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How to Tune Drums

If you are thinking of tuning drums perfectly, you have to first know what kind of music will the drums be used in...
He who cannot dance will say: "The drum is bad" - A Well-known Proverb
You have got a brand new drum kit from a nearby musical instrument store, and want to use it for an upcoming gig. You cannot just take the drum kit, place it on the stage and start to play. You will have to first tune it to the suitable tone that will match the music that is to be played.

Tuning the Drums

Learning how to tune drums is one of the first tasks that is included in drum lessons for beginners. If you want to tune the drums, you need to think of the kind of sound you want from the drum kit. Tuning the drums is a very easy task; you just have to decide if you would be using the drums for rock, jazz, classical, or soft music.
A good way to know about the tuning for metal or rock music is to listen to the same genre of songs from professional musicians in the music industry. Tuning drums generally means that you would need to tighten the heads of the drums, so that they sound right.

Drums to be Tuned

Before starting with tuning, you need to know what parts of the drum kit are to be tuned. In a standard drum kit; you would be required to tune the tom toms, bass drum, snare, and floor drum. These are the fundamental parts of a standard drum kit. You will require a tuning key for tuning. There is no specific format that the snare, bass drum, or toms should be tuned first. You can set out with any drum.

How Should the Drums Sound?

The bass drum, also known as the kick drum, is supposed to be tuned to the lowest bass tone. Its tone should go well with the sound of the bass guitar. The snare which is generally kept near the hi-hats needs to be tuned to the sharpest tone. The tone of the snare largely depends on the music to be played. Then come the toms, which are to be tuned to a sound lower than that of the snare.
If you have a standard drum kit with two toms, one small and other a bit bigger; you would need to tune the first one to a lower note than that of the snare drum and the second tom to a slightly lower tone that of the first one. The last is the floor drum, also called the floor tom, which is to be tuned at a tone lower than the second tom. However, the floor drum should not sound lower than the bass drum.

How to Tune Drums Properly?

Let us assume that you would start tuning the snare drum first. Take the tuning key and tighten the lugs of the snare. At this point, you simply need to tighten it roughly, without checking the tone. After you are done with one lug, start tightening the lug which is straight opposite to one you just worked on. Doing so would distribute the tension evenly and contribute to proper tuning of the drum kit.
Now fasten the lug next to one which you just tightened. Again locate the lug right opposite to one that was previously worked on, and tighten it. Repeat this tightening pattern on all lugs. Now tighten the bottom head of the snare, and make sure that its tension is more than the top head. Use the same pattern for tightening the bottom head.
Till now, the snare drum was tuned roughly, but now you have to tune to a proper tone. Tighten or loosen the lugs on the top head, tap the area on the head near the lug, and check the tone, if it's appropriate. Keep tightening or loosening the tone until the tone is what you want. After you get the desired sound, move on to the next lug, and repeat the same.
This was all about tuning the snare drum. Use the same procedure to tune the toms, the bass drum, and the floor drum. Drum kits may even have bottom heads for toms, as well as the bass drum. Tuning the bottom heads of toms and bass drum does not have any effect on the sound produced by the top head.
Remember that there are no specific musical notes to which the individual drums are supposed to be tuned, like in the guitar or any other stringed musical instrument. You just need to tune as per your preferences. However, some drummers and musicians may get the drums tuned to particular notes. I hope you might have got the basic idea on how to tune drums for rock, soft, jazz, blues, classical, and other different types of music.

 Stephen Rampur

Matthijs Smit