Drum Tuning Part 1
We will give you a few technical uh morsels to use more as guidelines and starting points then as set rules um in my opinion my number one rule for tuning drums is that the drums no need to sound like they're part of the same set it sounds really simple right but it's not that simple uh sometimes different drums from different sets end up sounding like they're from the same set and sometimes the same like it's entirely possible that in a studio environment we noticed that these drums don't nothing alike nothing like they don't go together at all it's kind of hard to hear that in here with monitors behind me and listening in here for the first thirty minutes it's there's no way for us to we don't have a good a good perspective on it but it's entirely possible that just because these drums are the same color and the same material and say that they're the same model doesn't mean that they're the same uh les we were talking once you would have to have a machine that stamped everything too ...
the degree of mathematical perfection for them to actually be the same like described on paper and that just doesn't exist so you got to use your ears and if that's so important oh yeah just your ears I mean ninety nine percent of the time you know it's the mix of a little bit of knowledge and know how but you know, get it where it sounds right at you mean, it should be obvious to you when you hear it. You go down in the road and I've had kids where it's, exactly. These are all from the you know, the company sent me in his drum kit, but that calm sounds like it's on a different planet, you know, and, um, nine times out of tannic and just be a tuning issues, but it literally can just be that it may be that you, tom, came from a different chunk of wood and it's, not his dense is the other, you know, what if, for whatever reason, right? So it is a good point, it's it's definitely the ears or king? Well, I think that that also goes back to not getting personal about it just because something looks good on stage two, you have a drum set that you love the way it looks and it's your drum set. That doesn't mean that it's the right drum set, and that doesn't mean that the heads, when tuned up, are going to sound like they all go together. So rule number one, get the drums sounding like they all belong together, and if you look at pictures of recordings that I make and I post these pictures all the time on my instagram we have a lot of mitch mismatch looking drum sets for these albums, like you'll see a purple tom and a yellow tom and a black time and, uh, it it's, not about the way they look at all. So heads, in my opinion, new heads are an absolute must. So, like you said, you make drummers change heads that's, it's cool. If that's if that's the only degree of control that you keep that's already better than a lot of people. Uh, if you're not taking control of that, you're basically shortchanging yourself. You need to have a new heads. It's kind of like changing strings on a guitar and not kind of it is like changing strings on a guitar. Um, I say here the ideally changed heads, every two songs, but that's not necessarily true with that example. I played earlier shannon lucas on battle cross. We used one, had one set of heads for eight songs and then the next set of heads for the remaining three, I believe. But two songs is kind of like the average they they take, they take about thirty minutes to really get sworn in, and then the time it takes to track, depending on who's tracking how long it takes somewhere in the range of I find three to four hours things start to get dull you khun tune them back up once they start to go and you can do a lot of doctoring but in my opinion it's just like strings once they're gone they're gone uh you can always wiped down strings and boil them and all that stuff, but you may as well just change him out if you can afford to, so we're talking about a lot of obvious stuff but believe me it's not that obvious when it comes to practice because uh three out of five of you guys said you don't pay attention to this stuff, so I'm assuming that three out of five of you guys on the internet don't pay attention to this either and if you did, your recordings would be better so we can talk about, uh, the specifics of the kit and some guidelines so that's ah my dumb person's version of how sound comes off of a drum. This isn't exact but it's kind of a guideline you're going to get your pitch from the top head and you're going to get your resonance or length from your bottom head and really it's a combination of the two that's end of the day ah a year it's not anyone head that's going to do that, but overall that's how it works out so if the drum is going to ring out like doom it's your bottom head but exactly what note that's on that's your top you want to elaborate on that at all yeah I mean it's it goes back to you just want to listen to some early recordings like in in the late sixties and early seventies and that you know gymnasium there's no residents you know like the carpenters are a perfect example of that you listen to those because they had no bottom heads they were concert tom so there was no full bodied sound you were just getting the top head but yeah you're definitely getting the pitch you're getting the pitch fromthe shell too but it's that your top top head is definitely going to be that the dominant note um and then your sustained like I call it drum reverb comes from your your bottom bottom head so how how much of that reverb depends on you know whether you moon gel or tight if you tighten it, you're going toe change pitch too so it's you they both kind of affect each other but it's definitely the dominant tone is the top in the bottoms where you work out how much sustain and that that's why I say that you don't want to approach these guidelines like set rules because the minute you change the bottom head everything changes once again and you're in a whole new world of tuning so you have to be always using your ears question for you guys on the topic of pitch from one source in the chat room, I met a drum tech that used a piano to find the natural quote unquote tone of the tom and used that as a reference point to tune the rest of the toms. The result was really good. Do you have any experience with this for either of you guys? I'll I know a lot of drummers that you know, like neil peart and chad wack erman some of these guys literally, you know well, they both play dw now funny enough, the dw does that. D w when they sell you a kit, they tell you what pitch each drum it is, so it definitely gives you a reference point for me. Funny enough, I start with the bottom had get it toe where it's sounding nice and speaking on dh then I put the top head on and in the same thing, I just find where it sings the best where it gets loudest and it sounds most natural chances are it's probably that fundamental tone of the shell that you're just augmenting our except accentuating, but you're not checking it against her what I'm not checking in, but I do. Ten to tune my tom's in minor thirds it seems to work out that way with the two inches between each drum because you definitely want a big spread or the biggest spread you can pitch wise in between your drums and between the tom, so I have eight, ten, twelve, fourteen, and it almost does make this diminished chord connected thing you don't want minor seconds ringing out, no, right? And, you know, you don't want it to sound like it's the same drum. Yeah, exactly want to hear it go down or up like a scale so totally the thing that I've noticed is the problem, and obviously, this this works because lots of great people do it. So it's, obviously valid only problem I have with pitch specific drum tuning is that one of the key of the song changes? What of it? Well, if you have a definite a room it's like exactly, you know, yeah, its that's. Why, I think, uh, at least most of the time, using your ear at least most of the time, every time using your ears, the most important thing, because if you get it perfectly in tune with the piano that's not to say that's, going to perfectly in tune with the song, which is the most important thing, so the end of the day just go with what sean said which is make the drum sound good to itself and that's where it speaks exact sounds like it wants to be and your ear is going to tell you that not on dh sitting there and turning it over and you're doing it a million times and sometimes you throw the heads on and boom it's there and sometimes you're they're for three, four, five hours you know, hitting your head against the wall going go ok let's you know, just but that that's one of those things where it's not a standardized there's no standard way to do this it's not you know e standard tuning or a tempered scale it's this kind of ambiguous, subjective thing so your ear is definitely your your biggest asset an ally in that situation and let me just jump in real quick and say that fact that there's no standard tuning to this just throw your drum dials away just because you guys want to like take a minute and do that right now cool uh that a moment of silence silence let it go cool there on the garbage awesome uh that stuff doesn't work this is not like tuning a guitar now changing heads is like changing guitar strings and that you have to do it because they go dead tuning it is not like tuning a guitar it's uh and on its own planet and some world so let's talk about specific drums start with scenario basic tuning for that I you know I tend to personally like for drummers use thinner heads they go quicker but they have more ring to them and yeah, they just have a better a better tone I think live it's a different story you know get away with thicker heads live the last longer um the price factor is an issue here because if he used thinner heads and you have a harder hitter we're going to die sooner so you're an end up changing then a lot more often but like he said they speak more um anything you want to elaborate about using thinner heads no, I mean that's that's basically because you know if if you have any if you're even a medium hitter you know a single ply head chances are after a couple hours you might even break the head you know what I mean? Just because it's it's not a double ply um and you're going to have a little more tuning issues with that because it's a more responsive head but the reward is having the drum be more sensitive and speak better for sure and sometimes you don't want that riley it's depends on on your application and who and who the drummer is so sometimes sometimes it's better to get through the recording as quickly as possible, so I will say this if the recording, if the drummer's not ideal, if you feel like no matter what you do, you're not going to get the results you want, then maybe you should you just use some thicker heads and get through it as quickly as possible and consider it a situation where you're going to deal with it and post now I realized that a lot of recording stars, they're going to say that that's a bad way to go about it, but I will answer to that by saying that money and time are realities of life, and you only have so long in the studio to get your work done. So if the drummer's blowing it like a lot of drummers do or the drummer is going to blow it, you can't replace the drummer there's no way around that you are recording this guy, but his tone sucks there's nothing you can do about it, just throw on some thicker heads and get get it over with, you're going to replace it all anyways, I'm going to ask something. Yeah, I was going to say just on the topic of thicker heads, I've ran into some tom's, particularly like really small ones that I think sound really unknowing within heads um I've just feel like the thicker had really darkens up the sound a lot to the point where I think sometimes it is better like what ply usually a double ply I I've used the ah have you seen the that the black evans heads um I can't remember what they're called now, but I think they're just ebony right? Is that what I think I can't quite remember? I think maybe there it's the first it's the first level of double ply right if your thinness double ply yeah unlike ten inch tom's I've had good luck with those just because sometimes I think that really small tom sound a little too pinky for me at least yeah, I'll agree with that and also you're not talking about to think of a head anyways yeah, you're still within the realm of pretty thin head's um I feel like you're talking about the difference between a nine or a ten on the guitar but like he said not a thirteen or something you know um it's a totally different story but also um as faras snares go I think that that rule applies pretty consistently eight and ten inch tom's not always, but I think was snares just about always at least in my experience um one thing that I feel like we should bring up is moon jail uh you guys out there know what moon jealous I don't have some right in front of me, so I can't show it, but I have some it's it's, the it's, the modern equivalent of the wallet. You ever see the wall? I as in yeah, it's, this blue stuff is going to see we're actually using it here on the snare drum it's just this sticky gel that's used as a dampening agent and it sticks anywhere I actually have a little piece underneath the floor, tom here because it was giving us a little bit too much ring and the good things about these are was you khun terram make him small use a big club completely customizable and they get out of your way and you can even wash them yeah, you can s o ah, the reason I'm bringing those up is because if you're you like the pitch of the drum where you've got it and you just wanna dampen it's just ringing too much but you like where it's at I personally would throw moon gel on there he would tune the ring out, but you're an anomaly. Um but I think moon gel is a good solution. How would you go about handling that situation, though where you have too much ring uh or it's too long on a snare, but you like the pitch exactly where it's at? I would definitely moon joe okay, there you go because you don't want it but it's ringing because it's singing you know and that's where it's resonating the most so other than changing out the head for a thicker you know what you're doing you might not rate s so that's what I mean and at least with this you can do it in little increments and you know I mean we did that today I thought it was a one piece and there was two stuck together and took the one off and it was like there it isyou know so um yeah, because it's not going to add too much mass too the to the head which would change the pitch. And one thing I've noticed with moon gels two is where you put the moon joe will affect the tone so it's not just the standardized thing where you put it closest to the drama are furthest from the drummer uh, you need to experiment with where on the drum different combinations of it until you get what you want, but I think that should definitely buy it. I don't think you should be using duct tape thank you should be using a moon gel I mean, you could get away with duct tape so one other issue that you are gonna have with snare tuning besides, too much ring is uh, buzzing and that's because I guess we don't have a camera underneath for the snare itself this might seem basic two guys who play drums or whatever but there is actually a metal piece underneath the resident head called the snare that so you get that tone from without that it's basically a tom so that's definitely giving you the character of the drum. Yeah it's basically a a shallow wide tom without without that snare on there. So uh you want to make sure that like you said that if if you're hitting toms and the snares are going off like crazy which is a normal thing or just ahh every time you hit the scenario it's too much of that sound that's a common thing there's a few different ways to go about it. I have a few of them listed that you khun do easily. I think the number one way to get rid of that buzzing is to change out the drum. Uh for instance, we have something like fifteen snares that we choose from. Uh if there's something like that in the character of the drum that's bothering us, we change it out immediately uh and I think that those of you who don't have fifteen snares you should at least enter recording session with two or three and even if ah you can't afford to buy it borrow some ransom just get more than one snare you want to have options ah again this is not something that's incredibly technical but it's something that's incredibly important you can sit there and know the physics of it all day when and that's all cool but changing out a drum most of the time is going to solve the problem uh like he said lots of times you put on a head and stuff will be good to go right out the gate that's ah that's kind of to me the gold standard so always look for a snare drum that sounds great immediately and uh snares on flat if, uh you changed out the drum the snares air on flat it's not is still not getting rid of the buzzing choose a smaller snare not and I don't mean the snare drum I mean this the metal snares themselves is ah thinner a thinner amount or a smaller amount of them if that's still not working retuned the toms and that's still not working choose another drum fire the drummer yeah I mean that's what samples air for two at the end of the day if you're running out of time and you tried all that stuff and it's still not working then maybe your problem is the drummer yes, sir are you looking to eliminate that buzz entirely or just get it manageable? That's it's a desert the subjective nature of it. It's, do you think it's too much, buzz? Uh, I personally like that I like there to be some buzz, but that's also why you have a bottom snare mike so that you can control the amount in the final mix, but, uh, I like there to be a good even amount and a good, good, even amount is not a quantifiable answer, but I feel like that's what we've been talking about that's, the subjective nature of this do you personally like that sound? So if you want it eliminated, then eliminated however possible used these steps, they'll work out for you. Um, at the end of the day, uh, you might need to replace the snare with a sample, though if it's just none of that's working. Um, anything else you want to say about snare tuning? Um, no. Again. It's experimenting and just going through tightening the bottom had loosening the bottom had you know, if it's the issue of too much buzz just when you hit the snare drum you khun titan and loosen these guys, but if it's just a sympathetic vibration between the toms on the kid, then you know, go through the toms, you know, and sometimes it's it is just a matter of get a different snare that's not goingto, you know, have the sympathetic vibrations in that same area that the drum you're having a problem with this I feel like that's that's usually the easiest solution because changing ahead takes a long time. Sometimes changing a snare is a quick process retuning tom's that air you've already spent that amount of time getting them to sound like a family, you know, then you're kind of undoing it's a house of cards at that point. Exactly. So that's, why I like to have a bunch of different snares around if one is just not cutting it, change it out see you later, don't get personal about it, let it go and I want to see if there's any questions? Well, nothing specific, you know, just e guess the one comment that came up was like, hey, it's advanced from production here's the snare and you know, so you know, yes, this is basic, but the basics are, you know, like we said, it's accumulation of subtleties, that getting the basics right is what makes a great recording and, you know, like we're talking about we're not everybody knows the basics well advanced drum production isn't something you're going to learn exactly in three days this is the process by which everybody makes records whether you're going to a million dollar studio or doing it yourself you're going to follow this process so this a snare is a snare is a snare is a snare no matter where you go and I can't tell you how many idiot engineers have seen at big studios who don't know how a snare works and would know how to solve a problem with a snare to begin with and they think they are advanced drum guys but they're not so we are making this simple for everybody and don't think that just cause it's explained in a simple fashion that it is simple because if it was simple that simple we won't be talking about it and people would be fired over this constantly drum text wouldn't be that hard to find who know know their shit inside and out so we actually have a couple questions if you wouldn't mind we've got one from morpheus to mildew you prefer coded or clear heads I coded on snare right almost always absolutely send in one of the old what I call a pinstripe pinstripe metal like the old the old sepultura records with the pinstripe used to the clear head and and then in the seventies and early eighties people were using coded whitehead's on the on toms but for me, coded it's gets giving you a little bit of a dampening effect. So for me and tom's you want that open snare is the loudest drum of the family of the bunch so having that coded I had just already kind of gives you a little bit of control because you kind of do have to wrangle a snare drum it's um and so it's that's kind of the standard again. You know some of the drummers I know that alex van hollen, who has the most noticeable snare sound he does not use a coded head it's you know, it's like a power dot clear head tune super high. So it's a personal thing, but, uh, I think the trend is definitely clear, tom heads and coded snare I think that's the nine times out of a definite answer the or what is at the eighty five percent solution that people like to say yes, sir. And if you ever switch two brushes thing, you pretty much need to have a good head for sure we won't get any but also had a question. Like what? The snares that you keep in your studio, how picky are you about the throws and that hardware that it's actually on the snare? Do you typically keep the stock throws or are you making sure that you, like, use it a replacement throw or some other hardware to make sure that that's good we change it all out um at every piece of the hardware ends up getting changed out much too much to the owner of the snares dismay sometimes ah are our drums or complete frankenstein's we will take pieces off of certain snares put them on others order custom parts like we're always trying to improve each drum so yeah every once in a while you'll get a drum that's perfect the way it is right out the gate but just like a guitar where you're changing pickups and tuners and all that it's too many moving pieces especially with a snare drum too many moving pieces for it toe always just be right at the gate in my opinion um yeah one more question from which I called and rye than as for snares what snare wires do you recommend and how many? I think that just depends on how buzzy you want the tone I would go thicker if you want more buzz is really simple you and depth of drum you you know um yeah and I mean the thinner you have the snares, the snappier the kind of tenure it's going to be and so the thicker the snares you have it's going kind of it's the beef your sound so and then you have copper versus steal and you have flat wound and and wire wound and so I mean again it's another you know another piece of gear to experiment with and you know be be familiar with because, uh again there's no standard thing it's a it's a matter of preference so we got a million questions and channels. Well, what about this thing? What about that thing? What about this head that ed and I guess our point with all this going back to the tone pious well sure try it. Yeah, right and sometimes things you would never imagine would sound good there it is sure, for anything we can think of that we hate somebody made a record that sounds great with it like the job is yours and snare, for instance or god sometimes that snare sounds amazing and it's not technically a very good snare I have a drawer at the studio which pulls out and it's basically this long and about this thick full of snares washers and felts only uh and we are always changing them out and just like tubes it's not something that I think is important to really pay that much attention to us faras specifically what you're using because every drummer is going to sound different, you can have the exact same setup exact same mike's exact same preempts exact same distances vaccine heads tuning and the drums is going to sound completely different with a different drummer so don't get too caught up in the specifics of all of the equipment what you should adopt is a mindset of being willing to experiment and try new things and don't stop until you like the way it sounds that's what will get you there? Not me telling you exactly what type of metal of the scenarios? Because I don't know what you even sound like how am I going to tell you what to use? What I will say is keep going until you like where it's at I think that that's more more what this is about right goes back to her. How good is your drummer? How informed is he? And you know what I mean? Unfortunately as an engineer and a producer, you've really got to be aware you've got to do his homework for him, especially if he's clueless or she's clear absolutely it's uh uh, yeah again I you know, I just behoove drummers too to really pay attention to their gear and what's out there and experiment with stuff and even if you don't use it no it exists and why people are using it, you know, because you never know, I think that the thing that I try to do, teo do my homework is realised that about drummers and have enough snares on hand and snare wires and cymbals and drums just as many different elements of the drum set as many different versions of it as I can a zai can afford or we can afford collectively s so that we can go through the experimentation process and I feel like that's what everyone should do okay, so you can't afford to have fifteen snare drums uh they're not all mine by the way they belong to myself jason suk off mark lewis and ron miller it's four of us collectively owned fifteen dramas so it's not like all mine but uh all fifteen drums are in constant rotation and we have our favorites uh like a bell brass but I think that more more than anything what we share, which makes our recordings good is that we don't stop till we're happy that's that's what people in the black ing about it so when I say it takes one to five days to get a drum sound, it means we're willing to sit there and, uh and and get the tone. So mark lewis was joking about this once ah, a session where we're dealing with a twelve inch tom that just would not tune no matter what you are or what and uh maybe it was white chapel or something or the twelve inch drum just no matter what we didn't want to and we spent two and a half days on this one drum and we were joking about how people say are we really going to sit there and listen to this drum for two and a half days? Are you serious? Why can't we start recording? We really doing this? And the answer is absolutely yes, we are doing this, we're going to hit this drum until the tuning is absolutely right. So, uh, my aunt, my overall answer is be willing to experiment and a good way I mean, for drummers and even for engineers I mean, when you've been to guitar center and you hear the cacophony of sounds coming out, I mean, be that guy that goes from drum kit to go drum kit and hit him ask questions, what what is this material? What symbols are those? Why do they sound that way? What are these heads? You know, at least it gives you an opportunity to hear some difference different gear, you know? I mean, most most guys aren't in a situation where they have different kids coming into the studio every day, especially if you're just starting out. It might be a good idea to just kind of go to an equipment store and and speak to somebody and here, some drums and some symbols and some different combinations and kind of atleast get get your your basic understanding of, you know, what's available and why you would consider that them