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  • A Drum Dealer's Guide -

    A Drum Dealer's Guide to Maintenance, Tuning, and Care for the Drumset

    Since becoming a drum dealer, I've learned quite a lot about the care of a drum set. The objective of this thread is to pass on what I've learned to you guys. Topics covered will include my tricks on tuning, maintenance, and over-all care for your drum gear.

    1. Cleaning the kit- Polishes, Waxes, and the Cleaning Process
    2(a). Snare Drum Tuning Method - Drum Dial
    2(b). Snare Drum Tuning Method Video - Drum Dial
    3(a).Tuning Snare Drums & Toms - Sans DrumDial by TMF
    3(b).Tuning Snare Drums & Toms - Sans DrumDial by TMF
    Last edited by TheAnt; 02-16-2009, 09:02 PM.
    Pearl, the BEST reason to play drums



  • #2
    Cleaning The Kit - Polishes, Waxes, and the Cleaning Process

    So, you want to clean your kit? Make it look great before that next gig? Or is it just collecting dust from being in a room too long? Follow my advice, and your kit will look as good as the day you first opened it from it's box!

    As we know, there are multiple types of finishes- lacquers, wraps, satin stains, metal drums, and acrylic drums. Each has unique qualities that calls for certain cleaning methods and products.

    However, there is a type of polish I must advise you to stay away from. Nitrocellulose Polishes, such as the Gibson Guitar Polish, can ruin a Polyurethane lacquer. It has chemicals that are made for a specific type of finish and can damage the paint. I'd also stay away from soap and water. It can cause mildew and mold and ruin your drums.

    There is one item I'd suggest you get for any drum you plan on cleaning. A 100% cotton cloth. I, personally, use the Guitar Center Guitar Polish Cloth. It doesn't clump dust or leave any kinds of streaks. I'd suggest picking up a couple of these- depending on how dirty your drums are, these can get nasty quick.

    As a preface, when using any of the following methods I take off the hoops, lugs, and any other pieces that may be attached to the shell. In taking off the hardware, it allows you to get the little nooks that you wouldn't be able to reach using just the cloth and your fingers.

    For lacquer finished drums, I use Martin Guitar Polish. The polish is made specifically for polyurethane finished woods. It brings out an extremely rich shine. Just spray this polish on and wipe it off with the cloth. Be sure to give a nice deep wipe down to bring out the shine.

    For wraps and metal drums, I use Trick Drum Polish. They say this polish works well on everything, but I stick to just my hardware, wrapped drums, and metal drums. Spray this polish on, give it a nice deep wipe down until there aren't any streaks.

    For satin finished drums, I use any non-liquefied carnauba wax. Liquid carnauba is used for cars and can damage a satin finish. Be sure to test it in a small place (under the bass drum hoop) to see how it works and how you like it, then rub it in to the rest of the shell and wipe down.

    Along with cleaning the shells, this could also be an opportune time to clean your hardware! Just use the Trick Drum Polish! Spray it on and really wipe the hardware down until there's no more streaks! It'll come out looking good as new!
    Pearl, the BEST reason to play drums




    • #3
      Snare Drum Tuning Method - DrumDial

      This is my personal snare tuning method. I was taught this by my manager. A required tool for this tuning method is a DrumDial. I use this method on every single snare drum in our store and can tune a snare in under five minutes to perfect pitch and sound each time. Even though the method uses the same process on every snare- each snare will sound different.

      The idea of this method is to tune the drum to resonate freely at it's fundamental note. In doing so, you get it to be responsive at any volume and it will sound amazing! I've gone through my department and tuned every snare to the exact same setting. Each snare sounds distinct and different, even ones of the same size.

      In order to figure out the fundamental note of a shell, you must strip all the hardware off the shell. Anything that is not the shell itself must come off. Then, using a chromatic tuner, a good ear, and your finger, tap the shell until the tuner can get a good reading of the note the shell produces. I'd suggest just marking this note down somewhere for reference.

      After, reattach all the hardware.

      Throw the heads on, finger-tighten them, then start tuning. I don't use the exact method you're supposed to when using a DrumDial. I throw the dial in the center of the head and tune up in a star formation until the center of the head reads at about the tension I'm aiming for, then I go and make all my adjustments to the fine details of the tuning.

      A tension of 74 or 75 on the resonant head allows the head to resonate freely and for the fundamental note (or pitch) to be produced.

      A tension of 89.5-90.5 on the batter head is a lot higher than the 74 on the resonant. Reason being, the batter is tuned to feel. Playing the head at this tension feels incredibly smooth. There's no choking of the sound, the head resonates freely.

      This combination of 75/90 on the heads allows the drum to resonate at the fundamental note it's supposed to perform at. You can use this method on every single one of your snares, and they will ALL sound different. I will add, that these just help attain the feel and pitch. Any finer tuning you must do by ear- to get the sound you want to achieve. Don't let the DrumDial be a crutch. Use it as a tool.

      The last note on this method involves the actual snares. Attach them with the snare throw in the ON, but quite loose, position. Get the snares seated as best as you can to being even on each side, you don't want the snares lopsided or too far towards one side. This causes the snares to be less responsive and create a buzz. Once the snares are seated properly, move to tightening. Place the snare on a stand, or if none is available- in-between your legs, and slowly tighten the snares while whacking at the drum. Once you get it to that sweet spot where you can play the drum at any level and still get response from the snare- stop! This is the perfect setting for your snares- responsive, not choked out, and full!

      That's my method. Hope it helps some of you guys.
      Pearl, the BEST reason to play drums




      • #4
        How to tune a snare drum or toms (sans drumdial)

        Here's my contribution as a former drum dealer. This method is the result of my own experience and methods which many different drummers and educators have showed me. This is a great method for getting a clear/clean sound with overtones that are consonant (in harmony with eachother), as opposed to the "ringy" dissonant (opposite of consonant) overtones which we drummers tend to dislike. Because many drummers don't put much emphasis into tuning, the generalization that overtones are bad is pretty widespread, but when they are consonant they are a beautiful thing and your snare will just sing and sound better from an audience point of sound. Overtones are your friend!

        Before you install the heads, check the bearing edges. If there are flaws, it will make tuning difficult and will result in dissonant overtones. If you feel there are very tiny imperfections on the edges that don't require a trip to a local drumbuilder for re-cutting, smear some vaseline (not too much) over the bearing edge. It will fill in any tiny dips and improve the contact between the head and shell. You can even do this on metal snare drums.

        Some drummers seat their heads, others believe it's an obsolete practice ever since the mylar head replaced the calfskin head. I just say do your thing; which ever works best for you. The head will be seated either way once it's tuned up. Never seat a snare side head though! They are simply too thin and you will likely damage it. And if you seat, don't do anything extreme like putting your entire body weight on the head. I have heard of people standing on their bass drum heads to seat them. I'm sure most of you possess the common sense to see how ridiculous that is.

        Now, before you install your heads, there's something you should know about new heads. They don't hold their tune at first. They need some time and wear to settle down and stay put, so give them a couple days before you tackle the text below this point, or you might become quite frustrated. And if you're planning to record in a nice studio soon, take heed to this note. Don't slap fresh heads the day before. Put them on a week in advance... at least! Like high-quality headphones, drumheads need to go through a period of wear before they give their best performance.

        Start with the batter head. Note if you are replacing another head, make sure you clean the debris around the hoop. Most of it will be on your old head (mostly dust and lots of sawdust/woodchips). Back to tuning. Place it on the drum, put the hoop over it and tighten all the tension rods with your fingers (warning: lubricated tension rods can make your fingers greasy by doing this!). I like to do two opposite tension rods at the same time, because if you do this starting on one side of the drum you can prematurely make the head shift to one side. Sometimes heads fit very snug on a shell, but sometimes there is some play (depends on both the drum and the head), and when there is it's important to make sure the head is centered. Once all the tension rods are fingertight, use your drumkey. Don't go around in a circle, but use a star pattern, to make sure the head stays centered. There's a different star pattern for drums with different numbers of lugs:

        For a 6-lug drum tune in this order: 1-2-4-3-5-6
        For an 8-lug drum tune in this order: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8
        For a 10-lug drum tune in this order: 1-2-7-8-3-4-9-10-5-6

        So the first time around after tightening the tension rods with my fingers I usually give each one half a turn in the right order. After that I do quarter turns, checking the pitch each time I apply the same turn to all 6/8/10 tension rods. When you feel you're getting close to the desired pitch, you can even start doing 8th turns. Many will stop here with the batter head and proceed to install the resonant head, but then they will be missing some important fine tuning. Despite your best efforts to apply the exact same amount of turn on each tension rod, the head won't be tuned evenly, because no one is perfect and no one's gear is perfect. There are many variables involved in this, but you don't need to worry about them. First you want to check and see how the head is tuned. Place your left index finger (right if you're a lefty) on the dead center of the head, but don't apply any pressure. Just rest your finger on it. Pressing will bend the head and with it also bend the pitch. But what placing your finger in the center will do is like dividing the head up like a pie into fractions. Use your other hand to tap the head lightly in front of each tension rod with a stick. Don't get too close to the rim because you don't want to tap the head over the bearing edge, just tap right below it about an inch away from the rim. Go around the drum and you will hear that some spots might sound the same or close and there will be one or more which sound quite different from the ones next to them. You want all 6, 8 or 10 spots to sound the same while your finger rests on the center of the head because that will mean the head is tuned evenly, because each piece of the pie will produce the same tone. So fine tune until you achieve this and there you have an evenly tuned batter head at your desired pitch. It's worth mentioning that die cast hoops are far more forgiving/allow more error than 2.3mm or 1.6mm triple-flanged hoops because they are more ridgid as opposed to the more flexible triple-flanged hoops.


        • #5
          How to tune a snare drum or toms (sans drumdial) continued...

          Now to the resonant head. Place the drum on a carpet with the batter head facing down. I will explain why as we go. Start with the same procedure as the batter head; place the hoop over the head and finger tighten each tension rod. Once you start using your drum key and checking the pitch of the resonant head, you don't want the batter head in the equation yet, so placing it on a carpet will muffle it and prevent it from resonating when you tap the resonant head. Now comes the interesting part. With this tuning method you choose the pitch you desire for the batter head, but for clean overtones you cannot also choose just any pitch for the resonant head. The interval (pitch relativity) between both heads is a huge deal regarding the final sound of the drum. They need to compliment eachother for consonant overtones. If they clash and are in conflict, the soundwaves will cross and overlap eachother irregularly, which you will percieve as an obnoxious ringing or even a "boing". If any of you reading this play piano, have music theory knowledge or have a piano at home, we can use it as a comparison. Any 2-headed drum will produce two notes, unless the heads are identical and are tuned to the exact same pitches, which is also an option. If you randomly play diatones on the piano, some will sound pleasant to the ear, others will sound strange or unpleasant. It's the same on your drums. I don't need to use a piano because I have a well trained ear (I've been singing for many years, I take voice lessons, play piano and I'm a music major), as some of you might have. Even if you don't understand the theory, many of you will still be able to tell which notes work well together. The most consonant intervals are unisons (same note) major thirds (5 half steps/keys on the piano), perfect 4ths (6 half steps/keys) and perfect 5ths (8 half steps/keys), while the most dissonant ones will be minor 2nds (one half step/key apart) and major 7ths (also one half step apart). So if you're going for the same pitch on both heads, be exact because being slightly off will not sound good at all, which subsequently means you will tune your drums more often. However if your drums tuned in major 3rds slip down to a minor 3rd, the differce will be far more slight.

          Now you can even go one step further and apply this method of tuning both heads on each drum to consonant intervals to tuning consecutive toms to consonant intervals, so when you hit two toms at the same time, they will compliment eachother. Thus you'll not only have drums in tune with themselves, but also with eachother.

          Now, some important notes. Various tom suspension and holding systems can affect the tuning of your drum. With some you need not worry such as the Yamaha YESS mounts, which are attached to the shell. However take the Pearl I.S.S. system for instance. The entire weight of the drum rests on 2 or 3 claws which hang on to the hoop, which means with all tension rods at the same tension, the hoop will be applying more pressure on one side of the drum than on the other. So you need to compensate for this added variable. There is a simply remedy: Tune the drum while it is mounted after you tune it on the floor. And use your ears. You ears are the number 1 tuning tool, regardless if you use devices such as the drum dial or not. Concentrate and tune in a quiet environment. In the middle of band practice is a good example of when to NOT fine tune your drums.

          Some more notes. All snare wires must be turned off during tuning, even if you are not tuning a snare. When tuning a snare it's best to remove the wires completely. If you're concerned about the wire tension setting, use a marker to mark where the string or strap meets the strainer/butt. When working on a particular drum, do it away from your drumset or other drums, because of sympathetic vibrations. I used to have a drumroom inside my garage, and I would take one drum and leave the room into the garage, which was a very lively room, which I find ideal for tuning because the liveliness reveals all the overtones nicely. If you can make a drum sound good in a room with lots of hall, it would sound even better in a more dry room. This doesn't work the other way around at all though.

          So after you've applied this tuning method to your drums, you've got the worst behind you. Drums will naturally detune overtime due to vibrations caused by you playing them/ You can use accessories such as luglocks to prevent it, but if you're like me and like to change tunings every once in a while, I wouldn't use them. However if you want a consistent sound and you're playing a lot of rimshots, I'd look into them. In my experience, die-cast hoops tend to keep their tuning better than triple-flanged hoops.

          This seems like an aweful lot of work and I won't say it's not, but with enough practice, it will soon be like tying your shoelaces and you might even have fun doing it. I certainly do, and the results are always very rewarding.

          I'll be more than happy to answer questions of course, just send me a Private Message


          • #6
            Ant's Method Video (by Ry4n525)
            Pearl, the BEST reason to play drums

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