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Tuning the kick - which note?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #1
Gear Maniac
Tuning the kick - which note?

So much advice about importance of tuning the kick.

But which note do you tune it to?

If I have a chord progression of ABCD with equal amount of time in each note, which note do I tune the kick to?

Or do I need to tune it to every note? But then it will change all the time?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #2
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nuieve View Post
So much advice about importance of tuning the kick.

But which note do you tune it to?

If I have a chord progression of ABCD with equal amount of time in each note, which note do I tune the kick to?

Or do I need to tune it to every note? But then it will change all the time?
In 30 plus years of recording, no drummer has ever asked me what key or note to tune his drums to, including the kick drum. The drummer tunes his drums so that they sound good as a unit. It doesn't matter what key the song is in.

You need not worry about it, tune the kick so that all the drums sound good together.

If you insist on tuning the kick, then tune it to a key that sound best for that song. There are no rules. do what ever sound best for you.
Quote:
Or do I need to tune it to every note? But then it will change all the time?
how would that work in a live scenario? Its not possible, unless the drummer brings 16 different kicks with him and has them all set up with 16 different kick pedals?? Its not feasible or even possible
Old 4 weeks ago
  #3
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I find it next to impossible to discern a note from a kick drum tuned for typical rock and roll applications. In my experience, every drum has a fairly small zone in which it sounds good. I'd say it's only a handful of semitones wide. When I'm tuning drums, my goal is to get roughly in the middle of this zone, regardless of what note it works out to be. Although I've heard of tuning toms and maybe snare to notes that are in the key of whatever song you're recording, I've never worried about it. With the kick drum I'd say that goes double.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #4
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

The worry, if there is one, is with the toms. It's possible to mis-tune a tom so it will sympathetically "sing" along with the kick. You probably don't want that.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #5
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thismercifulfate's Avatar
No, just no! Enough with such nonsense

I was at a Bernard Purdie (look him up if you’re ignorant to who he is) clinic recently and the first thing he said was “Don’t tune your drums to specific notes, unless you hate your bassist”.

Tune your kick to where it sounds the best, period. For rock style tuning a kick or tom shouldn’t produce any overly dominant “note” anyway!
Old 4 weeks ago
  #6
Gear Maniac
 

There is a forum called Drummerworld where you can read up on tuning drums.

As a starting point, tighten the batter head lugs evenly just tight enough to get the wrinkles out of the head. Then tighten the resonant head, if there is one, the same but maybe a half step higher. Play the drum and evaluate the tone and adjust accordingly. Wrinkle free batter head will be the lowest note the kick can produce. The trick is to get even tension on all lugs. If the drum is round, bearing edges are clean, skins are good, the drum should be able to produce a fundamental tone with detectable pitch.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #7
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by cabbo View Post
... the drum should be able to produce a fundamental tone with detectable pitch.
Which is great in an orchestral context, but maybe not for our OP.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
Which is great in an orchestral context, but maybe not for our OP.
Understood. Mostly we just want it woof. OP didn’t specify music genre. I just addressed tuning drums in general.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #9
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Murky Waters's Avatar
 

OP may be talking electronic music, where tuning the kick is common and beneficial. Root or 3rd of the key are notes to try.

My experience with acoustic drummers (not generally 'professionals' it must be said) in the studio is that they do not approach this scientifically (or at all). Tone is a bit of an obsession with me, so early on, I started engaging in the process with drummers pre-tracking, often with resistance, but there are some subtle and very pleasing effects in doing so. Not so much with thrashing styles of play, but for drummers who play with dynamics some useful melodic tonalities can be achieved.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #10
Gear Maniac
Yeah, I meant pop, electronic using samples, not rock or acoustic genres of any kind.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #11
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voodoo4u's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
Which is great in an orchestral context, but maybe not for our OP.
I think it's important in all contexts with drums. Like other acoustic instruments, each drum has a fundamental resonant frequency. Due to its dimensions, number of ply's, density of its hardware etc., each drum is going to have a range where it resonates the most. Kind of its "power zone". Some times you can hear it by removing the heads and tapping the shell. Sometimes it's not the fundamental frequency that you need to deal with, sometimes it's a harmonic of the fundamental.

Rather than thinking of needing to tune the drum to a particular note in a song, consider tuning the drum to where it has the most power and so that it doesn't set off the other drums in the kit and cause them to ring.

For a while, back in the 90's I used to hate drum kits and drummers. I felt like I was always fighting them (the drums, not the drummers) if I could avoid having to record a drum kit, I would. Once I came to think of a drum kit as one instrument and I needed to tune it and record it like one instrument, drums and I started to get along much better.

Drum tuning is so important and it's a the very core of a good sounding record. I think the OP asked a very important question.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nuieve View Post
Yeah, I meant pop, electronic using samples, not rock or acoustic genres of any kind.
Even so, if you listen to pop music, like Lady Gaga or Amy Winehouse, the kick is their songs are not tuned to the song. Its tuned to the whole drum set.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #13
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by voodoo4u View Post
I think it's important in all contexts with drums. Like other acoustic instruments, each drum has a fundamental resonant frequency. Due to its dimensions, number of ply's, density of its hardware etc., each drum is going to have a range where it resonates the most. Kind of its "power zone". Some times you can hear it by removing the heads and tapping the shell. Sometimes it's not the fundamental frequency that you need to deal with, sometimes it's a harmonic of the fundamental.

Rather than thinking of needing to tune the drum to a particular note in a song, consider tuning the drum to where it has the most power and so that it doesn't set off the other drums in the kit and cause them to ring.

For a while, back in the 90's I used to hate drum kits and drummers. I felt like I was always fighting them (the drums, not the drummers) if I could avoid having to record a drum kit, I would. Once I came to think of a drum kit as one instrument and I needed to tune it and record it like one instrument, drums and I started to get along much better.

Drum tuning is so important and it's a the very core of a good sounding record. I think the OP asked a very important question.
Well said voodoo4u. Except now the op’s quest is to tune samples.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nuieve View Post
Yeah, I meant pop, electronic using samples, not rock or acoustic genres of any kind.
OK. I say tune it (or not) to whatever works for the song. Start with the root. I don’t know squat about samples. I do know I can affect the pitch of a kick drum recording using Voice of God. So now I’m wrapping my head around using 4 different pitched samples. That would be bending the rules (even though there are no rules). It would open up possibilities ...
Old 4 weeks ago
  #15
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a 22" kick with a low tuning should go down to the low C, just a bit below the lowest string of a 4-string bass.
has been working pretty well a couple of thousand times over the last 35 years!

should you not like it, there are easy ways to replace a sound or re-tune it digitally these days.



(hate the "bongo tuning" on many bass drums in jazz - dunno why this became fashionable again?!)
Old 4 weeks ago
  #16
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bowzin's Avatar
OP clarified the question is about electronic/sample-based music. Bass drum tuning is very much a thing in that world, though not universal.

Tuned 808 style kicks act as full-blown bass instruments in trap music for example, playing bass lines and trills, and very much informing the key of the song. But even tuning shorter, more traditional kick drum samples can be necessary, because there is no drummer tuning their kit perfectly for the session beforehand. Instead it's picking and choosing from millions of disparate samples that can be all over the place, from different sample packs/kits/sessions/decades, etc. and that can require some tuning. Even if you don't tune the final sample, just the process of picking samples could be argued as an indirect form of tuning.

To OP, my advice is just make sure it doesn't clash, vs. trying to tune it to a note or key of the song. Try nudging it up or down and see if it clashes more or less, or was better with no tuning. Often just minimal tuning, +- 100 cents or less, will evidence a sweet spot. You didn't pick the kick drum sample because it clashed horribly with the rest of the song, you picked it because it mostly "worked." So it's probably close anyway, and may not need anything.

The longer the bass drum hit, the more likely it will have an obvious "note" and may need to be tuned. Super short kicks that are mostly attack are way less of a problem, more aesthetic choice. Many times there are layered samples for kick, and tuning comes into play there also, not just to the song, but to each other.

Sometimes it actually helps being just slightly OFF tune, which can cause the subby low end to oscillate against the bass instrument in a pleasing way that's helpful for the song, even though not perfectly in tune. Helps to have a good subwoofer, or put a finger on the woofer cone, for this.

You do sometimes hear the bass drum clashing with the rest of the song in amateur beats on youtube and such. For a normal song, just make sure it doesn't clash, you can do this by ear with trial-and-error a lot easier and probably with better results than worrying about a tuner or something. Just my opinion, depending on the song/genre.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #17
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norfolk martin's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by thismercifulfate View Post
No, just no! Enough with such nonsense

I was at a Bernard Purdie (look him up if you’re ignorant to who he is) clinic recently and the first thing he said was “Don’t tune your drums to specific notes, unless you hate your bassist”.

Tune your kick to where it sounds the best, period. For rock style tuning a kick or tom shouldn’t produce any overly dominant “note” anyway!
If you're Bernard Purdie you can away with hammering 8th notes on an undamped floor tom tuned to F while the bassist is doing the same on a E But that's because you're Bernard Purdie, not because it sounds good!

Normally drum pitch interaction with other instruments isn't much of a problem, and, outside a studio context, it's not practical to tune drums musically unless your band sticks to only one or two keys.

However, in the situation described above, I have had a drummer change a drum pitch with good results.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #18
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Blaine Misner's Avatar
 

there are times in hip hop/edm/ dance etc where the bass drum/808 is tuned and is acting as the bass for the overall song. often times these drums are pitched and used melodically... so lets not forget about that..
Old 4 weeks ago
  #19
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Blaine Misner's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bowzin View Post
OP clarified the question is about electronic/sample-based music. Bass drum tuning is very much a thing in that world, though not universal.

Tuned 808 style kicks act as full-blown bass instruments in trap music for example, playing bass lines and trills, and very much informing the key of the song. But even tuning shorter, more traditional kick drum samples can be necessary, because there is no drummer tuning their kit perfectly for the session beforehand. Instead it's picking and choosing from millions of disparate samples that can be all over the place, from different sample packs/kits/sessions/decades, etc. and that can require some tuning. Even if you don't tune the final sample, just the process of picking samples could be argued as an indirect form of tuning.

To OP, my advice is just make sure it doesn't clash, vs. trying to tune it to a note or key of the song. Try nudging it up or down and see if it clashes more or less, or was better with no tuning. Often just minimal tuning, +- 100 cents or less, will evidence a sweet spot. You didn't pick the kick drum sample because it clashed horribly with the rest of the song, you picked it because it mostly "worked." So it's probably close anyway, and may not need anything.

The longer the bass drum hit, the more likely it will have an obvious "note" and may need to be tuned. Super short kicks that are mostly attack are way less of a problem, more aesthetic choice. Many times there are layered samples for kick, and tuning comes into play there also, not just to the song, but to each other.

Sometimes it actually helps being just slightly OFF tune, which can cause the subby low end to oscillate against the bass instrument in a pleasing way that's helpful for the song, even though not perfectly in tune. Helps to have a good subwoofer, or put a finger on the woofer cone, for this.

You do sometimes hear the bass drum clashing with the rest of the song in amateur beats on youtube and such. For a normal song, just make sure it doesn't clash, you can do this by ear with trial-and-error a lot easier and probably with better results than worrying about a tuner or something. Just my opinion, depending on the song/genre.
i obviously didn't read far enough into the thread to see this. a much better answer than mine
Old 4 weeks ago
  #20
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voodoo4u's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by cabbo View Post
Well said voodoo4u. Except now the op’s quest is to tune samples.
Ha! I guess that speed reading course I took is not paying off.

In that case the answer is simple. Start with tuning it to the one of the key of the song.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #21
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chrischoir's Avatar
 

You tune it to the the fundamental of the song key or a harmonic of the key. You can use a the lowest audible octave. Depending on the production style you can usually pick between 2 of the lower octaves. So if the key of the song is in D you tune it to 70 hz or 140ish. In general the Thump of the rock song is around 80-100 hz so this will work everytime.


http://pages.mtu.edu/~suits/notefreqs.html
Old 4 weeks ago
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thismercifulfate View Post
No, just no! Enough with such nonsense

I was at a Bernard Purdie (look him up if you’re ignorant to who he is) clinic recently and the first thing he said was “Don’t tune your drums to specific notes, unless you hate your bassist”.

Tune your kick to where it sounds the best, period. For rock style tuning a kick or tom shouldn’t produce any overly dominant “note” anyway!
If you want to be technical about it, I am sure his drums are tuned to a particular pitch if you measured it. They ARE tuned to something.

The thing with Mr. Purdie is that he doesn't give a crap what the tuning is as long as it sounds good.

Quote:
Originally Posted by thismercifulfate View Post
Tune your kick to where it sounds the best
You see, you kind of contradicted yourself there.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #23
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by cabbo View Post
, the drum should be able to produce a fundamental tone with detectable pitch.
But any two-headed drum is also capable of an indefinite pitch. Something (like bam!) that that has more than one sound coming out of it and cannot be nailed down to a single "note".

What "pitch" is this?


While sounds can still be high or low, not everything has a "pitch", and that to me is part of the charm, interest and excitement of having percussion in your band. I have a bass already!

Electronic "kicks" these days are often little more than sine waves. They can't help but have a note. (is it just me, or is that sound really getting old?)

Quote:
Originally Posted by alrod
If you want to be technical about it, I am sure his drums are tuned to a particular pitch if you measured it. They ARE tuned to something.
Not necessarily. Not everything has a "pitch". His drums can be (and almost certainly are, given his philosophy) tuned to an indefinite pitch. A sound that would drive your tuner crazy.

Definite and Indefinite Pitch
Quote:
Sounds with indefinite pitch do not have harmonic spectra or have altered harmonic spectra—a characteristic known as inharmonicity.

It is still possible for two sounds of indefinite pitch to clearly be higher or lower than one another. For instance, a snare drum sounds higher pitched than a bass drum though both have indefinite pitch, because its sound contains higher frequencies. In other words, it is possible and often easy to roughly discern the relative pitches of two sounds of indefinite pitch, but sounds of indefinite pitch do not neatly correspond to any specific pitch
.
emphasis mine

Quote:
Originally Posted by norfolk martin
If you're Bernard Purdie you can away with hammering 8th notes on an undamped floor tom tuned to F while the bassist is doing the same on a E
You are missing the point - because you are assuming a drum "must" have a pitch. But the idea is that Bernard Purdie is not tuning his drum to either an "E" or an "F" - he is tuning it to an Indefinite Pitch. A bam, not a duuuum. When you go to a show, do you see the techs run out with a different set of toms for each song depending on the key?

I remember back in the day, one way people would tune a drum for recording was to tune the drum very evenly all the way around, then pick one lug and randomly crank it a good half a turn or so down. Kind of like how the Zen Gardener carefully rakes the grass for an hour, then grabs a branch overhead and gives it one good shake to release a few random leaves to settle on the lawn.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
Which is great in an orchestral context, but maybe not for our OP.
And in the orchestral context, that role is usually assigned to the tympani - the single headed drum. Not the bass drum, which may have to stand in for a cannon if you are doing a certain piece.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #24
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norfolk martin's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post

e


You are missing the point - because you are assuming a drum "must" have a pitch. But the idea is that Bernard Purdie is not tuning his drum to either an "E" or an "F" - he is tuning it to an Indefinite Pitch. A bam, not a duuuum. When you go to a show, do you see the techs run out with a different set of toms for each song depending on the key?
.
I'm not a assuming a drum "must" have a pitch, I'm stating that it may have a distinct pitch depending on how you set it up. You can set up a drum to give an "indefinite pitch" and also to a definite pitch. All lugs at equal tension will give a definite fundamental pitch. Even a double headed tom can have a distinct fundamental.

if the OP is using something like a kick sample overlayed with a 50Hz sine wave trigger, pitch may indeed be important. if the song had a lot of E bass tones, he will get a 2Hz beat frequency between the kick and the bass. This effect may sound good, and it may not. If not. move the kick up by a couple of cents
Old 4 weeks ago
  #25
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by cabbo View Post
Well said voodoo4u. Except now the op’s quest is to tune samples.
Well, more often than not it's samples of acoustic sounds (usually from VST of some kind or just random samples), some are processed to some degree so I'm not sure what this makes them. But either way nothing I personally record in a studio.

I know it's a bit easier with 808s but with acoustic kicks?

One person above mentioned the resonant frequency that defines the kick. I'm used to hunting them and surgically remove them. I didn't know they were important, I thought they were just messing up my kicks.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #26
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chrischoir's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by norfolk martin View Post
a drum "must" have a pitch
Every sound in the universe has a frequency and frequency is pitch
Old 4 weeks ago
  #27
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chrischoir View Post
Every sound in the universe has a frequency and frequency is pitch
Many sounds in the universe have more than one frequency. When no particular frequency dominates over the others, it only has an Indefinite Pitch. It may be perceived as "high" or "low", but not as "C#".

Transients are sounds in the universe and they have no "frequency" , because they do not repeat. Who can say what the "frequency" of a single shock wave is?

Last edited by joeq; 4 weeks ago at 07:20 AM..
Old 4 weeks ago
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nuieve View Post
Well, more often than not it's samples of acoustic sounds
if it is a sample of a real acoustic kick drum, many acoustic kicks are tuned to indefinite pitches. You can raise it up and down, but you are raising all the sounds up and down, which does does not make them "converge" on a single note.

Quote:
I know it's a bit easier with 808s but with acoustic kicks?
808's are just about a sine wave. It's a lot easier. The pattern repeats exactly. The acoustic kick sample, it will depend on how the actual drum was tuned. You can still tune it up and down until you think it's "good", but there is no law that says you need to measure what "note" it is playing and "tune" it to your song. Even when it is possible to do.

Quote:
One person above mentioned the resonant frequency that defines the kick. I'm used to hunting them and surgically remove them. I didn't know they were important, I thought they were just messing up my kicks.
Maybe they are. Read the Wikipedia article. Not every kick has a single, resonant frequency. They may have multiple resonances. Which one "defines" the drum? Unless the drum really is "pitched" it's absurd to even think this way. If you tune one, the others are "out". No one but you can decide if you like that sound or don't like it. When it comes to acoustic drums, I prefer a drum where it does not 'sing out' one particular note. Especially kick drums and snare drums. I want them to sound like a gunshot (snare) or a cannon (kick). Not like an agogo bell or a short blast on a tuba.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #29
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biksonije's Avatar
 

Try to listen. If you've got a half of hearing quality potential you will be able to spot it right on. I can't tell you scientifically but it's something you feel. You just "feel" that something is wrong with your drum kit. Then, if you're working with "singing" kick drum(s) like already mentioned 808 kick (which is sine wave, long sine thus with singing capabilities), then you'll be able to tune ghat kick to the rest of your fundamentals and it will fi right in. Sometimes by just a few cents or one or two semitones up or down. Almost every DAW now has some utility tool such as Tuner. If not, there are some nice tools out there. But I would go for ear first to try and feel it yourself! Tuner next...

Oh yes, btw, usually you don't tune your kick but the whole drum kit.

Best,

Krešo
Old 4 weeks ago
  #30
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voodoo4u's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
Maybe they are. Read the Wikipedia article. Not every kick has a single, resonant frequency. They may have multiple resonances. Which one "defines" the drum? Unless the drum really is "pitched" it's absurd to even think this way. If you tune one, the others are "out". No one but you can decide if you like that sound or don't like it. When it comes to acoustic drums, I prefer a drum where it does not 'sing out' one particular note. Especially kick drums and snare drums. I want them to sound like a gunshot (snare) or a cannon (kick). Not like an agogo bell or a short blast on a tuba.
Joeq I'm surprised to see you saying that. Most of the time your posts are spot on. Kick drums have a fundamental resonant frequency as do guitars and buildings and bridges, everything that has mass has a fundamental resonant frequency. Nicola Tesla proved this in the 20th century with some of his experiments. They can be looked up. Depending on the elasticity of the materials something is made of, the ADSR will change. For example, a bell made of brass will ring longer than a bell made of wood.

When it comes to a drum, in this case, a kick drum, a few other things come into play. One, the drum itself has a resonant frequency. Two if you put one skin on it, the skin itself can be tuned. It can have vibrations that are either tuned to or out of synch with the resonant frequency of the drum. It also has far greater elasticity than the shell of the drum so it will have much longer sustain. Then thirdly, if you add a second skin to the drum, everything changes again. You can tune it to be in tune or out of tune with the first skin and they can both be in tune or out of tune with the resonant frequency of the shell. AND, now you've trapped a volume of air inside the drum which now, when hit, puts amplified air pressure on the shell and second skin causing sympathetic vibrations. If both skins and the shell are all tuned to the same fundamental frequency, it can cause the drum to give a pretty long, powerful and sustained note as the air trapped in the drum reverberates. That doesn't mean that this tuning is where the drum necessarily sounds the best. Sometimes the drum sounds better when the second head is detuned slightly so that the the sustain is less. When that happens, the harmonic series produced by the drum can become extremely complex because the two heads and the shell are all vibrating at different frequencies. It can give you a very complex series of overtones which is what you're referring to. But it doesn't mean the drum itself doesn't have natural, fundamental frequency.
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