Drum Tuning Part II

A blanket or pillow is a great makeshift muffler for an open kick 

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At one point or another in your life, I’m sure most of you have heard that old saying, “setting yourself up for success,” and that’s exactly what we focused on in yesterday’s article – setting up your kit so that you will have the best shot at an outstanding drum track. For those of you who happened to catch yesterday’s article, we ended off on tuning the toms on a drum kit as well as some suggestions on how to tweak them in order to yield different results – such as tuning the top drum head a little looser than the bottom one in order to get beat that descends as the sound decays. Hopefully by the end of this article, you will have amassed plenty more drum kit knowledge that that will not only help you towards that particular sound that you are aiming for, but also open your mind to the different tonal possibilities out there. Anyways, without further ado, let’s get right back to it!


[ Note: This is Part II of yesterday's article. Hit this link to check out Part I ]


Working with the Kick Drum

Tuning that bass heavy kick drum is very similar to tuning a tom but does require a bit more attention since there are a few popular options that you should definitely consider.  As far as the actual tuning aspect of it goes, follow the same steps as you would with the toms in yesterday’s article. So now that we have that out of the way, when it comes to toms, most players tend to use both the bottom and top heads. Some might want to feel unique by removing the bottom head on a tom but that’s not really all that common. When it comes to kick drums on the other hand, it’s a normal sight to see a lot of drummers simply use one head, the back one facing the player to be exact. Another normal configuration is keeping both heads on but having a small hole on the front head which allows for a different drum tone as well as a good place to insert a mic for recording. And finally, some players simply keep both heads fully intact - mainly jazz drummers in case you’re wondering.

Out of these three different options, the kick drum with only one head will have the least amount of resonance while the untouched two headed drum will have the most. A kick drum with both heads but a small cutaway on the front falls somewhere in between.

With toms, most people like to hear the entire sound of the drum ring, especially if they’ve been finely tuned. When it comes to the kick meanwhile, a highly resonating drum tone simply takes up a lot of sound realty – especially in those lower frequencies – which most drummers tend to want to tame (with jazz drummers being one of the few major exceptions). One way to combat excessive resonance beyond removing or cutting a drum head is by adding a muffler to the drum. Even if you choose to keep both heads on and uncut, you can still add a muffler to tame excessive tone. Plenty of manufactures sell a different variety of kick drum mufflers that work with heads fully intact as well as the other two options. Some manufacturers even offer some kick drums with mufflers already built in them. Check some of those out if interested.

A common external kick drum muffler

A more common do it yourself method for combating resonance in a kick drum (that a few of you out there might have already come across) is using pillows or blankets. By placing a pillow or blanket at the bottom of the drum shell and pushed up against head/heads, you can achieve a perfectly suitable muffled effect. Unfortunately, if you’re working with the fully intact two headed configuration, this method won’t do you any good since you will need an opening to adjust your makeshift muffler. In this case, either check out some external mufflers that will work on two headed kick drums or – if looks aren’t above performance – you can lean a blanket or pillow against the outside of the heads.




Working with the Snare

One of the main differences that set the snare apart from the kick drum and the tom – besides the metal snares at the bottom head from which it gets its name – is that while those two are pretty much always made out of wood, the snare drum shell can be made of either wood or various metals. In general, snares made from wood tend to have a much warmer tone while a metal snare will have a much more pronounced attack, often called a “crack.” Not only that, you also have a choice of different heads and even different choices for the snares themselves. For the most part, a wider set of snares will give the drum much more of that snare sound.

As far as tuning goes, you can follow the same procedure outlined for tuning the tom drums but this time, focus on trying to get these as close to the top of the acceptable range as possible. Remember, if the snare starts to choke when played, you have them tuned to high. Lower it just a bit but you still want to try and get it as close to this mark without choking as possible.

 And one more important thing to think about before recording the snare, which is probably the toughest part to record of a drum kit. One of the toughest problems with recording the snare drum is getting down a consistent sound from attack to attack. The reason for this is that in order to achieve this consistent sound, the drummer has to be striking the snare with the same consistent force – easier said than done for even some of the more experienced players out there. Just remember that the next time you’re having trouble with that problem. 



Well, that will have to do for today but come back on Moday when we will be giving you tips on proper mic placement for recording your drum kit!

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