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What Are the Best Tips for Drum Tuning?

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  • Written By: Patrick Lynch
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 27 July 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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The importance of drum tuning is often overlooked, and numerous would-be musicians have no knowledge of how to tune their own drum. The rim of the drum shell must be clean before a correctly fitting shell is applied. The tension rods should be tightened to a moderate degree initially before tuning commences. After tightening the tension rods, the drum must be struck to find out whether the process was a success. In the likely event that it wasn't, the rods must be tightened over and over again until the musician is happy with the drum's sound.

Failure to properly tune a drum will result in a poor sound when it is played. Although drums can be tuned to different tones, the process of drum tuning is usually the same regardless of what the sound goal is. Generally, drum tuning is individual, with the process depending on the player's preference and the style of music being played.

It is important that the rim and head of the drum be wiped down before the drum head is placed on the shell. Allowing dirt to remain could cause an uneven sound to be created when the drum is played. Once the drum is cleaned, the drum head can be placed on the shell.

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The shell must fit the drum head correctly. A shell that is too tight is easier to damage, but a loose fitting shell will ensure that the sound quality is negatively affected. The next step is to screw the tension rods by hand. Care should be taken as screwing the tension rods too tightly may interfere with the process of drum tuning.

The six rods can be tightened with a drum key. The drum head needs to be stretched, and when the tension rods are all reasonably tight, the process of drum tuning can begin in earnest. Tightening the tension rods opposite to each other will prevent unbalance. Rods should be tightened clockwise.

The drum should be struck after the first attempt at tightening, but it is unlikely that the correct sound will be found this first time, which means fine tuning needs to be attempted. To fine tune, a rod should be chosen, and its head, which is located around 2 inches (5 cm) from the chosen rod, should be tapped. As before, the rod opposite should also be tapped. It is important to listen closely because even the slightest change to any tension rod will cause an alteration in the sound produced by the drum.

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