Updated: Jun 3
All right all right. It's about time! First things first. I love teaching people how to set up and tune drums. The smile on a drummers face when he or she hears their kit sound better than it ever has, AND it was by their own hand. . . ? Now that is a beautiful thing to behold. With this in mind, I will be posting tuning tips, and tricks on this page regularly in hopes that all drummers, and tuners of drums find them useful.
"RESETTING AN OLD HEAD"
A common practice when you put on a new drumhead is to stretch the head with your hand after it's first few rounds of tightening. Once at a fair degree of tightness (to avoid over stretching of a loose head) just place your palm at the drums center and push gently. In addition, you could use the butt of one's palm to stretch the edge of the head as well. Anchoring your finger's to the outer edge of the hoop, press the butt of your palm (or your thumbs) along the bearing edge and then stretch lightly. Do this all the way around the drum. Makes sense right? Stretch all areas of a new head to ensure even tuning.
When your heads are old, however, this method I'm about to discuss is a great way to "re-awaken" the drum head film from it's stretched state. Mylar, and other drum head films hardens over time. By stretching at the center and edges, it massages the mylar fiber and opens it up a bit. Once you have stretched the old head a little bit, pick up the drum and give it a kiss in the vent hole. (ie: press your lips to the hole and blow.LOL!) If there are multiple vents, cover them with your fingers while blowing into the vent of your choice. The drum heads should expand upward/downward, and the air will push up and under the bearing edge essentially "re-seating" the head. Blowing in the drum will also create a little back pressure on the tension rods which effectively pushes them to the edge of the thread upon which the rod sits. This will not only liven up the drums sound, but you will immediately be able to hear which lugs are truly out of tune with the others. SEE THE TIP IN ACTION IN THE VIDEO LINK POSTED ABOVE!
"THE LUG BELOW"
Have you ever been tuning a drum where one lug doesn't seem to change in pitch no matter how much you tighten or loosen it? Often times this is a sign that the lug directly across from the one you are tuning is out of balance as well. However, this doesn't always fix the issue. If it does not, the problem lies in the lug (tension rod) directly below the one you are tuning. After resetting the head via tip # 1 (if you are not mid-show mind you), tighten (or loosen) the lug below about 1/8th of a turn. You will be surprised at how little of a turn can make a massive difference. Then check your top tension rod for balance and voila. Tuned drum.
WATCH THE TECHNIQUE IN THE VIDEO BELOW
"SOFT FUZZY BALLS (AKA THE COTTON BALL IN THE TOM TRICK)"
Often times when recording toms (especially floor toms and large suspended toms) you will encounter unwanted ringing or crosstalk coming from the drum. The ringing is caused by other drums and their stands vibrating in sympathy with rest of the kit. SOLUTION: Drop one, or two two stretched out cotton balls into the drum. They will act as a natural gate/ mute for the bottom head, and the effect the drum's attack is minimal. MAKE SURE TO STRETCH THE COTTON BALL OUT A BIT. Make it look like a cloud. Not too big, but enough to disperse the weight of the ball.
You want the cotton to sit quietly, versus bouncing around like popcorn. Alone they are usually sufficient to mute the crosstalk. For the worst cases, use in conjunction with a little tape tent on the bottom head.
CHECK OUT THE TECHNIQUE IN THE VIDEO BELOW
MAKING 8" TOMS SOUND GREAT
Hello everyone. Here's a tip for making 8" toms rock. While I am an aficionado of using a fourth interval from top head (tonic) to bottom head( perfect 4th above) this tuning can make an 8" Tom sound a bit bongo like at higher tensions. To avoid this, I tend to tune 8" Toms to a minor 3rd interval from top head (tonic) to bottom head (minor 3rd above). Not only does this warm up the sound of the drum, but it adds a natural bend down in pitch. A drop if you will. It adds an ingratiating leading quality to the start of a big tom fill. This interval also well on floor toms when you want a little bit of a bend, but do not want to sacrifice the quality of the sound hitting the mic.
I hope you have found Part 1 of this drum tuning/tech blog helpful. Please check out Part 2.
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Kenny "Dexter" Sharretts