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Old 04-16-2012, 04:24 PM   #1
Tmusician
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How to Tune Toms

In my opinion, my drums sound amazing! Except for the toms... I'm pretty sure I'm tuning them horribly, I just don't know what I'm doing!

Snare is tuned really tight, bass drum is tuned really loose, but then the toms I just can't get them to sound good no matter what. How do you tune these things? haha
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Old 04-16-2012, 05:51 PM   #2
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Well generally people make sure they've got equal tension all the way around the skin.
Don't just work your way clockwise around the lugs, tune one, and then the opposite one:



As shown here: A; B; C; D; E and then F.

This site might help you: http://www.tunadrum.com/
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Old 04-16-2012, 05:57 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by whoomit
Well generally people make sure they've got equal tension all the way around the skin.
Don't just work your way clockwise around the lugs, tune one, and then the opposite one:



As shown here: A; B; C; D; E and then F.

This site might help you: http://www.tunadrum.com/


Thanks whoomit, the across and over tuning method does seem to be a generally accepted idea, does anyone know why? Just curious.

Also my issue is that the toms sound kind of flat or boxy, like hitting cardboard or something. Do you know what I am doing wrong?
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Old 04-16-2012, 06:13 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tmusician
Thanks whoomit, the across and over tuning method does seem to be a generally accepted idea, does anyone know why? Just curious.

Also my issue is that the toms sound kind of flat or boxy, like hitting cardboard or something. Do you know what I am doing wrong?

I honestly can't remember why. I think it's because when you tune the opposite one, it also puts tension on all the ones in between. Really not sure about that though

Maybe it's your resonant head? You might want to play about with that?
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Old 04-16-2012, 08:19 PM   #5
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This.

He has a short series with some really helpful tips and tricks for tuning drums.
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Old 04-16-2012, 09:05 PM   #6
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Depending on how much you're willing to spend, I'm a pretty awful drummer but as an audio engineer (when I can find the work!) it's pretty important to be able to tune drums quickly and well so I use a Drum Dial to get to the right ballpark for my favoured tensions and then tweak it by ear if needed. Tama also do something similar, called the Tension Watch, though I've no idea if it's as good (or better) as I've stuck with my trusty Drum Dial

As a tip, if you want 'epic' boomy toms a la Iron Maiden you want a fairly tight batter head and a looser resonant head to give an ear-pleasing pitch bend to the sustain. If you want something that just sounds deep but with a strong attack, try a looser batter head and a tighter resonant head (similar to when tuning the kick drum).

You also want to avoid having the batter and resonant heads at similar tensions as this will encourage sympathetic resonance and leave your toms ringing out for eternity (not really, but longer thank you'd want ). If you still get unwanted ringing/boom try a damping ring, or (something I highly recommend every drummer has, as engineers will love you) get some Moon Gel (made by ROTM). It's cheap,easily- removeable and very effective!
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Old 04-17-2012, 03:06 AM   #7
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Take the bottom head off, loosen the top lugs, tighten them until they are finger tight.
Turn each lug 1/4 turn at a time until the head starts to sound resonant rather than flappy, tighten another 1/8 turn and leave it there for now and make sure all lugs are near enough at the same pitch.
Do the same to the reso head.
Now it's a matter of tuning both heads to your liking but tightening too much will choke them and shorten the sound, use dampening if you want to get a faster sound.
Try different combinations of top head tighter, reso looser, both same tension etc, it will change how the drums sounds quite radically.
Don't worry about boomy sounding toms, if you're playing live the audience will not hear it with a band playing as well, too much dampening and the drums will sound like cardboard boxes.
Don't fprget, you cannot force a drum to sound how you want it, it's a matter of trying to get the best sound possible from a drum.
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Old 04-17-2012, 03:10 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DisarmGoliath
Depending on how much you're willing to spend, I'm a pretty awful drummer but as an audio engineer (when I can find the work!) it's pretty important to be able to tune drums quickly and well so I use a Drum Dial to get to the right ballpark for my favoured tensions and then tweak it by ear if needed. Tama also do something similar, called the Tension Watch, though I've no idea if it's as good (or better) as I've stuck with my trusty Drum Dial

As a tip, if you want 'epic' boomy toms a la Iron Maiden you want a fairly tight batter head and a looser resonant head to give an ear-pleasing pitch bend to the sustain. If you want something that just sounds deep but with a strong attack, try a looser batter head and a tighter resonant head (similar to when tuning the kick drum).

You also want to avoid having the batter and resonant heads at similar tensions as this will encourage sympathetic resonance and leave your toms ringing out for eternity (not really, but longer thank you'd want ). If you still get unwanted ringing/boom try a damping ring, or (something I highly recommend every drummer has, as engineers will love you) get some Moon Gel (made by ROTM). It's cheap,easily- removeable and very effective!


Thanks, I'm looking at that drum dial and it seems great. Lots of good reviews (although there's always the occasional bad one). $60 seems steep though, I'll probably have to wait until I can find a coupon or something XD
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Old 04-18-2012, 02:28 AM   #9
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Drum dials are ok if you want to quickly get a drum to a tuning area you've already been to, spending a couple of hours messing with tuning is far better and cheaper IMO ;0)
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Old 04-18-2012, 09:13 AM   #10
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Luckily I have my toms tuned low, low as in finger tight then getting out the creases and a little bit tighter kinda low. So I don't have to do much but I seriously recommend watching Bob Gatzen videos on youtube for tuning tips.
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Old 04-18-2012, 10:25 AM   #11
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^^^^^^^

Those Bob Gatzen clips are indeed the dogs nads, they totally revolutionised how I tune my bass drum and snare.
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Old 04-18-2012, 06:39 PM   #12
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This is how I tune my toms, pretty much exactly.
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Old 04-18-2012, 07:48 PM   #13
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All the posts above = good stuff, especially the Bob Gatzen videos, so consider that a +1.

As a rule of thumb tuning is just getting every part of the head to sound the same as the rest which is pretty easy to do by ear after a while, especially if you have experience with melodic instruments and can recognize pitch well and such things. For me personally, I tune my snare just about as high as it'll go, bass drum medium-ish, first tom pretty damn high, second tom medium and floor tom low (but not finger tight, a bit more than that).
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Old 04-19-2012, 06:04 AM   #14
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In answer to why the "across and over" technique is used when tuning drums, it has to do with keeping an even tension across the head, which helps prevent any damage. It just evens out the pressure on the shell and head.

+1 for Bob Gatzen, too. And +1 for TuneDrum. Check out the intervals section.

There's not much more to add it seems, but I will say that it's important that the toms fit in with the kick and snare. Which might be why they sound off. If the kick is tuned very low and the snare very high, it leaves a lot of room in the middle for the toms.

If the toms are all quite low, then the snare is going to sound even higher in relation to the rest of the drums and if they're too high, they'll make the kick sound much too low. So aim for a range where the toms complement the snare and kick.

I agree with spending a lot of time tuning them. I initially tried to aim for certain pitches, but ultimately I settled for what sounded good to me.
As mentioned, a tension dial is good, but I see it more as a tool for quickly tuning back to a desired tension. Or for ensureing even tension across the head.

Try out different ways off tuning the batter and reso, too. Don't worry about pitches for now; use your ears instead.

I also recommend the Drum Tuning Bible. Google will give you a couple of links to the PDF.
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Old 04-19-2012, 03:47 PM   #15
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Thanks guys, I've read the TuneaDrum site and watched the Bob Gatzen and Jared Falk videos. I don't think I'm going to get a DrumDial anymore, it's good to learn this skill.

I think the trick was hitting close to each tension rod and making the opposite ends sound the same. It was very cool because when I did that I immediately noticed a huge change in the sound! More resonance definitely. Although I don't know if I can do that with the bass drum...
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Old 04-19-2012, 04:19 PM   #16
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Bass drums are the easiest mate, with the bd head slack press your hand in the middle of it so it goes down maybe an inch or so, tune each rod until the wrinkles just disappear. The head is just about resonant now (sounds like a drum rather than a slack bit of plastic). Now give each rod about 1/4 or 1/2 turn each and then go round making sure they are at the same pitch. Do the same for the reso/front head but do those an extra 1/2 turn tighter so the front head will have a slightly higher pitch which will help with getting a nice rounded sound.
Believe me mate, it works on every bass drum I have, instant success and it doesn't take long at all. Dampen to taste but I dampen as little as possible, you wouldn't put a tea towel over a guitar pickup would you so I never put pillows etc inside my bass drum, maybe an= small Evans EQ pillow if I'm micing up to help control boom.
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