Tuning your drum kit

The key to tuning your kit is really to be confident, and to know the effect of each adjustment you make. It really does become very easy with practice. The general procedure when starting with new heads is as follows:

  • Check the bearing edges – clean any gunk from the hoops and the drum (tobacco, dust, Monster Munch), and lightly sand any imperfections.
  • Lay the bottom head over the rim, and finger-tighten the tension rods.
  • Press firmly in the middle of the head and tighten the rods until the wrinkles disappear.
  • Tune the head, tapping lightly with a mallet or stick slightly off-centre until you have a nice even tone. There will be several tuning points at which the shell resonates nicely, with no nasty overtones.
  • Repeat the process with the top (batter) head, and you will then have a roundly tuned drum. If you place the drum on your lap, or a cushion, you will damp one end thus making it easier to tune each head in isolation.
  • To adjust the sound to what you want, remember that the batter head gives most of your attack, whilst the bottom head will produce most of your tone. They key to everything though is a nice even tension across each head.

For your snare and bass drum, the same basic principles apply with a few provisos. For example, you are likely to want the snare-side head a lot tighter than the batter due to it’s thinness. Also you’ll want a lot more attack, generally, from the bass so the batter side may be quite slack.

Above all DON’T BE AFRAID TO EXPERIMENT!! As long as you understand the key principles, you can’t go far wrong.