When you buy a drum set or an individual drum, they rarely come tuned. Now that we spend more time shopping online than visiting physical stores, this is increasingly the case.
Searching online to answer "how do I tune a drum set" yields pages of results, which can be pretty intimidating. Fortunately, tools and simple procedures can help simplify this common headache.
The reality is that tuning a drum kit can be a challenging thing to do. The people that do it well usually have accrued years of experience through trial and error and have learned a lot about the nuances of drums and pitch along the way.
This article is not intended to be a comprehensive tuning guide, and there is a reason there are books and videos on this subject - it can be pretty complex. However, we will give you one of our best tips to help you tune quickly, consistently, and, hopefully, frustration-free. Stay tuned. No pun intended.
One of the best DVDs on this topic is by renowned drum writer Bob Gatzen. The challenge of tuning is so old, you can still find copies on old VHS tape. In "Drum Tuning, Sound and Design Simplified," Mr. Gatzen gets stuck into the nuts and bolts (literally) of tuning snare drums, toms, and bass drums. This DVD was introduced before the various tuning tools available to us now and was a worldwide bestseller.
It's still a great DVD if you want to dive deep and truly understand the nuances of tuning, but for beginner drummers, who want more of a quick fix than a sound engineering lecture, some great gadgets can get the job done with minimal fuss.
Over the years, some pretty cool innovations in drum tuning have taken the frustration out of the process. The best device we have seen for tuning drums is the DrumDial. This device works so well that we are always confident when recommending it to our subscribers.
The DrumDial attains balanced tuning on the drums by measuring the tympanic pressure of the drum head. A video on their website shows you how to do this, but in a nutshell, you place the device a little away from each tension bolt to achieve a certain number on the display face.
Like any tool, using a DrumDial effectively will take time to master, but you can achieve consistent and quick tuning once you have done so. We might want to make some minor tweaks, but for the most part, it is usually very consistent.
It is important to remember that drum tuning is highly subjective, and experienced drummers will tell you that the drum head type, the depth and diameter of the drum, and the drum shell construction all make a difference. This is all true, but we have found the DrumDial to be very accurate regardless of these variables.
You can buy your DrumDial here. As an affiliate of Amazon.com, we may receive a commission if you purchase directly from this link.
Before you turn your attention to tuning, you should follow some fundamentals. Seating the drum head over the bearing edge and point-to-point tightening of the tension bolts using your fingers first and a drum key later is an essential first step. All of this is discussed in our free course preview video on drum set assembly, along with a demonstration of the desired pitch between each drum.