Tuning Drums Q&A
You guys wanna take some questions?
I would love to.
Cool, we've got a bunch of great questions, so how do you know when a certain frequency is too high for a drummer? I've tried to tune a snare to a high E, but before I got there, the head started to feel really tight and I was afraid I was gonna hurt the--
You're probably not gonna hurt the head and you're probably not gonna hurt the drum, if you have like a really vintage, like one-ply, thin, wood drum, like an old Sling ALAM drum or something, you might worry a bit about the shell, 'cause that's containing that tension, but any modern drum is gonna take a lot of tension.
Most drum heads will too, I mean, specifically like we said, this one's, this heavyweight head is very durable.
It's super durable, I mean, you could stand on that drum and it probably wouldn't really do anything bad to the head, so in terms of knowing--
a lot of--
A lot of drummers or producers will also like really, like step on the...
drum heads, before they even put 'em on the drums and it's amazing how--
Yeah, earlier I was actually standing on your bass drum, when they put the new batter head on there.
Yeah, it's, they're not gonna just break, it's very hard to really do that, yeah, I mean, you can go through 'em, if you beat 'em enough and they have thin enough heads, like you keep hitting the same spot over and over enough times, you can break it, but just the tension itself usually won't cause that to happen.
Yeah and in terms of when it sounds good, you're listening to that balance of the fundamental tone and the overtones, you'll generally know when a snare is too high, because it would just lose all of that body and you'll just hear like zingy frequencies on top, it might take a little bit of doing, you might have to do it a few times to really get your ear in, it's more of an instinctive thing, but generally for me, an E with any head, even if it's a single-ply head, the heavyweight thick head, even if we went to something like the Evans Hybrid Head, which is a Kevlar woven head, which is super durable, it doesn't really have much of a natural tone to it, but if you get it up to an E, it's probably gonna be a good range for that, I'd say E is a great, great starting place for any drummer.
Cool, what about using a tension watch, do you ever do that, do you ever--?
I don't use that for a couple of reasons, one being that... I find it quicker not to, I think the placement of the tension watch makes a huge difference to the reading, I believe, I have tried to use them and I do own a Tune Bot, which is like a digital tuner thing, which is cool and actually they have like a very in depth method for tuning toms and snares to very specific pitches to do with the relationship between the two heads, but for me, by far the easiest, quickest and least intrusive way is to have a pitch reference. Later when we're doing a set, you know, we're not actually recording, I'm gonna be coming in here and checking the tuning a lot and if for every drum, I have to get my tension watch out and move it all around the drum, Matt's probably gonna have to get up from the kit and it's gonna take me a really long time and if want to do the resonant heads, I mean, I have to pull the drums out, put them upside down and do that, it's not a bad system at all, if that's where you wanna start, then by all means, but for me--
I think the efficiency of it is of, really important thing to note for any producer, when you're a drummer recording in a, you know, high intensity session like this, if you have a lot of time to cool down in the middle of a take or between a take, because you have to tune the drum, it's not good, it can, you can lose your flow in certain ways, so if it's quick and Nolly comes in real quick, I can still kind of keep my heart rate up and keep the intensity, but the minute it starts going over a minute, it's like, alright, dude, come on, like, you know.
Yeah, and we'll get into more of that, but there really is a balance involved, when you're in the studio of getting the perfect sound, but also maintaining like focus for the drummer, maintaining energy and also maintaining like the head's life, 'cause they do have a limited life, when you're hitting them like this, so time is of the essence really, it's stressful actually, but we're gonna do it on camera and I'm hopefully not gonna get too stressed out. (laughing) No, it's gonna be good.
Sounds good. We have a question about snare wires on the bottom head, where do you put the edge of the snare wire, like on the thick side of the bottom of the head?
The thick side? You can have a look, I, generally if you're kind of... yeah, if you kind of just eyeball it, if you would just, to put the wire on without the straps, just look at where it would roughly sit to be centered like the same amount of distance on both sides, it's just like a little, it's gonna depend on the thickness of your shell, what you're gonna see, but I just pretty much eyeball it, I've never found that to be a hugely determining factor.
Yeah, I mean, this one, if you look at the edges, like the outside edges, it's not completely even, there's a little bit more space between where this part of the wire, of the snare wire's kind of falls here, where my thumb is versus on this side, I really can't even fit my thumb in there, you know, so--
What's cool about that drum is you can actually adjust the tension on both sides of the strainer,
where it has a strainer on both sides, is that what you're saying?
Yep, yeah, it has like little tension rods, one on this side and one on this side.
So if you really wanted to fine tune that, you could, just by using those,
but for me, that's not the most crucial part of working with a drum, I realize now I didn't talk at all about the bottom head, but if you want a pitch reference for the bottom head, while we're talking about it, anywhere between a G to an A, which is really quite high, you kind of, the snare wires we're using there allow you to just to quickly take them off, there's a little clip, which is holding on the wire,
which is very useful for this, but you can also slacken it off and kind of prop it up with a stick, be careful not to damage the head, otherwise.
Sure, I wasn't gonna pull it off, but there's a little kind of clamp right here, that you can pull this piece in and out, so you can really easily take it off and then change the head, instead of having to go through the process of unscrewing you know, the strainers on both sides and trying to even it out again, it's actually much easier to just pull it here, so.
Awesome, we did get a question, while you were tuning the snare and you had it on your lap, were you muting the bottom head, while you were tuning the top head, do you do that?
Yeah, I mean, with the snare, because the bottom head isn't contributing very much anyway, that's not gonna make a huge difference, I'll happily tune the snare on the stand, but I will pop the strainers off, because if the snare wires are buzzing, it's just gonna distract me and again, that drives out the sound of the drum.
And something about the snare wires too is you really, you wanna be able to hear them with a slight touch, like you wanna be able to hear them vibrate, so if you're trying to set the tension and you tune it maybe too tight, if you touch the drum, you really won't get any kind of sound of the buzz, which you wanna look for (light drumming) something like that, so if I touch my finger to it, (prodding drum) I can actually hear a little bit of vibration, that's, you wanna look for that kind of sweet spot to where it just starts happening and then if you want kind of more dirtiness to it, or a little bit more kind of scraping sound per se, then you can kind of just tweak it from there and loosen it up, but this is really important specifically with, if you are playing a lot of ghost notes, because when you play soft, you don't want to have the snares on and then to hear just nothing but overtone and if I were to sort of like mute the snares away like (hitting drum)
It's still gonna do it.
Yeah, it is, but I guess you could--
It's gonna sound like a timbale basically on the ghost notes
and like a snare, when you hit it properly.
But when you kind of let it go and you use softer hits, what you end up hearing is a little bit of the tone of the drum, but a lot of the buzz of the snare and it's not like this kind of feel, it's very specific to each hit, so (hitting drum) you know, and different dynamic levels change, we can talk about that a little bit later.
Yeah, in general, I don't wanna hear, if there was no muffling on the drum, I don't wanna hear, well, in general, I don't wanna hear the snare wires buzzing for shorter than the sustain of the drum, when it's muffled, that generally means it's too choked. From a recording perspective, when you put a microphone underneath, if it's too choked, it doesn't have that like white noise kind of sound, which is what I'm really looking for from the microphone underneath the snare to give it that real kind of powerful sound, but there is, you can go too far the other way, in which case, it's gonna be really washy and yeah, you'll lose the articulation on anything fast.
Would you ever use lightweight, dual-ply heads as a resonant head on a tom, if you're using the same head as the batter head?
You can do it, I probably wouldn't do it on a rack tom, you're gonna get not very much sustain out of it, I would say something like a 16 or might be prime for that.
Like a floor tom.
Yeah, like a big floor tom. I'd say it depends on what your goal is, if you want to shorten the sustain of the drum, there's some really, you could try actually a coated head, I'd do that, before going to a double-ply head and that's very John Bonham, he used a coated resonant heads on his, all of his drums. Evans also make, they just came out with a specific coated RESO head that's great and I've tried that, they also make the EC Coated Head, which has a printed control ring around it, which takes some of the overtones out and shortens the sustain of the drum. It really depends what you're going for, but personally one-ply over two-ply works great for me.
Awesome, will you ever tune snares and toms to the key of a song?
Yeah and the snare particularly, if you are, it really depends on how resonant the snare is, if you can really hear the ring of the snare in context, I wanna make sure it's in key, I might not just tune it to the fundamental note, if that's not, you know, if the key of the song is B or something, then I'd have to tune the snare really low or unfeasibly high, I'd just find a note, maybe the fourth or the fifth, something that isn't gonna change too much, just mainly make sure it's not clashing horribly, that's the main thing you're trying to do there. Toms for me, in the mix, because they do have a bit of a natural dive to them, you perceive less of the real tone of it, unless there's a sustained note, where the toms are ringing out with something else, for me in that case, I might do a bit with toms, it's more to do with the relationship between the toms and getting them in the right range, I might shift them, these are all kind of, it's like D, A, E, B, if a song was in like E flat, if you're on a guitar and you tune down a half-step, I might shift everything up a semitone, they'd probably still all sound pretty decent, but I mean, I don't know how much you'd really hear that in the final prose and I don't do that with the kick, some people I know like to try and tune the kick to the fundamental note, but we haven't actually talked at all about tuning kick drums, the approach that especially I use with Matt is very loose on the batter side, which gives that real kind of metal slap sound to it, it takes a little bit more effort to play, but you really happen to like that and in general, if you're a metal drummer, I would urge you to try and play with the batter head really slack, if you can. The front head does have a little bit of a tone to it, but it's again tuned really low and then I try to use minimum muffling, we did have two of the Evans EQ Pad Pillows, which, there's actually one of those over here in the drum and these kind of sit, this part on the, in the center part of the drum and then this kind of muffles the head and it has a little bit of movement, so that when you hit the head, it will bounce and then kind of gate it again, but in the end, I actually took one of them out, now we only have something on the resonant head, the batter head is so low anyway, it doesn't really need the muffling and again, any muffling you're gonna apply is gonna take away high end and character from the drum, so.
You almost get that, like with the, with the batter head being a little bit looser, a little bit more give to it, you almost get sort of like a trigger sound in a way of, like, I don't wanna say clicking sound, 'cause that's a little too far,
Well, I mean,
I think when people say triggered, they might just mean sounds good, (laughs)
you know, to me, like a trigger sound is when it sounds like the same hit every time and I really dislike that, I mean, it's kind of a staple in some kinds of metal to hear that.
Well, I guess what I mean is I hear more of a very short attack,
that's very, very identifiable in the mix, but I think the difference is when you have the front or the batter head like this and then you have a little bit of tone to the resonant head, you have the combination of the two, which is you get that initial clicking sound and then you can actually hear the depth and the tone of the drum, so it's a nice combination.
Exactly like with the toms as well.
and I would advise against overmuffling your kick drum, some drummers like to pile loaded pillows in there and stuff, it doesn't record well in my opinion, when you do that, you get a very, very dead bass drum and the low end of the drum doesn't have a chance to really do anything, it's just a blast of air, that comes through and maybe even not that much, if you've got a tight batter head and a load of muffling, the kick drum really doesn't have any of the power it's supposed to have, I'd rather have a little bit too much liveliness on the bass drum, than muffle it a little bit, sorry, not muffle it, gate it afterwards and maybe there'll be some weird frequencies bouncing around inside the drum, I can take those out during the mixing process, I'd rather have the resonance there, than just have a really, really dead kick drum.