Acoustic Drum Tuning Basics

Last Update: 06/04/2015


Acoustic Drum Tuning Basics


Easy Drum Tuning Method

 Note Drum tuning can be a daunting and confusing thing, especially you’ve never done it before or don’t do it often enough. In drum tuning, you don’t really tune to a definite pitch, but rather you tension the drums to achieve a relative pitch. There are a lot of methods, and it does take time to master the art, but it’s very easy to get a good drum sound in a short period of time using this method. What we’ll be covering here is not tuning for a recording session. This is tuning when you first take the drums out of the box – and you want the drums to sound good in your home or in your practice room.

 Start with your largest floor tom and work your way up to the smallest tom.

  1. Beginning with the resonant head (bottom), with the drum on a table or your throne, finger tighten each tension rod.
  2. Press in the center of the head with your middle finger, you will see wrinkles in the head all around the edge. Starting at one tension rod, tighten it with a drum key just until the wrinkles go away. Continue this at each tension rod going either clockwise or counter clockwise around the drum.
  3. With the heel of your hand, push down in the center of the head. Lean into it with your weight. You are “seating” the head so that it is in contact with the bearing edge:  this will help the drum stay in tune when you play.
  4. Using the heel of your hand, push in the center of the head again until the wrinkles appear and tighten each tension rod with a drum key just until the wrinkles are gone.
  5. Turn the drum over to work on the batter side (top) and repeat Steps 1 through 4.

Note After you set your drums up in a playable position, you will hear that they resonate and the intervals between the drums’ “notes” are just about right.

 Tuning the bass drum.

Repeat Steps 1 through 4 above to tune the resonant head (front-facing) and the batter (back).

Then, revisit the resonant head, tightening each tension rod about a ¼ turn using a drum key. Raising the pitch of the front head will give your bass drum a little more punch.

 Tuning the snare drum.

For the batter-side head, with the drum on a table or your throne, finger tighten each tension rod.

  1. Starting at the tension rod to the right of the logo (just as a reference for your starting point), tighten each rod ¼ turn using a drum key. Continue this at each tension rod going either clockwise or counter clockwise around the drum.
  2. After you’ve gone around the drum a couple of times, push down in the center of the head with the heel of your hand to seat the head so that it is in contact with the bearing edge:  this will help the drum stay in tune when you play.
  3. Repeat the process of tightening each tension rod ¼ turn using a drum key around the drum until you have reached a pitch that you like. Be careful not to get the head too tight, as this will “choke” the drum, leaving it sounding thin and without tone.
  4. Turn the drum over to work on the snare side (bottom).

 For the snare-side head, start with a tension rod next to the snare strainer.

  1. Tighten each rod ¼ turn using a drum key. Continue this at each tension rod going either clockwise or counter clockwise around the drum.
  2. After you’ve gone around the drum a couple of times, press on the head with your thumb about an inch from the edge. Continue to tighten the head (repeating the step above) until you can only press your thumb into the head about 1/8”.

 Adjust the snare wire tension

To adjust the snare wire tension, place your snare drum on a snare drum stand,

1.loosen the tension knob on the snare strainer until the snares are barely touching the head.
2.Tap the drum lightly near the edge with a drumstick and slowly tighten the snares until they are in full contact with the head. 
3. At proper tension, the snares will still respond with a light tap at the edge, but still sound crisp when you hit the drum hard in the center of the snare drum’s batter head (top).

 For more assistance, visit us online at http://usa.yamaha.com/support/ or call your favorite authorized Yamaha drum retailer.  Be sure to keep up on all the things drums at www.yamahadrums.com.

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                                                            That’s it!  Now get playing!
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