If you’ve been playing the drums for a significant amount of time, you may have had to tune your drum, or replace your heads. You may have also realized that you can’t use any kind of tension on your drums—you have to tune them correctly so they sound the best they possibly can. Most people use a tuner to help them adjust their drums.
The question is: are these tuning devices reliable? And if they are, what are the best tuners out there? How can I tune my drum with the aid of a tuner? Our experts at Drum Center of Portsmouth are here to help any skill level of drummer become the best percussionists they can be. Let's start by setting you up with the right tuner.
What’s the answer?
The simple answer is yes: tuning devices are, in general, reliable. However, you should learn the best way to properly tune your drum, and invest in the best quality drum tuner you can. This will ensure that you get that perfect sound every time you play.
Using an aid to help your tuning can also help sharpen your ear. Memorizing exact pitches is a useful tool when you need to tune on the fly. Nothing is truly more reliable than your own ear when you train it often.
So how do you tune your drums, and which tuners are the best on the market? Drum Center of Portsmouth is here to give you some tips.
Why should I tune my drums?
Tuning your drums is important to help you achieve the right tonality for your music. When you know how to tune your drum correctly, you can adjust them according to your genre. If you record in a studio, producers may also ask you to tune your drum a certain way.
Learning to tune your drums can also help you create more depth in your music, depending on the intervals you use to tune your kit. Percussion takes more music theory than meets the eye! This is why it’s important to keep up with the tuning on your drums and honing your tuning skills as much as you can.
How does drum tuning work?
There are many guides online for how to tune your drum set specifically, depending on your brand. However, let's go over the standard steps:
- When you tune your drum, place the tuner somewhere on the rim (depending on what kind of tuner you have.)
- After the tuner reads the pitch of your drum head, you use a drum key to adjust tension rods around the head. Each head on each drum must be in tune.
- Then, the batter (top) and resonant (bottom) sides should be in tune with each other.
- Finally, you should tune each individual drum to the set as a whole.
The batter side and the resonant sides are often tuned to different pitches. This is based on preference, and can be any interval you like. For example, you may tune your batter side to a C and your resonant side to an A, giving the sound of your snare more depth.
The kit as a whole doesn’t have to be exactly the same. It’s best to choose tuning that complements each drum. For example, a snare tuned to a C dominant can complement a kick at an F tonic. In turn, the toms can be tuned to other notes on an F major scale.
Which drum tuner should I buy?
There are many excellent tuners out there on the market. Different percussionists have different preferences for what they need their tuner to accomplish, but most agree that this list comprises some of the best tools out there for any drummer.
1. Tune-Bot Studio Electronic Drum Tuning Device This digital drum tuner is able to clip on to anywhere on your set—you can even keep it on your kit all the time if you want. You can place it anywhere on the rim of your drum, and it will automatically tell you which tension rods you should adjust. It also has space for memory, so you can save specific tunings for quick access to whatever you may need.
2. The DrumDial Precision Drum Tuner (Analog) This tuner is different from most mainstream tuners in that it measures the tension of drum heads, not the tension rod torque. This means that it can more accurately tell the pitch of your drum head. It is also quick to take measurements and easily portable.
3. Tama Tension Watch v2. This tuning device is unique because it has a flat design. This means that you can read the tuning by looking at it overhead, rather than to the side. It’s just like the average tuner, but it pays more attention to ergonomic design.
4. TB001 Overtone Labs Tune-Bot. This is another digital tuner. It automatically tunes your drum, and it shows you the note of the pitch of your drum. This way, you can easily tune other instruments to that pitch as well.
If you invest in a high quality, accurate tuner for any of your instruments, it will be a reliable tool. When you’re learning to tune your drums, you should always use a tuner for the most accurate results. Though many of us can learn by ear, there is never anything wrong with using a reference to help your drumming sound better.
Ultimately, you should be working to be able to tune your drums naturally, by ear. You can become your own tuner with hard work and dedication. Otherwise, a great tuner will help you on your way to making your drums sound great.