Whether you are a professional drummer or a mere novice, there are plenty of things to worry about, including how to get the best metronome for drummers and how to tune your drums correctly. We are not going to lie to you, getting the latter right requires patience and experience. But if you love spending time making music, you want to get the best out of your instrument and you can only achieve this if your drums are properly tuned. Read on and learn the basic steps of tuning your drums.
Why is it important to tune my drums and how should I prepare for this?
Tuning your drums is important, just like tuning any other musical instrument because this is how you can achieve the best sound your drum set is able to provide you. An out of tune performance can negatively impact the overall sound of your band, or your solo act.
Whether you play in a band or you are a solo performer, the ability to tune your drums correctly can be a strong point that would bring you trust and appreciation.
Before we start talking about the consecutive steps you should take in order to tune your drums, let us highlight one essential aspect: mastering this skill is not something that will happen in a day or two. It takes a lot of practice to get it right, which means time and effort.
Even professional drummers often face difficulties in tuning their instruments. However, nothing is impossible if you set your mind to it and you have the necessary time to do this process repeatedly.
If you are wondering what items are necessary in order to perform this process, the answer is a drum, of course, a drum key, and drumheads.
Other general aspects you should pay attention to if you decide to earn a living by playing the drums or you are simply very confident about pursuing this passion are the following:
Investing in quality drumheads: these items play an essential role in how your instruments sound and how well you are able to play. Moreover, unlike the drum set itself, the drumheads will not cost an arm and a leg. The price difference is really worth it as the results you get with good drum heads will definitely make a difference.
Furthermore, according to most musicians and manufacturers, the drumheads are actually the essential key that dictates the quality of your sound. This being said, you can have expensive drums, but compromise your performance due to poor quality drumheads and the other way around.
If possible, try to get a more experienced drummer to show you the basics of drum tuning and then watch you in action as you try to follow their guidelines.
If teamwork is not feasible and you are about to embark on a solitary mission, don’t panic, we are here to guide you step by step and help you tune your drums. Keep your eyes on the steps we provide below and even feel free to write them down before applying them if this helps you.
How do I tune my drums?
Before you start the whole process, you should clean your drum head with a clean cloth. Carefully wipe the dust or any dirt sports and make sure you clean the drum rim as well. This is important because any dirt or even wood chips that might remain on the skin can end up affecting the quality of your sound or, even worse, ruin your drum shell.
Moreover, it is also unpleasant and uncomfortable to see a dirty drum head while you’re playing. Bottom line is that you should start everything with a nice clean surface and then proceed by installing the new drum heads.
Your new drum heads should be chosen based on the type of drums you want to tune. There are several types of drum heads that can help you get a different type of sound. The most common head types are the following:
– 1-ply: they are designed for the resonant and batter heads
– 2-ply: they are typically used solely as batter heads
– coated heads: they are covered with a subtle layer of plastic which helps manage the overtone and provides a warm sound
– snare side: they are designed for snare drums and they should be used for the instrument’s bottom
– clear heads: they are not coated and they can boost overtones
In order to place your new drum heads, you first have to remove the old ones and also the metal hoop and the tension rods. Now it’s also a good time for a drums inspection. After you remove the heads, look inside and touch the instrument to see if there are any dents, as these may also impact your sound’s quality.
After you check the drums, install the new heads, and a good choice is to start with the bottom or resonant ones. After you put the new heads on the shell, put back the metal hoop and then reattach the tension rods, and make sure they are well-aligned with the shell lugs. Avoid over-tightening the rods.
Also, at this stage, many musicians choose to stretch the head by pressing the skin’s central part. This will prevent the skin from easily going out of tune in the future. Once the drum head is stretched, you can check again all the lugs and make sure they are tight before you proceed to the actual stage of drum tuning.
In order to tune your drums, you will need a drum key. If you are a handyman and you love DIY projects, you might find this process easy as it is somehow similar to tightening bolts. However, in this case, you are actually tightening the drum’s lugs, and to do this properly, you have to use a scheme or pattern so that you have a clear understanding of what lugs you have tightened and what lugs still need tightening.
Many drummers use a simple scheme according to which they work on opposite lugs. In other words, you can start with any lug, turn it for example by 1.5 times, and then go to the lug that’s located on the opposite side of the diameter and do the same there. By tuning all the lugs, one by one, equally, you will achieve a uniform skin.
Afterward, it’s time to start tuning the drum. To do this, you start by testing the drum with your drumstick to see how it feels. You need to tap the drum approximately 2 inches away from one of the lugs you tuned and pay attention to the sound. If the result is what you aimed for, you can very well use the lug as your point of reference.
Then, start tapping all the other lugs, the same way you tuned them, by ordering them in opposite pairs and using the same tapping distance. Every lug that you tune should provide an identical sound as its opposite, as otherwise, your overall sound will be out of pitch.
Finally, you can tune your batter head, which is the skin you hit with your drumsticks, in a similar manner as you tuned the resonant or bottom skin. Most drummers choose to tune the batter head a few tones higher than the resonant skin in order to achieve a better sound.
By focusing on opposite rods when tuning the drums, you will obtain an equal distribution of the force impact which will help you prolong your drums’ lifespan and achieve a uniform sound.
How often should I tune my drums?
You might have read or heard that there is a right time to re-tune your drums based on the last time you performed this action. Nonetheless, the general rule that you should follow in establishing a frequency for your drum tuning sessions is necessity.
In other words, whenever you feel that your drums are out of tune, you can assume that it is the right time to start tuning them and proceed to doing so. Once you get used to how your drums sound after you have properly tuned them, you will immediately be able to realize when they are no longer on the right track and re-tune them.
The bottom line when it comes to tuning your drums is that this process might not be your favorite part about being a musician. Nonetheless, if you want to sound like a pro, at a certain point, you will have to take the time and courage to start learning how to tune your drums. This post will be right here for you when that moment comes.