The average drummer knows that the drum is the life of the music. But that cannot be if the drums sound terrible. This points us to the reality of the fact that knowing how to tune a drum set is a skill every drummer should possess. When I first got into drumming, I asked myself “how do I tune my drums?”. That wasn’t all. I specifically wanted to learn how to tune my drums like a pro.
Failing to tune your drums properly will result in your drums producing a poor sound. The fact is, the most expensive and best drum will sound awful if it is not tuned up the right way. But the good news of it all is that you do not have to be the best drummer to know how to tune your drums. This is because it’s not a hard skill to pick up. During your practise hours, you can take time to learn how to correctly tune your drums.
Another good thing is that there is no universal way your drums should sound. It’s all very personal. Your drums is tuned right only when it sounds right to you. Professionalism is not required when tuning the drums so, as long as you know the steps to take, the outcome will be good.
I’ll be giving you a step by step guide on how I tune my drums like a pro to sound just perfect.
How I Tune My Drums Like A Pro-Step By Step Guide
There are a few tools I have handy when I tune my drums and they are all required. Apart from your drum itself, you’d need a drum key and a drum head. But the most important thing you’d need is patience. This is because tuning a drum kit is not really a straight shot. You’ll have to play around and experiment until you find the perfect sound that works for you.
Another thing worth pointing out is that a good drum head will go a long way to giving your drums the best sound. So on your next visit to the music store, try not to be cheap. Invest in a good drum head because it will be well worth it. Remember, a good drum with a bad head is worse than a bad drum with a good head.
It should also be worthy of mention that there is no universally accepted method to tune a drum, and likewise, there is no universally acceptable perfect pitch you must hit to be deemed to have tuned your drum perfectly. Every drummer has their own sound and what is okay for one may not be good for another. What is important is that one finds a balance between the tones of the different parts of the drum.
Now, let’s get into the gist proper.
Part One – How To Change A Drum Head
Of course, you’ll need a drum key if you want to tune your drum or change your drum head. Drum keys are one of the most common drum parts you can find, and can literally get them for as low as two dollars. If it is possible, use two drum keys at the tension rods opposite each other on the drum head. You’ll achieve a more even tension and tune faster( diagonally apart from each other).
- Loosen the tension rods
Using your drum key, you should start by giving the tension rod half a turn i.e 180° and then proceed to the tension rod opposite it and repeat the same action until you can loosen all the rods by hand. Avoid loosening each tension rod fully or loosening each tension rod and proceeding to the next one after it. Use a diagonal pattern when loosening a drum head or tuning it. This should prevent the rim from bending easily.
You can now remove the tension rods, rim and of course the drum head. Once this is done, you should wipe the inside of your drum and its edges with a dry clean piece of cloth. This gives it a shiny look. Also, check if your drum lugs are tight by tapping the inside of the drum as a loose drum lug can create a buzz-like sound to the ears.
Replace your drum head
You can replace your old drum head with the new one. Carefully place the new drum head in the drum and put the rim and tension rods back onto their place. Using your hands first ( no drum keys yet ), tighten all the tension rods evenly until they are finger tight before using your drum key to tighten it properly. Also, make sure to lubricate your tension rods and drum lugs frequently and regularly to avoid rust. You can use oil, petroleum jelly or paraffin wax.
Part Two – Tuning Your Snare
Tighten the tension rods
This is the first step in tuning a drum. You have to take note though, as doing it the wrong way can produce the opposite effect. Tension rods should be tightened diagonally. Begin by giving the tension rod facing you directly half a turn( the same way you did when loosening it). Move onto the next one directly opposite the one you started with.
Repeat the same action until you have successfully tightened all the tension rods to produce the desired sound(tone). If you have to adjust the tone any further or loosen it, follow the same pattern by starting with half turns of the tension rod facing you directly and proceeding to the one opposite it.
Tighten and relax at your pace. Most drummers prefer to hit the side of the drum to listen for overtone and try to match the pitch when tuning the drum head. If you find it difficult to tune the drum on your own, you can listen to a recording to aid you in deciding the tone you want.
It is important that the pressure applied on one tension rod is equal and same for the others. To do this, tap the drum head at the point of each tension rod, at least an inch away from the tension rod. Gradually tune each to make sure that you achieve the same tone round the drum. You can adjust to your desired tone by tightening and loosening.
Repeat the same action you used for the top drum head for the bottom. Depending on your preference, both top and bottom drum heads can have the same pitch or vary a little. To ensure that both drum heads have the same pitch, you should try to mute the top head while tuning the bottom by placing the top head face down on a seat while checking the bottom head.
Finally, it is important that you also tune your toms and kick drum following the same process. I start with the smallest toms, finding a pitch that is close to the one I want before proceeding to the other toms maintaining the top drum head pitch. Every drummer may have a preferred pitch or tone, so keep at it until you find yours, then try to make it even for all the drum heads.