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Drums

How to Tune Drums

Tuning your drums is vital in getting the maximum sound and life out of your drum heads. Without tuned drums, your drum kit will sound muddy and out of pitch. Also if you don’t regularly tune your drum heads, you will find that they will be more susceptible to damage and you are going to have to buy new drum heads alot faster than necessary. This article will give you the ABCs of tuning your drums to find the right sound for you, as well as give you tips on improving the strength of your skins. That being said, you need to know that there is no one way to tune your drums. Tuning your drums is extremely personal (like selecting skins) and you must experiment to get the pitch right for you!

Lets start with an empty shell. (For those unsure on how to remove your existing skin, refer to Jared Falk’s Rock Drumming DVDs for the complete Drum head replacement and tuning section). Be sure to have a cloth handy so you can give your drum rim and new drum head a wipe down. Any dirt or wood chips that remain on the drum shell can cause the skin to go on warped, causing an uneven sound, or it can also damage the drum shell. Plus no wants a dirty drum. After you clean the drum shell, and the new drum head, you are ready to install the new drum head onto your drum.
Installing The Drum Head

Place the drum head on your shell, of course making sure the size of the drum head is the correct size for the shell. it should fit easily overtop, but not be “baggy” around the drum shell. Give the rim of your drum a quick wipe down, and place it on the skin along with the lugs in the appropriate holes. Tighten all the lugs hand tight at first; leave the drum key Drum Keyalone for a bit. Once the rim is on hand tight, you must stretch the head. This is a very important tip that most drummers do not know about. To do this, simply make a fist, and press down on the middle of your skin. This will help stretch and set your skin so it will not go out of tune as easily. You may hear the skin cracking a bit, but do not worry, that is normal. Generally speaking you shouldn’t be able to press down too hard and break the skin. I have never broken a skin by doing this, but if you do, return it to your local music store for an exchange. Once you have stretched your drum head, go over all of the lugs again, and make sure they are all finger tight.
Tuning Your Drums

Now its time to tune your drums using the drum key. Tuning the lugs on a drum is like tightening the bolts on a tire, you want don’t want to go around the drum in a circle, you want to move back and forth across the drum. Pick a lug to start at, any one will do. Say you turn it one and a half times, be sure to turn every lug (using the tuning pattern below) the same amount to keep the skin uniform. Keep tuning opposite lugs until they are all snug. Take this example below. You would want to tune each lug in alphabetical order. Start by tuning A, then B, and so on…

Tuning Diagram

Once you get the drum head snug, its time to actually “tune” the drum. Grab a drumstick, and tap 1-2 inches from any lug on the drum skin. How does it sound? If its the sound you want, use that lug as your “guide lug”. Again you want to tune your drums by tapping opposites, making sure you are tapping the same distance from the lug as the first tap. Make sure you tune every lug has the same sound in front of it or the whole drum will sound out of pitch. All that is left now is to find the right sound for you and the music you are playing.!
Tuning The Batter Head

Tuning your batter skin (the skin you hit) is the same as tuning your resonant skin (the bottom skin). To get a better sound from your drum, try tuning your resonant skin a few tones lower than your batter skin. Weather its a bass drum, snare, or tom, you can use this method on all. Just make sure you have the snare turned off when tuning.
Finding The Right Sound For You

There are many different types of drum heads that you can use depending on your style of drumming. There are different heads for jazz drumming, rock drumming, and country drumming. Next time you are in your local music store take the time to experiment with different types of drum heads. It is also important for you to understand how drums work. If you want to learn more about drum tuning check out the drum set lessons on DrumLessons.com

Check out this drum lesson website if you are interested in learning more about playing the drums.
Related content you may also be interested in…

Additional Tuning Instruction – Here is another article on tuning your drums.

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