How to Tune Drums for Rock Music

How to Tune Drums for Rock

Learning how to tune and adjust your drums is a must if you want to get the maximum life and sound from the drum heads. If you don’t tune your drum kit, it can sound out of pitch and muddy. Additionally, if you fail to tune them you’ll also find that they’re more susceptible to damage, so you’ll have to purchase new drum heads more frequently than necessary. How to tune drums for rock isn’t that complicated, but if you’re a beginner, or you don’t have much experience tuning drums, it can be a complex process. Aside from that, many drummers have found that tuning drums are often based on personal preference, so you’ll need to experiment a little to get the right pitch for your playing style.

Drum Tuning for Dummies

We’re going to begin with an empty shell. Keep a microfiber cloth around so you can wipe down the drum head and drum rim. Any dust or dirt that remains on the shell can cause the skin to warp, which results in an uneven sound. It can also damage the drum shell itself. After the drums have been cleaned you’ll be ready to install a new drum head.

The drum head should be placed on the shell. Before you do anything, you’ll need to make sure the size of the head is compatible with the shell. The head should easily fit over the top and shouldn’t have a baggy fit around the shell.

Next, wipe the drum’s rim down, placing it on the skin along the right holes. All of the lugs should be tightened by hand. Once the rim is tightened, you’ll need to stretch the head. This is an important step that most drummers fail to follow. To do, begin by making a fist, pressing down on the middle of the skin. This helps set and stretch the skin so it won’t easily go out of tune. If you hear the skin starting to crack don’t be alarmed, this is totally normal. Once the drum head has been stretched be sure to go over all of the lugs again and ensure that they’re tight.

The Tuning Begins

Now it’s time to tune your drums for rock using the drum key. When you tune the lugs on drums it’s similar to tightening bolts on a tire. You want to move back and forth across them, instead of going around them in a circle. Choose the lug you want to start with, turning it a couple of times. Make sure you use the same amount of turns for each lug in order to keep the skin uniform. Continue to tune all of the opposite lugs until they’re nice and snug.

Once this step is complete it’s now time to actually tune the drum. Take a drumstick and tap two inches from a lug on the drum skin. Most drummers recommend tuning drums low for rock. If it’s the sound you’re after you’ll use that particular lug as your guide. Again, you’ll want to tune the drums by tapping opposites, ensuring that you’re tapping the same distances. Be sure that each lug has the same sound, especially in the front or the whole drum will sound off.

Now, all that’s left to do is find the best sound for you and the specific music you’re playing.

Batter Head Tuning

Batter Head Tuning

When it comes to tuning the batter skin, it’s the same as tuning the resonant skin. In order to get a better rock sound, we recommend trying to tune the resonant skin a few tones lower than the batter skin. You can use this method whether it’s a tom, snare, or bass drum.

Getting the Right Sound

There are several types of drum heads to choose from depending on your drumming style. There are several heads for rock, jazz, and even country drumming. The next time you’re at your local music store be sure to take the time to try out different drum head types if you feel that you need an upgrade.

Tuning Range

While there really aren’t many rules when it comes to tuning drums, there are some norms. Generally speaking, rock is usually tuned in the lower ranges. There’s often some pitch bend that you can get down low.

Each drum has a certain range where it can be tuned, such as how high and how low. This is usually related to drum quality. If you’re spending around three hundred dollars on a set, don’t expect to have a lot of tuning range to work with.

However, if you own a lower priced set, don’t give up hope. Even today’s cheap drums will still offer an adequate tuning range. If you’ve followed the steps above and have done a little experimenting, then your drums should now have the sound you’ve been looking for.

Next, you’ll need to tune the drums to each other. When you begin, start by tuning each drum to the same area of the tuning range. If you own the standard twelve, thirteen, and sixteen-inch toms that come in most drum kits, then you’ll probably notice a huge difference between the middle and floor tom, compared to the differences between the two mounted toms. If the middle tom produces a nice tone, simply take the low and high toms up a little. This puts the high tom farther from the middle and the low tom closer to the middle.

Final Thoughts on Tuning Drums

While you’re tuning your drums, never forget to adjust the bottom of the head along with the top. The bottom head can be used to change the drum’s pitch slightly and without losing resonance. This can be the most frustrating part of the tuning process. Just be sure to practice and experiment with different tunings. If you feel that you’ve completely ruined the sound of the drum, don’t be afraid to go back to the beginning, starting by loosening the heads. Just like with drumming, you’ll get better with how to tune drums for rock with plenty of practice.


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