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How to Tune a Drum Set

Sep 21, 2018 | 1 comment

When you think of Austin drum lessons, what comes to mind? Probably working on rhythm, how to properly play, and practicing songs. But did you know that Lone Star School of Music’s drum lessons offer much more than just teaching you how to play? In fact, our drum lessons include much more great instruction – like how to tune your drum set.

If you’re curious on how to properly tune your drum set, read on below to learn more!

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Tuning a Drum Set

Instruments need to be tuned in order to keep them sounding great and working well. An instrument that is not well tuned can cause an otherwise awesome performance to go sour quickly.

While many people think of guitars and pianos as instruments you need to tune, not many people may know that drums also need to be tuned to get the proper sound. Even if you’re a beginner, knowing how to properly tune your drums will elevate your sound a great deal.

drum lessons, Austin drum lessonsStep 1: Place the Drum Head

Wipe down the rim and head with a towel before doing anything else. If you don’t, dirt or debris could cause an uneven sound in your drums.

With your thumbs, press the rounded part of the head into itself, all the way around (do it with batter heads only, not snare heads).

Then put the drum head on the drum. Once in place with the rim over the top, screw in the tension rods tight with your hands (don’t screw them in too tight, or you will throw off your tuning).

Step 2: Stretch out the Drum Head

Once all the tension rods feel secure, it is time to stretch out your drum head. This is essential because it strengthens the skin and helps it maintain proper tuning once complete.

Place one hand in the middle of the drum. With the other hand, make a fist and press it down on top of your other hand in the middle of your drum. Don’t press too hard – you might damage the skin.

Now you can finally tune it!

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drum lessons, Austin drum lessonsStep 3: Tighten the Tension Rods

Just like when a mechanic installs new tires on your car, when tightening tension rods, you need to make sure that they are balanced. In order to do this, make sure to tighten them opposite to each other, in a sort of criss-cross pattern (see illustration at left). Once one is complete, locate the tension rod opposite to that one and repeat the process.

Turn each rod 1/2 a turn until the wrinkles come out of the head. Then tighten with your drum key until a tone is produced.

Step 4: Fully Seat the Head

To seat the drum head correctly, just press down with your palm on the center, as if you were giving CPR.

This step pulls the flesh hoop into the rim channels, which helps the head conform to the shape of the drum’s bearing edges.

If you hear a cracking sound, don’t worry! This is totally normal. After doing this step, you might notice that the head’s pitch is lower, which means the head needed seating. Simply re-tighten it and seat it again. If it has the same pitch, continue on.

Step 5: Move the Drum

Place your drum on a clean, flat surface for tuning, such as a rug or bath towel. Ensure the head you’re going to tune is facing up towards you. This makes it easier, as you can hear just the head you’re tuning, and allows you to spin the drum to move from lug to lug without messing up your floor.

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Step 6: Tap the Heads

Tap the head on each tension rod and listen to the tons it produces.

You don’t have to use a drum stick for this; you can also use things like:

  • drum key
  • dowel rods
  • marimba mallet
  • finger

Take note of where the pitches sounded high and where they sounded low.

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Step 7: Adjust the Rods

Where the tones were high, loosen the rods (clockwise 1/8 turn). Where the tones were low, tighten the rods (clockwise 1/8 turn).

Then seat the head again.

Step 8: Repeat Steps 6-7

Now, you’ll want to repeat steps 6 and 7 until the head has the same pitch – all the way around.

This means there are no weird overtones you have to muffle.

Once you have achieved that, tune your other drum head, toms, and bass drums.

Register for Drum Lessons with Lone Star School of Music today!

Now that you’ve learned how to tune your drum set, complete your training and get started with real drum lessons at Lone Star School of Music! Take a minute to get to know our experienced music instructors and sign up for Austin drum lessons today!

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How to Tune a Drum Set | Lone Star School of Music – Austin, TX