Drum Tuning +

In this article I would like to talk to you about different types of equipment you can get to aid drum tuning. Talk a little about External Dampeners and share a few little tips Ive picked up along the way.

Drum Keys.

Ill start with the topic of Drum Keys. There are lots of different types out there to help AID drum tuning. There are NONE out there that will do the job for you. You will always have to put in the hard work and time to actually learn how to tune your drums properly. That been said they can and will help speed up the process. The main 2 types im going to look at here are the “Drill Bit Drum Key” and the “Evans Torque Key”

The drill bit drum key is as plain as it sounds it’s a drum key that will fit onto any electric drill or screw driver. The main focus behind this is speed. Its main application will be for use in on stage situation were you need that head of and on quickly. Now the obvious problem with this comes in over tightening leading to warping of the drum and or skin. They are handy to have but I would suggest getting an electric screw driver with a slow speed on it so you can practice with that first.

The Evans Torque Key is a great tool for getting a very basic tune on the drums. Its possible to pick these up for around £25 and basically they are a Torque Wrench. The idea being you set the desired tension on the rod and the drum key will disengage when the desired tension is reached. With the idea being that all the rods will receive the same tension as such the same pitch. But this is not the case as there are lots of variables that can affect the tension on the rods. Like Lube and Tom Mounts. So it’s a great tool for getting that base tune down. And great for a quick on stage tune. But to get the best out of the drums you will still have to fine tune the drums themselves.

The Twiddle bit Drum Key Now im sure that isn’t its technical name. Basically this key has a rotating bit allowing you to unscrew and screw the tension rods faster. Try and get 1 with a magnetic end as it aids speed.

The Drum Dial, like the torque key measures the tension on the Drum Skin at different points. As above it’s a great tool to have as it does help speed up the process but once again you will still need to fine tune the drum and they are expensive.

External Dampening.

There are lots of situations where dampening is needed to get the best possible pure sound out of the instrument. We use dampening mainly to reduce or eliminate unwanted rings and overtones. Not all of these can be eliminated by tuning. In most cases you wouldn’t want to eliminate them as they add to your live sound and presence. But in the recording studio it’s a totally different concept and the total best sound is needed. So now im going to talk a little bit about external dampening. These are things we add to the drum that otherwise wouldn’t normally be there.

MoonGel (and my preferred choice) is a rubber like substance that basically reduces overtones and the high pitches of the drum. The reason I like it so much is first of all the cost. It’s very cheap to purchase and comes in a nice container so can be easily transported in your drum stick bag. The second reason is the ease you can apply it and the quickness of the application (about 6 sec). You get 4 strips in a case so enough for a basic drum set up and all you do is place a single strip near the hope on the skin itself. They stick to the skin with no need for adhesive. Do not mark the skin and are easily removed, basically you just peel them off. (They are washable too). So what’s not to like. I would recommend them to anyone. And for the price I cant see a reason not to give them ago.

O rings. O rings are basically an extra piece of drum head that fits lose over your existing 1. They can be brought as a set or you can make your own by cutting up old used drum heads. They are normally about an inch in thickness and resemble a giant polo. The benefit of these is you can make them yourself and have great dampening properties. Often drummers will have them permanently on the snare drum but they are big and awkward to drag around with you. So great for a static kit not so good for a travelling musician playing other peoples kits. As you might not have the right sizes.

Tape. (I hate this stuff with a passion) With all the great stuff around these days I still don’t understand why people plaster this all over there Drum Heads and Kits. Leaving nasty marks, Sticky spots and just a tone of mess. Admittedly if nothing else at all is available it will do you a job if needed in the studio. But there is no need at all to have this stuff on your home kit. Keep well away.

General Tuning Tips

Tom mounting to improve resonance.

This is just a little something to think about. Different angles and the way you mount the tom arms will all affect the resonance of the drum. Have a play to see what sounds best for you.

Tune little and often

When tuning the front head, increase tension in very small increments. Try using a quarter or a half of a turn at a time, no more.

Start at the bottom (head)

If you find the overall pitch too low, go back to the bottom head and take it up another pitch level, return to tuning the top head and it will come back into tune with the bottom after a few turns of the rods.

Re-tighten the rods

Whenever detuning or loosening a rod, always end the movement with a slight re-tightening. This enables the rod to ‘bite’ and hold while getting the others sorted.

Use NO dampening on toms

If your drums are well tuned and with the correct head choices, there really should never be a need for additional dampening – especially not in a live playing situation. No Tape, no o-rings and absolutely no pillows, towels or other such stuff.

Keep wires loose

Remember to keep the snare wires moderately loose as a matter of course. Not rattly, but not too tight.

About ajbennettdrums

I have been playing drums for over 20 years now and currently have over 9 years of teaching experience. I am comfortable playing all styles and am a proficient sight reader of music. I started playing drums at the tender age of 7 and I vividly remember exactly what it was that got me into drumming. One Sunday afternoon I was watching a documentary on classic 80’s bands, equipped with huge Drum Kits taking up most of the stage. I then proceeded to empty out a tonne of boxes in my room, cut holes in them and sticky-tape bits together to create my first drum kit (using pencils as sticks). At that point, my dad thought it would be a good idea to send me off for Drum Lessons and from that moment on I have never looked back.

Posted on April 17, 2012, in Drumming Bits and Bobs., My Tuning Advice and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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