# Drum Tuning Guide

## Drum tuning guide – how to tune drums

tune-bot is a precision drum tuner that enables you to accurately tune your drums to specific notes or frequencies. This drum tuning guide will show you how to tune drums and help you determine the notes and frequencies to use for your specific drum set. Then you can use tune-bot to tune your set to those specific values. After you’ve tuned your set to a sound you like you can store the pitches of your drums in tune-bot to allow you to quickly re-tune to the same sound over and over again.

Download PDF Guide With Appendix

## Tom Tuning

A good way to tune your toms and your snare as well, is to use notes in musical intervals or chords for the fundamental pitches of the drums. One consideration, in selecting which interval or chord to use for tuning, is the number of toms (and optionally snare) in your set. If you have a small number of drums you might prefer larger intervals between drums whereas with a large number of drums you might be better with smaller intervals, otherwise, you might span too small or too large a range of pitches with your drums.

Summary of Tuning Steps

- Choose the fundamental notes for every drum using Table 1.
- Decide on the amount of Resonance: low, medium, high or maximum and if top or bottom head is higher in lug-frequency.
- Calculate the top and bottom head lug-frequency for every drum head.

For each drum:

- Tune top and bottom heads to required lug-frequency.
- Equalize top and bottom heads.

*Note: These formulas may not be exact. Depending on your drum’s dimensions you may have to fine tune the lug pitches to get the desired fundamental note. These formulas will however get you very close!*

## Details of Tuning Steps

Fundamental Note Selection

Suggested tunings for a variety of drum set configurations ranging from 2 to 6 toms are listed in the following table. The tables also cover most popular tom sizes ranging from 8 to 16 inches in diameter. All the notes in any of these tunings can be moved up or down a few semi-tones (the distance between A and A#; a half-step) to suit individual tastes without changing the intervals. Only the fundamental pitch of the drum, i.e., the lowest pitch of the drum (obtained when the drum is hit in the center and is mounted on a stand), is listed in the chart, not the lug-pitches. You will get the same fundamental pitch whether you hit the top or bottom head since the top and bottom heads vibrate in unison when the drum is hit in the center. The corresponding top and bottom head lug-pitches, however, are independent of each other and can be 1.2 to 2.3 times higher than the fundamental pitch for typical drum sizes.

Table 1. Recommended Fundamental Notes and Frequencies for Various Tom Configurations

Number of toms

Tom Sizes

2

2

3

3

3

8″

—

—

—

—

—

10″

3C

131 Hz

—

3C

131 Hz

3C

131 Hz

—

12″

—

2A

110 Hz

2A

110 Hz

2G

98 Hz

2A

110 Hz

13″

—

—

—

—

2F

87.3 Hz

14″

2F

87.3 Hz

—

2F

87.3 Hz

—

–

16″

—

2D

73.4Hz

—

2D

73.4Hz

2C#

69.3Hz

Interval Type

Perfect Fifth

Perfect Fifth

Major Chord

Perfect Fourths

Major Thirds

Table 1. Recommended Fundamental Notes and Frequencies for Various Tom Configurations (continued)

Number of toms

Tom Sizes

3

4

4

5

6

8″

—

—

—

3E

165Hz

3G#

208 Hz

10″

—

3D

147 Hz

3E

165 Hz

3C

131 Hz

3E

165 Hz

12″

2A

110 Hz

2B

124 Hz

2B

124 Hz

2G#

104 Hz

3C

131 Hz

13″

—

—

—

—

2G#

104 Hz

14″

2F

87.3 Hz

2G

98 Hz

2F#

92.5 Hz

2E

82.4 Hz

2E

82.4 Hz

16″

2C

65.4 Hz

2D

73.4Hz

2C#

69.3Hz

2C

65.4Hz

2C

65.4Hz

Interval Type

Perfect Fourths

Call to Post

Perfect Fourths

Major Thirds

Major Thirds

## Resonance and Top or Bottom Head Tuning Options

With a two-headed drum, the fundamental pitch of the drum can be varied by adjusting either top or bottom heads so there are an infinite number of top and bottom lug-pitch combinations for any specific fundamental pitch. The resonance (or sustain) of the drum depends on the lug-frequency relationship between the top and bottom heads. After you decide on the amount of drum resonance you want, from low to high, specific top and bottom lug pitches can be easily determined for any desired fundamental pitch.

Selecting the amount of resonance that is right for you depends on the type of sound you want: maximum resonance and slower decay is obtained with top and bottom lug-pitches tuned to the same pitch; alternatively, lower resonance and quicker decay is obtained from larger differences in top and bottom lug-pitches. For live performance more resonance might be desirable whereas for a recording situation, it might be better to have less resonance and faster decay. Another consideration if the heads are tuned differently is which head is higher in pitch. Again this is a personal choice: typically, a more controlled sound is obtained with the bottom head tuned higher than the top head, a good choice for recording. On the other hand, more attack is attained with the top head tuned to the higher lug-pitch.

## Calculating the Top and Bottom Lug-Frequencies

The following lug-frequency formulas are values for typical drums. The actual values for your drums will depend on the ratio of the drum shell diameter to the depth, the type of drum heads you are using and if the top and bottom heads are the same type. Use these formulas as a starting point and adjust them to suit your specific drums and heads.

Maximum Resonance

Tune top and bottom lug pitches to the same pitch. Depending on the specific drum, the lug pitch will be between 1.6 and 1.9 times higher in frequency than the fundamental pitch. To start, multiply the frequency of the desired fundamental note by 1.75 and tune both top and bottom lug-pitches to that frequency. Then, measure the fundamental pitch of the drum and adjust the pitch of top and bottom heads accordingly.

Table 2. Maximum Resonance with 4 Toms: 10″, 12″, 14″ and 16″. Both Heads Equal.

Tom Size

Fundamental Note

Fundamental Frequency

Top/Bottom Lug Frequency

10″

3D

147 Hz

257 Hz (=147×1.75)

12″

2B

124 Hz

217 Hz (=124×1.75)

14″

2G

98 Hz

172 Hz (=98×1.75)

16″

2D

73.4 Hz

128 Hz (=73.4×1.75)

High Resonance:

>

With the bottom head tuned higher, multiply the frequency of the desired fundamental note by 1.85 and tune the bottom head lug-pitch to that frequency. Then tune the top head lug-pitch to about 1.5 times the fundamental frequency. Then, measure the fundamental pitch of the drum and adjust the pitch of the top head until it equals the desired frequency. For high resonance with the bottom head tuned lower, simply switch the numbers in the two columns.

Table 3. High Resonance with 4 Toms: 10″, 12″, 14″ and 16″. Bottom Head Higher.

Tom Size

Fundamental Note

Fundamental Frequency

Top Lug Frequency

Bottom Lug Frequency

10″

3D

147 Hz

221 Hz (= 147 x 1.5)

272 Hz (= 147 x 1.85)

12″

2B

124 Hz

186 Hz (= 124 x 1.5)

229 Hz (= 124 x 1.85)

14″

2G

98 Hz

147 Hz (= 98 x 1.5)

181 Hz (= 98 x 1.85)

16″

2D

73.4 Hz

110 Hz (= 73.4 x 1.5)

136 Hz (= 73.4 x 1.85)

Medium Resonance:

>

Follow the instructions in the preceding paragraph using 2.0 times and 1.4 times the fundamental frequency instead of 1.85 and 1.5 times.

Table 4. Medium Resonance with 4 Toms: 10″, 12″, 14″ and 16″. Bottom Head Higher.

Tom Size

Fundamental Note

Fundamental Frequency

Top Lug Frequency

Bottom Lug Frequency

10″

3D

147 Hz

206 Hz (= 147 x 1.4)

294 Hz (= 147 x 2)

12″

2B

124 Hz

174 Hz (= 124 x 1.4)

248 Hz (= 124 x 2)

14″

2G

98 Hz

137 Hz (= 98 x 1.4)

196 Hz (= 98 x 2)

16″

2D

73.4 Hz

103 Hz (= 73.4 x 1.4)

147 Hz (= 73.4 x 2)

Low Resonance:

>

Follow the same instructions using 2.3 and 1.2 times the fundamental frequency instead of 1.85 and 1.5 times.

Table 5. Low Resonance with 4 Toms: 10″, 12″, 14″ and 16″. Bottom Head Higher.

Tom Size

Fundamental Note

Fundamental Frequency

Top Lug Frequency

Bottom Lug Frequency

10″

3D

147 Hz

176 Hz (= 147 x 1.2)

338 Hz (= 147 x 2.3)

12″

2B

124 Hz

149 Hz (= 124 x 1.2)

285 Hz (= 124 x 2.3)

14″

2G

98 Hz

118 Hz (= 98 x 1.2)

225 Hz (= 98 x 2.3)

16″

2D

73.4 Hz

88 Hz (= 73.4 x 1.2)

169 Hz (= 73.4 x 2.3)

## Snare Drum Tuning

Most 14″ diameter snare drums sound good with a fundamental pitch in the range of 3E to 3A#. Some drummers like to have the fundamental pitch of their snare in the same interval relationship as their toms while others like to set it independently; it’s really a matter of personal preference.

A good pitch relationship for the drum heads is to tune the lug pitch of the bottom head a perfect fifth higher than the top head (1.5 times higher in frequency, see Appendix). This combination works well for a couple of reasons: a higher-pitch resonant head helps minimize snare buzz and a lower-pitch batter head avoids choking the drum. When tuning to higher fundamental pitches, eg., above 3G, It’s a good idea to keep the resonant head from exceeding a lug-frequency of 400 Hz, to avoid stretching or choking; typical resonant heads are only 3 mils. thick and can easily deform. In these cases simply reduce the size of the interval to perfect fourths or major thirds (1.33 or 1.26 respectively) or lower, to keep the resonant head from getting too high in lug pitch.

## Recommendations

Suggested top and bottom (batter and resonant) head lug tuning frequencies for a typical 14″ snare drum are listed below. Depending on the specific drum, and the thickness of the drum heads, the required frequencies may vary so try these as a starting point and adjust accordingly.

Lug-Frequencies for a typical 14″ Snare Drum.

Fundamental Note

Interval

Top Lug Frequency

Snare Lug Frequency

3E

Perfect Fifth

229 Hz

343 Hz

3F

Perfect Fifth

240 Hz

359 Hz

3F#

Perfect Fifth

252 Hz

378 Hz

3G

Perfect Fifth

266 Hz

398 Hz

3G#

Perfect Fourth

299 Hz

398 Hz

3A

Major Third

318 Hz

400 Hz

3A#

–

356 Hz

400 Hz

## Bass Drum Tuning

A lot of factors go into tuning your bass drum such as, the type of heads, use of cut-outs or kick-ports in the resonant head and the type of damping, eg., a pillow in the drum etc. A good starting point is to tune the lug-frequency of the resonant head a perfect fifth (1.5 times) higher in frequency than the batter head. Some people prefer the opposite while others prefer the heads closer in lug-frequency; again, a matter of personal preference and some experimentation may pay off.

Bass Drum Recommendations

Diameter

Fundamental Note

Batter Lug Frequency

Resonant Lug Frequency

24″

1C

49 Hz

74 Hz

24″

1C#

52 Hz

78 Hz

22-24″

1D

55 Hz

82 Hz

22″

1D#

58 Hz

87 Hz

22″

1E

61 Hz

91 Hz

20″

1F

64 Hz

96 Hz

20″

1F#

68 Hz

101 Hz

18″

1G

71 Hz

107 Hz