1-19-2023 Blog entry #4 - Drum Tuning From the Drum Store Perspective
Does drum tuning matter? What should I tune my drums to? Tuning drums to notes? How do I tune my drums without a tuner? How do I tune my batter vs. resonant heads? Which drum tuning key do I need? The questions surrounding the topic of drum tuning are vast and constantly evolving due to the invention of different techniques, gadgets, heads and recording methods. In this humble drum shop / Bellevue music store blog, we aim to demystify this topic and help struggling drummers achieve a new outlook when it comes to tuning their drums.
The tried and true method to tune drums is... well, there's isn't one. And that's perfectly OK because it allows drummers to discover their own sound and voice on the drum kit through practice and experimentation. The goal is to devote some time to this endeavor and learn a few basics that we have outlined in the two videos to the right.
The phrase "drum tuning" can be interpreted literally to "tuning to notes" or loosely as in "tuning to where it sounds good". Most drummers who've successfully tuned their fair share of drums would likely agree that the latter is what matters most. We've even had top professionals exclaim that tuning drums to notes is futile for numerous reasons. In short, please do not stress about tuning your drums to notes, especially if you are just learning. There are a few rare exceptions where this might be necessary, but keep in mind that your drum might not be happy with the notes you might attempt to tune to!
The most important aspects of drum tuning to us is that your drums sound pleasing to you and the microphones. Each drum should fully resonate on its own, and compliment the other drums in the kit by matching characteristics rather than a series of notes. Typically you wouldn't want your small rack tom to sound "thuddy" and deep while the mid rack tom sounds bright and full of overtones. Rough intervals will naturally form because your shells have different diameters, and these intervals can be adjusted to maximize the range of the drum kit by using a consistent tuning method across your toms. Snare and bass drum tuning in many cases differs greatly from tuning toms since shorter, punchier notes may be desired.
Quick basics for toms:
1. Start with all of the tension rods at "finger tight"
2. Slowly tension the resonant side first by going a quarter turn with your key in a star pattern. Stop when a clear, singular note resonates when struck with a finger at the edge of the drum. Do your best to match the pitch around the diameter of the drum (shown in the video to the right)
3. Repeat with the batter side
4. Play the drum and adjust by finding a proper balance between the batter and resonant side. We like tom reso heads to be the same or slightly tighter on rack toms 8-14" diameter, and slightly looser on floor toms 15-18".
Snare drum tuning: at West Coast Drum Shop we prefer much tighter reso heads for increased projection, and snappier snare response. The reso head should not feel squishy when brought up to tension. You'll have to experiment on your own to find the proper balance between tight and loose, but in many cases when a snare gets brought to us we find that the resonant head is too slack. A slack resonant head combined with snare wires that are too tight will result in a choked sound with poor snare response. We correct this by significantly tightening the resonant head to near tabletop tension and adjusting the snare wires so that the slightest hit towards the edge of the batter head activates the snares and presents a pleasing sound.
Tune-Bots and DrumDials work to help guide you to get even tension around drum heads if you can't do it with your ears, and they're perfectly OK to use. What's also great about them is they provide a numeric value the tension at a particular point in the drum head. These values can be recorded and then utilized as needed to allow for consistent tuning at any time, for example having the same tone from gig to gig. Tuning devices do not replace tuning knowledge and experimentation. Understanding how drum tuning works without them will benefit your experience with them.
The subjective nature of drum tones combined with external factors such as microphones, room size and reflectivity, recording/mixing/live sound engineers, an audience or even the internet means you'll likely be dealing with many different opinions. Sometimes you'll need to stick to your instincts, other times you might need to adjust to keep the room happy. Another thing to add is mods (gel, tape, tampering with snares etc.) are suggested to be used after the drum sounds great and not used as a crutch to disguise tuning issues.
Lastly, we offer drum tuning classes by appointment at our shop which will leave your kit sounding ready for the stage and studio. We'll show you the methods we use on your particular drum set, and work with you on achieving the sound you're looking for.
1-5-2023 Blog entry #3 - Cole's heavy metal snare drum comparison
We often get asked about the difference in sound between snare drums made from different metals. In this video, you can hear the difference between two types of steel, bronze and copper for yourself thanks to Cole Paramore's efforts. These drums were tuned just about the same and played by the same person, in the same room with the same sticks. Each one of these drums features at least a 3mm or heavier shell. Four different types of metal are used.
12-26-2022 Blog entry #2 - Joyful Noise Knighthawk review by Cole Paramore
From time to time, we will be featuring our favorite products here in the blog. We might as well kick things off with a bang by talking about this Joyful Noise ferromanganese Knighthawk snare drum. Normally we have differing opinions over the usual "high-end" snares and kits that come through West Coast Drum Shop, but this particular snare is unanimously praised by all of us. It's a rare combination of unique, striking visual appeal, a beautiful feel, absolutely top tier fit and finish, and world class sound with it's own distinct sonic characteristics. Cole Paramore does a deep dive in his YouTube video to further elaborate on what makes this drum special to us.
Joyful Noise snare drums are for sale in our shop as a special order. We've had a Joyful Noise drum or two get sniped by customers when they were in-transit to our store before they even hit the shelves. There's a good reason drummers search high and low for these JNDC snare drums.