

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Hey Tommy,

Can you elaborate on how you define low tuning? Do you know what note each tom is tuned to or close to? For instance, floor tom tuned to D, etc?

Thanks,
Josh
 

TommyWells

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Josh: I don't tune to specific pitches. Those drums are tuned as low as they will go before flapping... Big FAT toms. They are Gretsch drums and do that very well. Another factor is that they have Attack medium coated heads on top and bottom. Those heads hang in there really well at a low tuning. Hard to explain tuning, verbally. If you heard them, it would be obvious.
 
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leedybdp

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Each of my drum sets has the drums within the set tuned at pleasant sounding (to me) intervals with relatively tight tension on coated batter heads. I have bass drums of 18", 20", and 22". I have floor toms of 14", 15", and 16". I have mounted toms of 10", 11", 12", 13". My drum sets are all either one up/one down or two up/one down.

At least five of my top ten favorite drummers are all Hal Blaine. Hal played drum sets that are nothing like any drum set I have ever owned. But, I copped countless licks from hit records that he played on. I never knew until just a few years ago that the drummers on those hits were Hal, and not the drummers for those groups. The other drummers in my favorite top ten drummers list include Morello, Danelli, Fournier , Manne, Blakey. I don't have enough talent to play most of the tunes I have heard them play. I have copped some licks from each of them.
 

kip

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its been decades plus since i tried to ever make my drums sound like my heroes.
i dont like any drum slack or too low, and i don't like any drum pingy or too taut

I like to hear some meat from the toms.

I tune em so they sound good to me....thats about it.

i'm betting that's how my "heroes" did it as well... i doubt many of them had any scientific approach that involved shell tone matching and tuning in 3rds, 4ths or 5ths.

I like that Max sounded like Max, and Joe sounded like Joe and Gene sounded like Gene

however i do hold Copeland responsible for ruining drums sounds for the 80s and 90s.... everyone decided to tune their snare so tight it sounded like a tin can.... ugh... and then the splash cymbals..... double ugh :)
 


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