Tuning by ear vs drum dial rant...

aratts

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The ability to hear/reproduce pitch or a particular note is like the ability to sing well, a God given or not given, talent. For those of us without it, it is not laziness that makes use crutches like the Drum dial. I used to spent what seemed like days trying to get even tone by ear around the head, usually giving up in frustration. (It also kept me from playing timpani in orchestra/concert band— I could not find the pitch to save my life.)

My process is—
1. Hand tension the lugs until fingertight
2. Push down on the center of the head and tension away wrinkles (trick learned from Bob Gatzen video)
3. Use drumdial to make sure there is even tension around the drum to start.
4. Use iDrumTunePro app to get desired tension, top and bottom, by Resonant tuning technique. (Buddy Rich said “you don’t tune a drum, you tension it”) I usually opt for perfect 4th.
5. Check the perfect 4th relationship by ear, using “here comes the bride”— I can do relative pitch just fine.

being able to get my drums sounding decent relatively quickly makes playing that more fun. So take it easy on us knuckledraggers
 

rculberson

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It’s a tool, nothing more or less. Some people find this tool useful, others don’t. My personal experience with it is extensive although I don’t use one anymore, mainly due to laziness and/or increased confidence tuning by ear (which the DD helped with). During the 20+ years I used one, I can guarantee I was as serious about my instrument as anyone.
 

lrod1707

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Drum Dial isn't perfect and only works on perfect bearing edges. Now the Tunebot is a different story! Now the part of being lazy because you use one I don't agree with. Some of these devices (like the Tunebot) are more accurate than any ears (yes that little computer can hear what you cant) and if anything are more time consuming so it's not laziness at all. It's the search for a perfect tune! Some seek it with ears and others with devices. Nothing wrong with technology for those who want to embrace it and also nothing wrong with those who won't. It's a personal choice that shouldn't create arguments!

Didn't we talk about this last week? And the week before.. and before....etc..., LOL!!
 

DanRH

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Drum Dial is a good starting point for me and then I tweak it by ear.
Yup...I’ve been playing over 50 years and have been using as long as it’s been out. I consider it a tool in the shed. A pretty useful one I might add IMHO.
 
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hsosdrum

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Install a set of calfskin drumheads and live with them for a year — you'll learn all you ever need to know about drum tuning.

Then you can then sell your tuning device to some newbie.
 

dboomer

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Is everyone familiar with the term “Luddite”?
 

lrod1707

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Install a set of calfskin drumheads and live with them for a year — you'll learn all you ever need to know about drum tuning.

Then you can then sell your tuning device to some newbie.
Many of us here aren't newbie's and choose to use a device and also choose to not use calfskin!
Because we embrace something new doesn't make us lose abilities that we already have from day's past. I can tune using any method but having a tool doesn't make me less knowledgeable about tuning.
Calfskin vs. mylar means that I will learn everything about tuning? Ah, No! A Tunebot will still beat your ears every time. Guaranteed! (Again I say it, that little computer can hear precise minor differences that we can't)
Also their is a reason why Calfskin is the minority in drum heads sold.
I'll take an electric screwdriver vs. a manual screwdriver any day. It's more efficient and can prevent injury!
I use the internet for research instead of going to the library!
I'd much rather use a cellphone instead of smoke signals to communicate with others!
Walking to work will take me all day guaranteeing that I will be late (and sweaty). I'd rather go by car!
The list goes on...
The point is that technology and tools help (and sometimes are better) whether we want to admit it or not!
These arguments trying to discredit these devices because someone feels that "The old way is better and it's the right way" is ridiculous!
That thinking is precisely what's stopped humans from evolving at certain points throughout our history.
Fortunately the minds that create don't think this way because we'd still be in the stone age!
 

hsosdrum

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I see that my somewhat tongue-in-cheek post seems to have brushed a nerve.

I only meant to suggest that grappling with calfskin (and grapple you will if you install them, believe you me) will teach you about drum tuning in a "hands-on" way that forces you to rely solely on your ears much more frequently than you will with mylar heads*. In the process you'll learn about your instrument more intimately than if you primarily rely on reading a dial. Of course, you don't need calfskin heads to learn this, you just need to rely on your ear when you tune. But calfskin heads force you to tune much more often than mylar heads — you tune a couple of times a day as opposed to a couple of times a month (or less) — so you learn more quickly.

*Full disclosure: I had a calfskin-headed bedroom drumset when I was a teenager. It never left my bedroom. There is NO WAY I would ever use calfskin heads on a gigging drumset, especially now that we have mylar heads with calfskin-like sound. I may be a luddite, but I'm not a masochist. (If I were a masochist I'd use calfskin heads and vintage hardware. ;) )
 

lrod1707

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I see that my somewhat tongue-in-cheek post seems to have brushed a nerve.

I only meant to suggest that grappling with calfskin (and grapple you will if you install them, believe you me) will teach you about drum tuning in a "hands-on" way that forces you to rely solely on your ears much more frequently than you will with mylar heads*. In the process you'll learn about your instrument more intimately than if you primarily rely on reading a dial. Of course, you don't need calfskin heads to learn this, you just need to rely on your ear when you tune. But calfskin heads force you to tune much more often than mylar heads — you tune a couple of times a day as opposed to a couple of times a month (or less) — so you learn more quickly.

*Full disclosure: I had a calfskin-headed bedroom drumset when I was a teenager. It never left my bedroom. There is NO WAY I would ever use calfskin heads on a gigging drumset, especially now that we have mylar heads with calfskin-like sound. I may be a luddite, but I'm not a masochist. (If I were a masochist I'd use calfskin heads and vintage hardware. ;) )
No nerves brushed. I've got more stuff in the real world to worry about that brushes my nerves, LOL! Your post was ultra direct and made it sound as if you were the "I'll never try that" or the "We'll never see anyone on the moon" type. But I got it now! Sorry for the way my response came across! It's all good :)
LRod
 

Fat Drummer

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why does it matter how you get there, as long as you get there, right?
I'm like ellaguru, I dont care how you get there, just get there! Dials, Bots, Ears, Hands, Keys... it's all just tools designed to get you to where you want to go, a great sounding drum that is just right for the need at hand.

But I did laugh at mcirish post when his friend "still says the drum is not tuned because his drum dial says so"! I think his friend has failed to understand the concept of tuning drums all together. Tools are just tools to achieve the end goal but he is obviously "blinded by science"!
 

Drm1979

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I've never used one. I have always tuned by ear. I dont tune my drums to any specific notes. I just make sure the high tom is higher than the low tom and that the bass drum is lower than my lowest tom. Then I crank the you-know-what out of my snare. I do make sure to put the heads in tune with themselves as I do this. And I usually go for them being about a half step to a full step apart. No complaints so far.
 

1990rookout

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Am I being too harsh by saying that the Drum Dial is fairly worthless to anyone who is serious about knowing his/her instrument?

Well, that might a bit harsh. . .

Use what works for you. When I have time, prepping for a gig, I'll use the iDrumTune app to "clear the heads" pitch wise for the toms, and tune to get to a minor third between the reso and the batter. Do I need the app to do that? Not really, but it's a system I've fallen into. Sounds like your buddy fell into a different system. If it works for him, that's fine.
 

drumtimejohn

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I’ve gained enough feel in running that I can consistently keep within 5 seconds of a desired pace. I know this because my GPS tells me.
 

TPC

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The point is that technology and tools help (and sometimes are better) whether we want to admit it or not!
Yes, sometimes.

Sometimes a step forward is not a step in the right direction, though. As one (of many) examples I could cite, my wife has a new Honda CRV. The back hatch has to be opened by touching the open button, then waiting for the hatch to open by itself. I could've opened it, got my stuff, closed it, and been half way back to the house by now! Who thought of this inane idea?! My point is not that ALL attempts at progress are worthless, only that some ARE.

Drum tuning devices? Meh - use 'em if you like 'em.

Ii just happen to like to tune by ear and FEEL. Often times the best sounding and feeling tension has different pitches and different tensions at each lug. Getting the tension or pitch even all around is almost never what I like best, so these devices are less than worthless for me.
 

swarfrat

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The other day I was minding my own business when these two guys jumped out and stuck a gun in my face, took money out of my wallet, and left me with this stupid drum dial. What do I do with it?
 

Houndog

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The other day I was minding my own business when these two guys jumped out and stuck a gun in my face, took money out of my wallet, and left me with this stupid drum dial. What do I do with it?
Go post on a drum forum about it ...
Don’t bother doing a search to see if it’s been discussed before .
Plenty of folks will still gladly help you
beat that dead horse.
 

bigbonzo

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rant start...
I had a drummer friend over. We were checking out the differences between tuning by ear and by drum dial. I was the "tune it by ear" guy and he was the "tune it to equal tension" guy. I have to say, I am not a drum dial fan. Maybe it can help those that just don't want to be bothered with learning how to actually tune a drum, or are tone deaf and cannot hear pitches. (which I equate to laziness) In our tests, I could tune any given drum to a specific pitch (using a specific interval between the top and bottom heads) in a matter of a few minutes. With the drum dial, it was an impossibly long time of going around in circles only to find you need to go another round and drop the tuning on the lugs to start again. Why is the drum dial so popular with some people? I honestly don't mean to be offensive. My friend is a good drummer but his tuning practices drive me crazy. Tuning by ear, with a piano or other tone source, seems completely logical and fast to me. The drum dial is slow. Also, I don't believe the readings even matter on a drum dial. My friend swears that if every lug has the exact same tension, the head will be perfectly in tune. I say that isn't always the case. What about drum heads that are not 100% perfect? What if the drum shell itself is not 100% perfectly round or a bearing edge isn't perfect. Those differences are going to show themselves with different tensions at each lug. Case in point: I tuned a 13" rack tom for a perfect 4th between the top and bottom heads to give me an open tuning of an A. It was dead on by my ear (which is pretty close to perfect pitch). Then he checks with the drum dial and says I'm off on a number of lugs. I double check them by pitch and say they are perfect. I hit the drum and get a prefect tone. He still says the drum is not tuned because his drum dial says so. I tell him "honestly, I don't care what that tension dial says. I know when it is in tune".

I tried to get him to buy a TuneBot instead but there is something about musical notes that freak him out.

So in conclusion... I'm not a fan of the drum dial and anyone wanting to really understand the instrument they are playing should take the time and learn pitches. We are talking about music here, not some laboratory experiment.

rant over...

Am I being too harsh by saying that the Drum Dial is fairly worthless to anyone who is serious about knowing his/her instrument?
You can rant all you want. I take offense in equating being tone deaf to laziness. I am one of the unfortunate that is tone deaf. So, yes, I use a drum dial to tune my drums.

To give a quick story on my tone deafness: I started out as a music major at OSU. I worked on hearing pitches for a few years, even hiring a teacher. By the second quarter of my second year of college my tone deafness had become quite apparent, and I dropped out of music school.

So DO NOT equate being tone deaf to laziness.
 
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