How to Tune Your Drums for Feel
After tuning for a sound you like, you may find that you don’t like the feel of the drums when you start playing. Some drums might feel so loose that your sticks sink in and don’t bounce enough or they may feel too tight, like you were tapping on a kitchen table. Most people like a drum to be soft enough to feel good when hit and be hard enough to still have a nice rebound. It really comes down to a matter of personal taste. So what do you do if you like the sound of your drums but don’t like the feel, how can you get both at the same time?
The answer is quite simple: tune the batter heads for feel and tune the resonant heads for pitch. Start by adjusting the tension of your batter heads for the feel you like. Do this by making uniform adjustments to the tension rods in the usual crosswise pattern. Once you have the feel you want, then go ahead and fine tune the batter head by matching pitches by each of the lugs. The best way to do this is to put the drum on a drum stool to mute the resonant head and use a tune-bot to measure the lug pitches. After you have finished tuning all your batter heads for feel, you can start to tune the drums to a set of pitches you want by adjusting the resonant heads.
So how do you decide what pitches to use for your particular kit? This is, again, a matter of personal preference and depends on a lot of factors such as how many drums and what sizes are in your kit, what kind of music you’re playing, type of drumheads and so on. To help you with this we developed a tuning calculator tool that’s available for free at www.tune-bot.com and as an Iphone and Android App named “Drum Tuning Calculator.” You simply enter the sizes of your drums and the app provides a set of pitches that should sound good for you kit. It takes into account the pitch range for each drum and determines appropriate musical intervals for the entire set. A note will be provided for each drum along with corresponding batter and resonant drumhead lug pitches. When you are tuning for feel you will be using different lug pitches than the ones from the tuning calculator, so ignore those, all you want are the musical notes that are given.
Now that you have the desired notes you’re ready to finish tuning your drums. Start with a rack tom, for example, and put it upside down on a stand so the resonant head is on top. It’s important that both the batter and resonant heads are free to vibrate now so the drum must either be on a stand or be handheld. Clip a tune-bot to the hoop and tap in the center of the resonant drumhead and measure the fundamental pitch of the drum. Start making small uniform adjustments to the tension rods, as before, while tapping in the center of the drum and measuring the drum pitch. Once you have the drum at the desired note, then fine tune the drum for similar pitches around the lugs by making very small adjustments. You may want to put the drum back on a stool now to mute the batter head as before. After fine tuning, check the fundamental pitch again – with the drum on a stand or holding it – in case it changed and make minor adjustments if necessary.
After doing all this turn the drum over, place on a stand and tap in the center (of the batter head). Measure the pitch with a tune-bot and you will find that it’s the same as when you tapped the resonant head: this is a property of any two-headed drum when hit in the center. The drum will have the have the same feel as before and will now also be at the correct pitch. Repeat this process for the rest of your drums and you’ll have a great sounding kit with the feel that works for you!