Kick Drum Tones

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Tom Neves, Dec 1, 2000.

  1. Not sure if this is the right place for this thread but here goes.
    Is there such a thing as tuning drums, (kick, toms, etc.) to sound better with standard Bass tuneing, E A D G?
    Or is this something Drummers do according to their taste?
    Thanks in advance for any opinions.

  2. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    AFAIK, the proper tuning of a drum is dictated by its natural resonance, which in turn is affected by shell size, composition and construction, as well as the composition and construction of the heads. There's a narrow range of pitches where a drum sounds (and feels) good. It's also worth noting that drummers occasionally tune their batter and resonant heads to different pitches.

    The idea of tuning drums to open string pitches is intriguing, but I'm not sure how well it would work in practice. Since bassists aren't confined to the keys of E, A, D and G, one wouldn't expect drummers to be, either.

    A lot of drummers pay no attention to pitch at all. Fortunately, drums have such a dry timbre that it's difficult for the average listener to discern definite pitches from a standard drumset.
  3. Christopher,
    Thanks for your responce. My reason for asking is two fold.

    I first heard of this from an associate of Mark Benson.
    Mark plays the John Lennon part in the band,
    "1964 The Tribute".
    They are the most anally(spelling?) correct tribute band recreating the Beatles live performances.
    They have recently releaced a CD doing some of the classic Beatle standards. I was told that Mark used some sort of a (scope?) , to pitch out Ringo's tone on the original recordings, and then tuned their drummers kit to the exact sound. (I was floored)
    The result is amazing !
    My other reason for asking was because of the drummer in our band. He is constantly messing with his skins. It seems that the more he does the more terrible they sound. What to do?
    Just wondering if the timpany in an Orchestra tunes up?

  4. Sampoerna

    Sampoerna Guest

    Oct 9, 2000
    W. KY, USA
    Yes, a timpani is tuned -- via a footpedal. A timpani has to be able to change keys for various keys in or between compositions. From what I understand (recalling high school band -- last time I worked with drummers), the snares, bass drums, triangle, etc. have such "scattered" sounds, that our ears can't discern pitch from them. I think timpani falls in with the marimba and xylophone as an instrument with a definite pitch.

    :D Non-drummer trying to explain drums,
  5. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    Tom: I think timpanists spend more time tuning than any other instrument in the orchestra! Next time you attend a symphony recital check and see where the timpanist's head is during warmup and intermission: it's glued to the head of his drums.
  6. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I'm suprised about the Beatles thing - I could never really hear the drums in their early recordings and definitely not in live performances - also I always thought that Ringo was a bit of a joke as far as drummers were concerned?

    What I have noticed is that good drummers tune their drums and bad ones don't! ;)

    I think that funk drummers go for a tighter kick drum sound and rock more boomy, but there are a huge number of variations. Jazz players, go for very small kick drums - unless they are fusion monsters like Billy Cobham etc. !
  7. JohnL


    Sep 20, 2000
    Grayson, GA
    From having played both drums and bass, my humble observations: In a live situation, a tight, punchy kick is not likely to give you much in the way of conflicting tones, however, if your drummer likes a little more "open" ringing tone, the sound man can kill you if the EQ on the kick isn't right. You may get some undesirable overtones or dissonant ringing on certain notes. In the studio, most of the engineers put a little "bump" on the kick EQ so that it will set well in the mix, just like they do for a lot of bass parts, but the ones I've worked with tweak these frequencies to compliment each other, but not duplicate each other. I'm no expert, but maybe trying to match frequencies may actually end up sort of cancelling each other out. Sometimes when you solo these tracks, it doesn't sound that great, but when mixed with everything else it comes out great.