Now that your kit is assembled, it's time to
make it sound like a drum kit instead of...well,
instead of how it sounds. While there are
many techniques to achieve different types of
sound and tone, virtually all of the pro's agree
that you must have even head tension to
eliminate unwanted ring and overtones. In
other words, the tension should be the same
at each tuning lug. Sound easy? Well, due to
modern manufacturing techniques and better
heads, it is easier than it was a few years ago.
However, it still requires some practice to
develop your touch and ear.
Let us begin...
In the previous tech tip, we mentioned putting
a pillow into the bass drum as a way to help
with the overtones and tuning of the drum.
While its possible to achieve a good punch
without it, most folks (at least other band
members and recording engineers) prefer to
have a solid "thud" sound with a slight over
ring. Whether you choose to use a pillow or
not, the tuning procedure is still the same.
Start by tightening the lugs until they are all
finger tight. You will notice wrinkles in the
head around the edges. Choose any tuning lug
and tighten it 1/2 turn. Then, go directly across
the head and do the same with that lug.
Continue in this fashion around the drum until
the wrinkles are gone and you hear a tone
when you tap on the head. Once you begin
fine-tuning, you will want to turn the lug no
more than 1/4 turn. When tuned properly, you
should hear the same pitch when you tap on
the head in front of each lug. (Approximately
1" in from the rim.) Different shells sound
different depending on how high or low they are
tuned, so experiment with the tuning.
Because there are so many different types of
materials used to construct snare drums,
including wood, steel, copper and brass, the
snare can be tuned to an amazing number of
tones and textures. Again, experiment with
different tunings to find the tone that works for
I prefer a very tight, fat snare sound. To
achieve this I start with the bottom snare head.
Using the same technique as the bass drum,
make sure the tension is even as you go
around the head. I like to have the bottom
head as tight as possible, which gives the
snare a tight snap when I hit it. Use your own
The top head I tend to keep quite a bit looser,
in order to "fatten" the snare sound. If you still
have too much over ring, a small piece of duct
tape will help to alleviate this. Place it
approximately 1" from the rim of the snare,
directly across from you (this will keep you
from hitting that spot with your sticks).
Even tension on the top and bottom heads is
critical for good tom tone. You may want to
take each drum off the mount to tune the
bottom head (using the same technique as
above). Find a pitch that sounds good to your
ear, and try to tune the drum to that pitch.
Again, there is no right or wrong tuning for your
kit, as long as it sounds good to you. It will
take a while to tune your kit, so don't get
discouraged. The best advice I can give you is
to use small increments when you begin to
fine-tune the drums. 1/4 turns are usually more
One last tip. Placing the drum flat on a
carpeted surface can also help when you are
just learning to tune the drum. This dampens
the other head, letting you hear just the head
you are tuning.
Good luck friends, and Happy tuning!