thread: Drum Tracking
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Old 5th August 2016
A Few More Drum Tuning Notes

When I tune drums, I pick notes in the song's key that are closest to the natural timbre of the drum. So if the song is in D, the drum could be tuned to D, E, F#, G, A, B or C#. Most of the time an E or A will work. I'll try hard to get the pitch accurate, because it is surprising how bad a slightly flat tom or snare will sound in a song. It becomes very distracting. At least for me.

The best way to hear the pitch while tuning a drum is to lightly press a finger into the middle of the head as you tap it near the tension rod. Match the pitch of that tension rod to a note in the key, then go around to all the drum's tension rods one by one and do the same. With snare drum tunings, you'll want to throw off the snare wires until you have finished. By lightly pressing a finger on the head, you are damping the drum so you wont hear the overtones. Just the pure tone. That is the note I listen for while tuning. I don't usually use the Drum Dial. It is a pretty cool device, but does not help with finding pitch. I can pretty much match all the tension rod pitches by ear.

Kick drum is also nice to match to the key of the song, but I find my ear more forgiving on the bass drum notes. I usually use one of two tunings on a kick: either a lower, open boom - or a higher, tight, punchy tone. Actual notes seem less important, but matching the pressure on each tension rod will make it sound better.

I have one of those little Jaymar toy pianos in every studio. I use them to work out melody and harmony parts, tune vocals and tune drums. And the sound of the Jaymar has made it on dozens of my recordings. It can be super creepy, especially when you slow the recording down to half speed. Sounds like church bells from hell.