Tuning by ear vs drum dial rant...

EyeByTwoMuchGeer

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I like the Tune Bot etc...but typically just tune by ear. I think Dials and Bots can help you zero in on new tunings pretty quickly and sort of takes a lot of the trial and error out of the equation. They're also useful in the studio for keeping track of certain settings based upon a drum/head/mic/room position combo. At the end of the day, its just a tool to assist your ears.

I have mostly vintage drums at this point, and the Dials are almost useless on those because of the nature of vintage drums - the edges are huge, or uneven. The rims are not round, or the heads don't always fit right, etc. You really need a good sharp edge to take full advantage of the Drum Dials. And when you have those ultra modern sharp edges, you can get all sorts of funky overtones that need precision tuning or tons of muffling to sort out. It sort of becomes a catch 22 - you can need better tuning to get the most out of better/sharper edges. The rewards can be greater, but the barrier to get there can be higher versus an old beat up Ludwig.
 

ARGuy

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These threads pop up regularly and there are a lot of the same misconceptions and assumptions made, and your rant is no different.
Assumption #1 - You are either totally for or totally against the Drum Dial - you can't be both!
As you can see, there are plenty of drummers here that own one that also tune by ear. I am one of them.
Assumption #2 - Drummers that use a Drum Dial are lazy and don't want to develop their ear and skill in tuning.
Not everyone is born with the same ability to hear pitch. I've talked to college vocal teachers that have had students that they had to spend the first semester, sometimes more, being trained to match pitches. Even then, it's something that still does not come naturally.
Assumption #3 - You will always be in a perfect, quiet environment when you need to tune your drums.
Do you really expect everyone else in your band to stop playing, and everyone in the bar or hall where you're gigging to stop what they're doing so you can tune your drums?
Assumption #4 - Those that use the Drum Dial believe it was dropped down to Earth from Heaven.
It's really no different from the clip on electronic tuners that everyone except keyboard players uses. I've never heard any of them (that I take seriously as a musician) say "Now that I have a tuner I don't have to listen anymore!" For me the Drum Dial is a handy tool that can be helpful on occasion. Because . . .
Assumption #5 - Your ear never gets tired and all drum heads are perfectly made.
I've had it happen a few times where I've changed heads on a whole kit and towards the end there will be one drum that I can't get in tune. I can either leave it for the next day when my ear is fresh, or I can bring out my Drum Dial and maybe find out where the problem is. There have been enough times that it has helped that I keep it around.

Finally, what it comes down to for me is this:
If a device like the Drum Dial helps someone enjoy their drums more, why do you get so bent out of shape about it?
 

mfk252

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As I'm writing this I see ARGuy posted one of the biggest conveniences of a Drum Dial - you can check head tension in a noisy space. This has been very helpful during longer recording sessions, where parts are being rehearsed or rewritten in the same room (and disturbing other musicians could throw a wrench in the session). I find it helpful when you need to change snare tension (especially if you are dropping lugs to dramatically change pitch/dampening) and quickly get back to the prior tuning (think overdubs or punch-ins).

Like any tool, it's only as good as its user. I do prefer to tune by ear (in a quiet room).
 

mcirish

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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.
My apologies. I really didn't mean to stir up any animosity or make anyone feel bad about their ability to hear pitches, but I think I did, so I apologize. My real point was that the Drum Dial does not always give a perfectly tuned drum, no matter what the dial says the tensions are. It can be a good starting point but I did not find it as accurate as tuning by ear. I should have worded my rant differently.
 

drumtimejohn

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I don’t consider the Dial as a tuning device but rather a tensioning tool. After a head is seated, I use to create consistent tension on each lug. That equal tension helps my vintage 1.6mm hoops stay in round and lay flat. Drums seem to stay in tune longer as a result and future adjustments are made easier. For me the Dial lacks the sensitivity for fine tuning. But once the foundation is set using my ear or even a digital frequency tool is a breeze.
 

CherryClassic

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Number 1: Please, don’t call me lazy. I’ve tried to tune my drums by ear; when tapping to match lugs, when they get close, the second lug may sound higher than the first but when I tap in reverse order the other lug sounds higher. When I was 6 years old, taking steel guitar lessons I couldn’t tune it, each week at a lesson, time after time my teacher would have to tune it for me. He did try to teach me tuning I just could not hear it. Although when listening I can tell when something is wrong, but I don’t know how to fix it.

Number 2: I used the Tama Watch (dial) for some years but never was completely satisfied with the results. However, it was much better than tuning by ear. It does help to even the tension around the head. So, I am a believer that even tension helps to improve a musical like tone.

Number 3: Not too long after the Tune Bot hit the market, I couldn’t wait to buy one. WoW! What a difference, all my drums started sounding like musical instruments. I can even tune my 12x13 rack tom which never sounded good before and stayed in a closet for many years. It was replaced with a 10x12 tom.

I don’t really care what note I’m playing, my Tune Bot tells me what it is, but all I care about is my drums sound great and each tom sounds good in relationship with each other. Also, I’m not 100% sure that our drumheads are all perfectly manufactured to even consistency because every once in a while, we will get a dud and it want last as long as they should and/or hard to tune.

So, I wonder if the Tune Bot system of tuning by hertz really the best way is to tune other than tuning by ear as some of you can do? Think about what’s really happening. We are stretching the heads that may not be 100% consistent in 5, 6, 8 or 10 different ways depending on the drum to get an even tension for tone quality but is it even? I haven’t spent the time to compare the drum dial after tuning with the Tune Bot. I have read that others will use the dial to speed up the time it takes then finish tune by ear to get a nicer tone.

Tuning in a quiet room: That’s not always easy to do. I can tune at home then haul to a venue and still have to re tune. At times, the Drum Dial is good for tuning in loud environments, you can also use the Filter feature on the Tune Bot to help in that environment. But quite is better. I am retired so I do have extra time on my hand at times. Not always possible but I try to arrive at least an hour or even two hours prior to the arrival of the other band members. #1, it gives me time to pick my area and #2, I have time to tune the drums.



Have a good day,

sherm
 
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Old Dog

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Simply put, there is obviously more than one way to tune your drums. If people want to tune to a particular note, that's beyond me. I just don't see how you can hear it in a mix within a band. Are ALL songs in the same key? I never thought of someone that was tone deaf. That would certainly make a difference for someone to use a tool in order to tune up their drums. I can't tell you what a C sounds like, nor a B flat or whatever. But I have found a method that works well for me. A tuning key in each hand, and I try to feel that similar tension the best I can. I struggled for sure when I was younger. Or, maybe I didn't care as much.
 

NewBeat

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For even tension, I press my thumb on the head about an inch in from the lug. I can quickly tell if the head is too slack or too tight compared to the other lugs. The individual tensions may be off by a few tenths of a Newton-meter, but it's close enough for drumming. :)
 

cashmanbashman

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The only time I get it out is when I’m so frustrated with snare buzz I assume that some part is worn or bent etc. A short while after that I’m usually still frustrated with snare buzz and the dial didn’t help. It’s one of my favorite dances.
 


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