Updated: Dec 9, 2022
"GETTING BALANCED BEFORE YOU LOSE YOUR HEAD"
When changing a head, I find it very useful to first retune, and rebalance the drum BEFORE YOU TAKE OFF THE HEAD TO BE REPLACED! A drum is a tensioned instrument, therefore bottom head tension affects top head tension and vice versa. They both affect the shell. If the drum is balanced when you remove the one head, minor imperfections in pitch from lug to lug become much more obvious and easy to fix. Furthermore, the shell is balanced to the "regular" tension of the bottom head therefore making tuning back up to "how you like it" a much easier and quicker task.
LEARN SOME GREAT TIPS FOR TUNING, AND CHANGING A DRUM HEAD PROPERLY
IN THE VIDEO BELOW.
"TUNING YOUR SNARE IN THE STUDIO" AKA "DID THE DRUMMER REALLY ASK WHAT KEY THE SONG IS IN?"
Want to have your snare sit perfectly into the fabric of a song? Try tuning the top head of your snare to the key of the song. This is a common practice in the "big boy" recording studios. I tend to tune snare drums pretty low in the studio to maximize the "balls" of the snare sound. Surprisingly there is a lot of crack down low if your playing can handle a lower tension. Also, it's easier to accentuate crack via EQ than it is to EQ some whump where there is no whump. Low tension snares tuned to the key of the song are a perfect opportunity to tune the snare's bottom head up to a perfect fourth. Adds a little crack to the whump of a low tensioned drum. If your floor tom is tuned to the key of the song, however, I recommend tuning your next highest tom to the 5th above the tonic. Then you can fit the snare between the 1 and the 5 by tuning it to the 3rd of the key. This helps minimize snare buzz due to interaction with the toms.
"YOU GOT A HOLE IN YOUR HEAD"
Holes in bass drum heads are like colonoscopy at 50. A necessary evil (at least in a live setting). Most sound engineers at a club level do not have the luxury of being able to isolate the kick drum sound, and maximize click AND thump without a hole. Since the big dogs usually use 2 microphones for the kick (usually a SM91 inside the drum, and an SM 51/ D112/etc. in the hole), the hole becomes mandatory unless you mount the microphones inside the kick. So where to put the hole? How big should it be? As far as size goes, 4-7 inches across is all you need. Any more, and the tone of the head significantly suffers. More head, more tone. Any smaller, and you can't position the BD mic very easily. As far as where to put the hole, a lot of cats put the hole in the lower left or right hand corners of the drum. This is a useful technique if you want a lot of rich overtones in your kick sound This is the method we used on Rihanna, and that we currently use with Train.
Sometimes, however, I need a tighter, punchier kick with controlled, but voluminous bottom-end. I achieve this by cutting the hole DEAD CENTER of the bass drum head. Think about it like dropping a pebble in a pond. The circles of sound go outward from the center of the head. By cutting the hole dead center, you maintain the continuity of the circular sound waves. Plus a lot of the air from the beater strike shoots straight out of the center. This tends to tighten the sound of the kick without sacrificing bottom end. I began using the "center hole" technique with Kenny Aronoff on a Melissa Etheridge tour. The FOH mixer said the difference was night and day in terms of punch, bottom end, and control.
BTW, the product I recommend for cutting the hole is the Bass Drum O's Hole Cutter for Bass Drumheads. You can get one of these awesome Hole Cutters at Sweetwater via this link. Bass Drum O's Hole Cutter for Bass Drumheads
While the Hole Cutter tool works flawlessly with its companion "Bass Drum O's Port Hole Ring" it can be challenging to use when installing a Remo DynamO hole templates as they have a 5.5" opening for the port. For the Remo DynamO I recommend using an exacto knife for the cleanest results. (although it's still possible to tear the head this way EVEN WITH the DynamO on the bass drum head so PLEASE be careful not to cut the head OR yourself).
For those who choose the Hole Cutter method I will say that not only does the tool give you an easy, almost fool-proof guide for cutting a clean hole, but it gives you the best odds for NOT tearing the head while cutting the hole. While some drummers prefer no reinforcement around their bass drum port, I highly recommend using any of the three options I mentioned as they protect the head from being torn by a random sound engineer at a gig shoving a mic into the port. In addition a re-inforcement ring adds a bit of control to the resonance of the resonant head on the bass drum, which in turn greatly reduces the amount of muffling needed (so you get a bigger sound). It helps you avoid having to use a giant pillow, or the tone robbing felt strip many people use. Again I will restate that "The Hole Cutter" is an outstanding tool for the hole cutting procedure. (Hence the name, LOL!)
Bass Drum O's Port Hole Ring 4" Black
Bass Drum O's Port Hole Ring - 5" - White
Bass Drum O's Port Hole Ring - 6" - Chrome
Remo DynamO Port Hole Insert - 5.5 inch - Black
Remo DynamO Port Hole Insert - 5.5 inch - White
LEARN HOW TO CUT A HOLE IN YOUR BASS DRUM RESO HEAD IN THE VIDEO BELOW.
Finally, I highly recommend using a protective disc/patch where your beater hits the BD head. I know some people complain about how it affects the tone, but they really do protect the head from breaking due to friction. They also help focus the attack to your kick sound, and in some cases add the "click" you need for a truly well rounded kick sound. Remo falam slams, and the Evans are great for adding punch for rock and funk drumming, but are a little heavy for some cats. Remo also have the Impact patch which is thinner than the falam slam, and Evans makes several different thinner, and less intrusive kick patches that I absolutely love. Here's a list of the bass drum patches I recommend for protecting your drum head without heavily affecting it's sound.
Evans PB1 Single Bass Drum Patch (Pair) - Black Nylon
Evans PB2 Double Bass Drum Patch (pair) - Black Nylon
Evans PC2 Double Bass Drum Patch (pair) - Clear Plastic
and for those who DO want a heavier patch:
Evans Aramid Fiber Bass Drum Patch 2-pack
Remo Falam Slam Impact Patches - 4 inch Patches, 2-pack Black
Remo Falam Slam Pad - 2 1/2" Single Kick (2 pack)
For step by step drum tuning videos stream lessons here at kennysharretts.com ,
and for more drum tuning/tech videos subscribe to my YouTube Channel
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Kenny "Dexter" Sharretts