Buying the right drum kit is just the start of your drumming adventure. If you are going to sound your best, you will need to learn how to properly tune your instrument. Fortunately, with the right tuning technique, you’ll sound like an experienced drummer from the very first day you start playing. Although it may take some practice to figure out what you prefer for your drums or for a particular style of music, it won’t be long until you find your sweet spot!
Before you begin playing your drum kit, you will want to purchase a ratchet drum key. This is an essential tool for beginners and will help protect your new investment by preventing any damage or over-tightening during the tuning process.
Once you’re equipped with your ratchet drum key, you’re ready to get started. Follow these five simple steps for tuning success.
Step 1 – Tune the Top Snare Drum Head
Begin by tuning the snares with your drum key. Tighten one of the tension rods until you feel some resistance. Now move to the rod directly opposite on the drum head. Work your way around the drum in a clockwise direction, turning the rod across from the one you previously tightened just one full turn. Once you have circled the entire drum head, you will need to repeat the process a couple more times.
To test the head, give it a tap and listen for an even musical tone. Check that there are no wrinkles in the head and that there is equal spacing around it.
Step 2 – Tune the Bottom Snare Drum Head
Next, flip over the drum and repeat the process on the bottom head until the pitch sounds very close to the pitch from the top head. As your drum practice develops, you will find that you either prefer the bottom head to be a little higher or lower in pitch than the top head.
Step 3 – Listen for the Perfect Pitch
Now you will need to ensure that the snare drum plays a high musical pitch by using your stick to tap approximately two inches from each lug into the head. You can tighten or loosen each rod to fine-tune any elements until the drum sounds just right.
Step 4 – Repeat the Process
Once the snare drum has been tuned, apply steps 1 through 3 to each bass and tom drum using the snare tone as the ceiling. This simply means that the other drums should be lower in tone than the snare drum. Try to achieve a clear and even tone that has been tuned neither too tight nor too loose, so that when you hit the center of the drum you hear your desired sweet spot.
Step 5 – Fine Tune the Entire Kit
Now that you have carefully tuned each piece in the kit, it’s time to fine-tune your drum set as a whole. Just remember that the snare drum should ideally have a high tone, and the toms should produce a punchy, low-pitched thump.
And with that, you’re finally ready to play! The more you practice, the more familiar you will become with your drums and the art of tuning your set. But don’t forget that while practice is an integral part of your drumming success, so is the maintenance of your instruments. By tuning your drum kit correctly and consistently, your drums will sound better, and your skills will be enhanced.
With these five simple steps, there’s no excuse not to have perfectly tuned drums for every practice!