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  1. Export User

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    Arrow Drum Tuning - Notes, Pitches, Intervals

    Hi all,

    Recently I've been wanting to learn more about notes and other music theory. But seeing as I don't play guitar or something similar, I wanted to apply it to my drum kit. There is knowledge around there about the subject, tuning drums to notes in scales, but it's very little and really scattered.

    So what I want to do, and I need your help on this, is to make this a sticky with all the information we need about drum tuning to pitch. Discussions, techniques, tips, everything.

    I'm going to start of with the information I found so far and my own 'research' data, so here we go!


    - Theory

    For those unfamiliar with notes, here's wikipedia excerpt:

    Quote Originally Posted by Note - Wikipedia
    The term note has two primary meanings: 1) a sign used in music to represent the relative duration and pitch of a sound; and 2) a pitched sound itself. Notes are the "atoms" of much Western music: discretizations of musical phenomena that facilitate performance, comprehension, and analysis (Nattiez 1990, p.81n9).

    The term "note" can be used in both generic and specific senses: one might say either "the piece Happy Birthday to You begins with two notes having the same pitch," or "the piece begins with two repetitions of the same note." In the former case, one uses "note" to refer to a specific musical event; in the latter, one uses the term to refer to a class of events sharing the same pitch.
    On the page is also a note table, might be useful since we use different names in different regions.

    Source: Note - Wikipedia


    Another helpful page is to be found in the drum tuning bible, it discusses what pitches different size drums "like":

    Quote Originally Posted by Drum Tuning Bible
    For example, I know my drums will sound best tuned as follows:

    10x 9 tom: D sharp
    12 x 10 tom: A sharp
    14 x 12 floor: F
    16 x 14 floor: C

    22 x 16 kick: Batter F (octave lower than floor); Resonant E

    Main snare 14 x 6 YAMAHA Anton Fig: G above the 10 x 9 D#, both heads the same
    There's also more concepts and ideas to be found on that page.

    Source: Drum Tuning Bible - Tuning To Musical Notes


    - Forum posts

    The posts that really got me interested in this subject, and which were the most help to me are to be found in 2 topics:

    Veggy's Review!
    Tom Tuning By Tapping The Head - What Pitch?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tuning Tests, 10" Tom, Tuned To A D
    The measurements:
    Pitch of batter tapped / Pitch of reso tapped / pitch of drum when hit:

    E / E / F - very difficult to hear pitch when hit
    F / F / G
    G / G / B
    A / A / C
    H / H / D
    C / C / D+
    D / D / F
    E / E / F+
    F / F / D - drum got choked here.

    As you can see I tuned the two heads to exactly the same pitch at each stage. The difference between the pitch of the tapping and hitting sounds is pretty much consistent!
    - My Own Results

    I went out and bought a Chromatic Tuner (Boss TU-80) which helps me recognize the pitch the drumhead produces. I tap near the lugs till I get a reading, it's difficult since a drum is not a plucked instrument but with some patience it's do-able.

    My snare is tuned:

    Resonant: A
    Batter: E

    So it's a fourth apart which gives me a nice pop and snare response.

    My toms are tuned:

    10" - D

    Res: B
    Bat: B

    12" - B

    Res: G
    Bat: G

    14" - G

    Res: E
    Bat: E

    As you can see, my heads are tuned equal and 2 steps below the note I want it to produce. This has worked for me. Still need to tweak the 14" though because it produces more overtones then the rest of the toms do at the moment.


    I hope that this was useful to you, I hope you guys can help me out, I hope a mod will make this into a resourceful sticky, let's get tuning
    .: My Latest Drum Setup :.
    .: Pearl Export Fusion 2005 :.


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  2. Registered User

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    thats actually very interesting, but i dont think i could ever have the patience to tune my drums to exact notes. I just sorta find a pleasing sound and roll with it

  3. I'm not Lebowski; I'm the dude

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    Quote Originally Posted by Burn
    ...I just sorta find a pleasing sound and roll with it
    Tuning to notes is nice if you want to CONSISTENTLY recreate YOUR "pleasing sound" time after time, without having to start from scratch each time you change your heads.

    When you get your kit tuned up, simply figure out which pitch each drum is tuned to and then write that info down for future use.
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  4. Proud Pearl User

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    wow, that's impressive, have some rep!
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  5. Hi There

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    interesting but im also too impatient to tune them to an exact note, i usually just tune to where it sounds good and even out everything accordingly with regards to the rest of my drums.

  6. Formerly: hoffy22

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    Thats awesome!



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  7. Registered User

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    Don't forget that a drum is round and a note is linear. It's impossible to tune a drum exactly to a note. You can get some of the overtones close, but after you hit a drum 10 times the head will stretch and you'll be flat. I tune my largest tom to it's fundemental note, then good sounding intervals up from there.
    Move to the beat of a different drummer.

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  8. I'm not Lebowski; I'm the dude

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    Quote Originally Posted by funk_drum
    Don't forget that a drum is round and a note is linear. It's impossible to tune a drum exactly to a note.
    True dat, unless of course, we're talking about concert toms or timpanis! At any rate, EVERY drum has an approximate pitch, regardless if the drummer intended on tuning it that way or not. Hit any properly tuned drum. Assuming the heads are good and the drum is true, there will definitely be a dominant pitch, not just a bunch of muddy frequencies flying all over the place.

    Quote Originally Posted by funk_drum
    You can get some of the overtones close, but after you hit a drum 10 times the head will stretch and you'll be flat...
    Actually, I'm amazed how long my Tama Artstars and Pearl Refs stay in tune, even after a gig. I currently have my Tamas in my basement for practice and usually only have to tweak one or two toms about once a week. I went to tune my Refs for a gig a few weeks ago (the last time I used them on a gig was around six weeks before that) and the ONLY drum I had to tune was my snare. It was a pleasant surprise to be able to go through my entire kit (in and out of their cases) in less than fifteen minutes.

    Good shells? Good heads? Lugs? Who knows...
    Last edited by veggyboy; 12-28-2007 at 03:14 PM.
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  9. Recording fanatic

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    I do sometimes tune my drum that way. It really helps to get more harmonies in the song.

    Takes a lot of time though.

    uncle Sam



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  10. Export User

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    Quote Originally Posted by veggyboy
    Tuning to notes is nice if you want to CONSISTENTLY recreate YOUR "pleasing sound" time after time, without having to start from scratch each time you change your heads.

    When you get your kit tuned up, simply figure out which pitch each drum is tuned to and then write that info down for future use.
    That's the exact reason why I started tuning to notes, I now exactly to what tension I should tune and get the same results every time.

    Even if you just tune your drums to sound to "your liking", it will probably be near a note which you can later use to reproduce the sound you like.

    About the stretching of the heads and the none linear capabilities of a drum, I find that the head stays in tune quite long. Even on my Pearl Export. And you can definitely tune your overtones (near the lug) to a specific pitch.
    .: My Latest Drum Setup :.
    .: Pearl Export Fusion 2005 :.


    Evans EC 1 ::: Pearl Export ::: Pro Mark TX747N ::: Sabian AA & AAX ::: Tama Iron Cobra


  11. Registered User

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    It's commonly said that the ideal interval between toms should be a P4 (ie C-F), as this eliminates potential interference between drums. Special consideration is given to the interval between snare and relative toms, as a certain tom that causes a loud buzz from the snare can be quite annoying.

    Another reason why the P4 is ideal is because it is the strongest proggresion in music. It is what we call the circle of fiths..I-IV-vii*-ii-vi-iii-V-I. In other words, our ears enjoy hearing one going to the other very much. There is a reason why 90% of mainstream songs end V-I

    I keep this in mind when tune drum to drum, however, I don't pay too much attention between reso and batter absolute pitch. I find a general looser or tigher approach is sufficient.

    And if you have any theory questions, feel free to PM me. I was unfortunate enough to be a music major, haha.
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  12. Registered User

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    I would advice you to get the DVD from Bob Gatzen as it explains well what sound you will get with what scales on the toms.
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