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Tuning Toms for Drummers


[Yamaha 9000 & Birch Custom 10-inch toms]There are many different tuning combinations to choose. Some drummers find that a tighter bottom head (about one fourth or one fifth above the note of the top head) works well, producing a downward bend of pitch when the drum is struck. Others go for even tuning of both heads.

For this section we'll assume that we want the top (batter) land bottom (resonant) heads in equal tension.

FIRST, tap the drum shell and see if you can hear any clear notes (do this without drum heads on).

SECOND, tune the bottom head to the main (fundamental) note of the shell using the 'opposites' tuning method shown in diagram below, and make sure it is evenly tensioned all around.

[Tensioning drum head using 'opposites' method]

Tuning Using the 'Opposites Method'
(click image to enlarge)

THIRD, tension the top head, ensuring even tension all-around. When the top head is struck you should hear a full resonant sound.

Don't be afraid of a bit of ring but fine tune out any unwanted tones or rings. Some drummers detune the tuning rod nearest them by one quarter to one half turn to achieve a downward pitch bend when the drum is struck.

[Yamaha 9000 8-inch tom]If you want the bottom head tighter than the top head, start by de-tuning the top head at each tuning bolt by about one-eighth turn. You can then adjust tension according to whether this makes the top head too slack or it remains too tight.

If you want the bottom head lower in pitch than the top head, start by tuning the top head up at each tuning bolt by about one-eighth turn. You can then adjust tension depending on whether the head is too tight or still too slack.

For live, acoustic playing situations DO NOT tune the heads too slack. The drums may sound 'big' when you stand over them but sound like a lot of clicks when you are away from the kit.

HOWEVER, if you are MIKING-UP, this is less of a problem, and the low tuning can be used to achieve a 'big, fat' tom sound.



HELPFUL HINT: Bearing the above in mind, 'try it and see' so that YOU can choose the sound that YOU like best.


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