Tuning drums?

Discussion in 'Recordings [BG]' started by freatles, Mar 14, 2014.

  1. freatles


    Jan 9, 2014
    So I'm having hard time with drum sound. I'm sequencing each drum-instrument by hand. Sadly, I don't have a drummer to collab with.

    The thing that makes me wonder most is should I tune the drum sounds (kick, snare, toms, sampled or synth ones) to the bass guitar? (or to the song in general)

    Whats your method? Is there a tradition of particular tunings for drumsets/kits (I'm working with ~funk)? I remeber seeing drum-tuning-device in music store catalogue.
  2. jasmangan


    Jul 13, 2008
    We'll, FWIW, this is what I did. Same problem, no drummer but a full set of good drums . I can play a little so I thought I'd take a crack at it. I bought new heads(top and bottom) and a drum dial ($70 or so). Then I tuned the drums to their suggested tuning. Yep, it sounded like crap. What I found, after MANY hours of tuning these drums is that it's not like a bass or guitar(440 a - good to go).
    Each drum has it's own sweet spot and you have to find it or the drums will sound like ass or make each other ring. Where the drum dial came in handy for me was that when I found the sweet spot I wrote down the numbers and could get back to the proper tension fairly quickly. After a while I hooked up with a good drummer again and he said they were tuned correctly, so I think I succeeded . You can also have someone come in and tune your drums for around $75, then take the measurements with the drum dial , and you will always know how to get back to "that" sound.
    Good luck
  3. drumsnbass

    drumsnbass Bassic User Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 2004
    Seattle WA area
    Without the dial you can tune them by ear and if need be to a tuner. You use a drum key and as you tighten down the head, always 1/4 turns opposite each screw around the drum and never in circular sequence, you tap the head about an inch from the screw. Obvious goal is to get all the tap sounds to sound the same and have equal tension across the head. Do tops and bottoms for all drums first without trying to tune to each other. Then you can hit them one off against the next size up or down and tune accordingly in sequence.

    There really is a sweet spot to all drums and you will hear it as you play around with them. Due to various size configs they will not all tune in a logical 'step' function like bass strings. Be more concerned you are hearing that 'sweet' sound. Getting a set to where you like them by ear can take 30 minutes but once set they should stay pretty well set for some time.

    Note, not everyone likes their drums to have a nice ring. For example Steve Gadd, known for his drumming on Steely Dan albums, used double heads and if you listened to his drums out of the mix they sounded really dead. However they did not want that 'ring' on the recordings.

    Personally I think a rather fast decay in sound is the way to go, but not a dead sound. Too much ring and things can get a bit muddied. A lot of drum manufacturers went to 'suspended' mounts to give drummers a longer sustain and a more free or pure sound, but realistically only a very few drummers would be able to tell you the difference between an old and new, say, Yamaha Recording Custom kit. Plus throw in the various heads and how they affect sound and things get even more interesting.

    Finally, crap drums will sound like crap no matter what you do with them. And while today's mid-range drums are about as good as yesterday's high end drums, cheap drums will always sound loud and cheap. Better then to buy older high end drums that may be scuffed up and re-wrap them.
  4. bkbirge


    Jun 25, 2000
    Houston, TX
    Endorsing Artist: Steak n Shake
    I generally go for as much sustain as I can muster and then if it needs damping for a particular track I use those moon gel things. For funk I like a tight snare tuned high with reasonably dead toms. I do concert tom style, no bottom heads on toms and no front head on the kick. Works for me, YMMV of course. I've never gotten the hang of tuning drums purely by ear, I use a tension adjuster to get them all in the ballpark and then use my ears. Saves a LOT of time.

    This is what I use...

    This is what I would use if I could justify the expense...