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Roland TD-30KV, adjusting head tension

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  • Roland TD-30KV, adjusting head tension

    hey all,

    i'm setting up my new kit, and wondering how to approach adjusting the head tension on the pads.

    the manuals don't cover much detail beyond "you must adjust head tension before playing", and don't give any real guidance other than make sure that the turning bolts are adjusted evenly across the head.

    so far, i've tightened all pads and the kick pad two full rotations of a drum key.

    my question is, how do i know how much is enough, or too little? is there any rule of thumb to go by? is it just a matter of playing and adjusting accordingly? is there a minimum/maximum threshold for head tension?

    just want to make sure i don't break anything.


  • #2
    The search engine works just fine. Searching for the word "tension" in titles brings up a recent thread with all the info you need.
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    • #3
      Matt posted this same question at DFO (www.drumforum.org). My responses may be of interest to people at this forum so here they are:


      I've got the same kit as you. Like an acoustic drum, with Roland's mesh pads, you want even tension around the head. Thus, you cross tune just as with an acoustic drum. Where the difference comes is you're not tuning for sonic pitch, but rather for two reasons: (1) so that triggering is even and as sensitive as possible across the entire head, and (2) so as to put enough tension on the head that your sticks avoid hitting the foam cone tip and sensor (under the head) in the middle of each pad. Thus, I tune in two steps:

      Step 1
      As with an acoustic drum, start from scratch. Take the head off completely and re-seat it, making sure it is centered on the bearing edge and not pulling to any one side. Put the hoop on and make sure all tension rods are lined up properly so none are pulling sideways. Roland's custom lugs are tight so you won't be able to finger tune to de-wrinkle. However, the process is the same. Use your drum key to bring all the tension rods up to finger tightness. Your goal here is simply to get the wrinkles out of the head while keeping the head centered on the bearing edge. All lugs should have even tension when you're done. This is your starting point. Now, bring the tension up with cross lug tuning, as you would with an acoustic drum. I like to do this slowly, with half key turns, so as to ensure consistent and even tension around the head. The target tension you're aiming for is slightly higher than medium tension on an acoustic drum. Depending on the size of the mesh pad (8, 10, 12, or 14 inches), you'll end up with the equivalent of about two to four full key turns. Once again, I underline you're aiming for medium tension - not too tight and not too loose.

      Step 2
      Place your finger in the center of the head and feel for the foam tip (under the head) in the center of the pad. The foam tip is the top of a cone that protects the piezo sensor underneath the head and that transfers head vibrations to the head piezo sensor. If head tension is too loose, you'll feel the foam tip sticking up quite a bit. If that's the case, cross lug tune to bring the head tension up such that you can barely feel the cone tip in the center of the head. You should still feel the cone tip ever so slightly, but not much. Stop there. Don't try to eliminate the feeling of the foam tip entirely as you'll end up putting too much tension on the head. Staying within a medium tension range (somewhere within medium low, to medium, to medium high) is what you're aiming for.

      Tune all the pads in the kit this way. Contrary to Roland's marketing literature of quite a while back, you cannot tune pads to match the feel of an acoustic kit. (i.e. High tom has more tension than a floor tom. Don't do that.) Each pad needs an ideal, medium tension to achieve proper triggering and protection for the foam cone and piezo sensor.

      Highlighting an important detail: Too little tension on the head is a bad thing. With too little tension, a hard hit in the center of the pad can strike through the cone and hit the sensor, thus damaging the sensor. Also, too little tension causes a loss of triggering sensitivity (or no triggering) at the edges of the drum. So you don't want too little or too much tension. Repeating... you want enough tension so that the tip of the foam cone (underneath the head and in the center) can barely be felt. You should still feel this cone a little bit, though.

      Another important detail: When tuned properly, you'll find there is a slight dead spot when hitting dead center on each pad. The spot isn't totally dead, but it has much less bounce than the rest of the head. This is caused by the foam tips under the heads. You can add tension to reduce the dead spots, but don't try to eliminate them entirely because, as with attempting to eliminate the feel of the foam tips themselves, doing so puts too much tension on the head. Regardless of tension, you can never totally eliminate the feeling of the foam tips and the dead spots they create so aim for medium or slightly above medium tension and call it a day.

      Hope this helps.
      Last edited by TangTheHump; 12-17-14, 04:31 PM.


      • #4
        Second response to Matt from DFO (www.drumforum.org):

        Slyone at DFO wrote:
        Firstly, you'll find you tighten them more than you would an acoustic head. How to determine what is "right" has been a small bit of mystery to me (a TD-20 owner). The usual advice is tighten to reduce and hopefully eliminate the hot spot in the center, but I've never been that successful.
        Re Slyone's discussion of hot spots. If the head tension is too loose, hard strikes get closer to the piezo sensor and can cause uneven dynamic response (notes jump out). That's why there's the notion that the heads should be tightened to eliminate hot spots. However, lack of head tension isn't the only cause of hot spots. Part of that particular problem is the default trigger settings and the way Roland maps different instrument voices to velocity levels.

        The "hot spot removal" topic is a huge subject that covers many things, including how you tune the heads. There is only so much you can do with tuning to remove hot spots. In fact, putting too much tension on the head causes other problems. So I recommend taking a moderate approach by using medium head tension. I use trigger settings and other settings in the module to help minimize the hot spot issue. In my experience, no matter what you do, the hot spots never truly disappear, but they can be minimized. The rest of dealing with host spots comes down to altering your technique - don't hit dead center unless you want that extra hot dynamic level.

        Getting back to head tension, it is fair to say that medium tension for V-Drums is tighter than you're used to for acoustic drums. Use the "cone rule" I wrote about above to find the ideal medium tension.

        Edited to add: To re-validate, just now, I tried tuning my snare drum pad up and down. When tuning down past a certain point of low tension, only the center of the drum triggers and all sensitivity near the edge is lost. Tune up past this point and sensitivity is restored at the edge.

        I then tuned to my "almost can't feel the cone" tension, which is slightly more than medium tension on an acoustic drum. At that tension, triggering around the drum is even and the head still has some give. However, there is certainly a hotter dynamic spot in the center.

        So, then I tuned the drum higher to eliminate as much of the feeling of the foam tip in the center as possible. The hot spot was marginally better, but still quite noticeable. At this tension, the drum still triggers fine with one caveat: sensitivity at the edge of the drum decreases.

        I tuned higher still. Now the drum feels like playing on a ping-ping racquet. Triggering is still good except at the edges, but the feel of the drum is way off - no give whatsoever. And, to be honest, at this very upper tension, it feels like the head may pull out of its hoop. Also, the hot spot in the center remains - there is no way to tune it out with tension.

        Bottom line. You might like to tune a bit higher than my "cone rule", but past a certain point the returns diminish: sensitivity at the edge reduces and the feel of the drum goes off. So, as before, I recommend a medium tension and possibly a bit higher for those who like that. Low tensions are most definitely a no-go because triggering starts to fail, you'll hit the cone a lot and that causes damage to the cone itself, and there is the danger of hitting through the cone to the sensor, thus damaging the sensor.

        There is a large "medium tension and slightly higher than medium tension" range that works so use your best judgment. You'll certainly know when you get into the "too tight" zone as the head becomes stiff and triggering at the edge becomes less sensitive. I actually do have my toms at quite a bit less tension than the snare drum. But, the toms are still in the medium tension zone as compared to acoustic toms where I could tune much lower without fear of damage.

        Sorry for the longwinded posts, but this is an area that confused me (too) and it was hard to find information. Thus, I'm passing on as much as I can!
        Last edited by TangTheHump; 12-17-14, 04:49 PM.


        • #5
          Great job TangTheHump! much appreciated.
          ◾ Diamond Drums 4pc in Di-Noc carbon ◾ 2box DrumIt 5 MKII
          ◾ Roland UA-1010 / cymbals / KT-10 (x2) ◾ Tama / Gibraltar hardware ◾ JBL LSR3 Series 2.1 Monitoring ◾ Pearl THMP-1
          PA Comparison Sheet


          • #6

            Kabonfaiba wrote:
            Great job TangTheHump! Much appreciated.
            You're most welcome. Thank you for the kind words.


            • #7
              i'll also post my response here from the DFO forum for members here to view:

              TDM, thank you very much for the great information (and apologies for the late response), it's nice to know that someone else out there has the same kit as me!

              i decided to tighten up all the heads (snare, toms and kick) a full 4 turns of the drum key; within hours of adjusting, i started to hear what i would describe as a cracking/snapping sound (something like walls and floors reacting to changing temperatures in a house, in terms of the type of sound); i can't be certain it was coming from the kit, but definitely sounded that way to me.

              i got a bit concerned that myabe the heads were reacting to the tightness, so i loosened all the heads a half turn of the drum key and left them for a bit, then started to hear the cracking/snapping noises again, so i loossed all the heads again another half turn.

              since then i haven't heard the noise, though i'm not certain those sounds had anything to do with the heads, or the kit period.

              does that make any sense? my gut feeling is that the heads were too tight, but not sure exactly what those sounds were.

              oh, and i did try your suggestion regading the cones; didn't really feel them when i pressed down on the center of the heads, and didn't want to put too much pressure on them, so i left that test alone.


              • #8

                When the heads are absolutely brand new, you may hear a few cracking sounds as you tighten them up. This is normal and is simply extra glue giving way. However, you should not hear sounds like this once the heads have seated and broken in.

                Regarding not being able to feel the cone tips in the center of the heads, these are easy to feel so it sounds like you're starting with too much tension on the heads. To tune properly, remove the heads from all the drums. Then, tune each drum individually.

                Pick a drum and place a head on. At this point, there should be no tension on the head and no rods in the lugs. Place a finger at the center of the head and you'll feel (and see) the cone tip. Now, put the rods in the lugs, tighten to finger tightness, and only then cross tune as I recommended in my first post.

                Important: use half key turns as you cross tune around the drum. Don't put large numbers of key turns on a single lug as this pulls the head over to one side of the bearing edge, causing seating and other tuning problems. Use half key turns (or smaller) before switching to the lug on the opposing side of the drum.

                As you tune, keep testing the center of the drum by placing a finger where the cone is. You should be able to feel the cone at all times. If you can't feel the cone at all, you've got too much tension on the head. This may lead to cracking sounds, which means the head is pulling out of its hoop. Back off the tension from all lugs immediately. If you follow the cone rule I suggested, you'll never have too much tension on the head. First, learn to feel the cone tip with no tension on the head. Then, use that knowledge of how the cone feels to tune the drum to an appropriate tension.

                Here's another test you can do while tuning. Though mesh heads don't have as pure a pitch as real drum heads, none-the-less, you can still hear pitches while tuning. Once you've got some tension on the head, tap the head at each lug and listen to the pitches. All lugs should be at the same pitch and the overall pitch of the head, when you're done, should be in the medium range. As the tension increases, it becomes more difficult to hear discernable pitches at the lugs. This is due partly because the pitch becomes high and partly because the length of the note is very short. If you can't hear discernable pitches, you've tuned too high.


                • #9
                  Thanks for the information. I expect that I have too much tension on my heads and I will sit down and re do all of them.
                  Equipment: TD-30KV, DW9000 hardware, ROC-N-SOC Throne, Behringer ULTRATONE K3000FX Amp, JBL EON 615 Powered Speaker, Yamaha MG06X. 1965 Ludwig Super Classic. Black diamond pearl. Zildjian K Custom Dark cymbals, DW 7000 hardware, DW 9000 kick pedal.


                  • #10
                    regarding the cone test, i dropped the tension on the snare back to its out-of-the-box setting; as i was gradually dropping the tension, i still couldn't "feel" the cone when i pressed down on the head.

                    once i stopped adjusting, i brushed my fingers across the center of the head with my fingertips (no pressure) and could feel a bump; it's soft, but it's there, so i'm guessing that's the cone? i was expecting the cone to be more firm to the touch when i pressed down on the head, but i really didn't notice it unitl i brushed my fingers across the head.


                    • #11

                      That's it. You got it. The cone is a slight, soft lift in the center of the head. It's not a hard surface and it doesn't stick up much.


                      • #12
                        I suggest you not be afraid to take the head off and take a look at the anatomy of your edrums. Then put the head back on and tension it up from scratch as you would a regular drum head. Finger tight all lugs, then bring the lugs up in succession, crosswise.
                        Pearl Mimic Pro, eDRUMin 10, ATV aDrums, DIY Conversion kit, Roland Handsonic HPD-20, EFNOTE 5, SD3, Porter & Davies Throne


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by jpsquared482 View Post
                          I suggest you not be afraid to take the head off and take a look at the anatomy of your edrums. Then put the head back on and tension it up from scratch as you would a regular drum head. Finger tight all lugs, then bring the lugs up in succession, crosswise.
                          Seconded. It's impossible to miss the cone tip when you do it this way.

                          Whenever I tune a drum that is foreign to me, as a starting point, I always remove the head. This allows examining the drum's bearing edge and re-seating the head correctly. It is difficult to tune a drum when the head isn't seated properly and sometimes improper seating simply makes tuning impossible. What I mean by "seated properly" is: shell's bearing edge contacts the head surface (not the crown) and there is equidistant spacing around the head such that there is space between the shell and head all the way around the drum. Specifically, whenever possible, you want to avoid the head being pulled to one side of the shell such that the collar contacts the shell and the bearing edge is no longer centered on the head.

                          Edited to add: If you're tuning a drum and getting uneven pitches at the lugs or strange overtones no matter what you do, as long as there are no problems with the shell and head, ninety-nine percent of the time this indicates improper head seating. Don't bother tweaking endlessly, thinking you'll eventually get the drum in tune. The fastest way to correct this problem is to remove the head and start again. You'll save much more time (and get better results) starting over than tweaking an improper head setup.

                          Sometimes, if necessary, I'll pull the head off and start over several times. This is because rarely are the hoops, collars, and tension rods exactly perfect. Thus, even when it seems the head is properly seated and evenly tensioned around the drum, sometimes, due to the variables noted, a given lug or lugs has pulled the head to one side of the drum. Quickest fix is pull the head off and start over. Once you get used to the symptoms of improper head seating, you'll know immediately when starting over is the best course of action.
                          Last edited by TangTheHump; 01-07-15, 12:26 PM.


                          • #14

                            Here are some pictures to help you.

                            1 - Pad Apart
                            Here's what the pad looks like when you take the head off. Notice the foam cone in the middle that transfers head vibrations to the piezo sensor and protects the piezo sensor. You cannot see the actual sensor because it integrates with the cone and the cone is over top of it. Don't touch the cone as the oil from fingers causes the material to breakdown faster than normal. image_26758.jpg

                            2 - Basket Cone
                            Closeup of the cone. The basket sits on the bearing edge of the shell. You can remove the basket, but there is no reason to do so for head seating. The only reason to remove the basket is for electrical or some other kind of maintenance. If you do remove the basket, it only goes back in one way. See the next photo. image_26759.jpg

                            3 - Basket Guidepost
                            There's a small guidepost on the underside of the basket. Look near the top of this picture and you'll see it. That post fits into a notch in the shell. basket_guidepost.jpg

                            4 - Basket Notch
                            Here is the notch in the shell where the basket's guidepost fits. image_26761.jpg

                            5 - Head No Hoop
                            With the basket installed properly in the shell, drop the head on and center it on the basket's bearing edge. Don't put the hoop over the head first as this makes it difficult to determine how the head is sitting on the bearing edge. image_26762.jpg

                            (Continued next post...)
                            Last edited by TangTheHump; 01-07-15, 05:12 PM.


                            • #15
                              (...Continued from previous post)

                              6 - Head With Hoop
                              Place the hoop gently over the head. Leave the tension rods out to make it easier to align the hoop with the lugs. The alignment should be dead on. image_26763.jpg

                              7 - Head Loose Rods
                              Drop the tension rods through the holes in the hoop and into the lugs. The idea is to keep the hoop, rods, and lugs all aligned so the rods drop down straight. You don't want side-to-side pull, which is what happens when the rods aren't aligned properly. image_26764.jpg

                              8 - Head Fingertight Rods
                              Tighten the tension rods using a drum key. Only tighten each rod such that the rods barely contact the hoop. The rods are loose enough that you can flip the washers up and down against the hoop with your fingers. When done, make sure the head and hoop remain centered on the bearing edge and that the tension rods are all straight. If necessary, adjust the hoops and rods to obtain perfect alignment. image_26765.jpg

                              9 - Pad Cone
                              At this point, there should be little to no tension on the head. This is your starting point for tuning the drum. Check this side view to see what the cone tip looks like under the head. Follow the instructions given at the beginning of this thread to complete tuning the drum. image_26766.jpg

                              Hope this helps!
                              Last edited by TangTheHump; 01-07-15, 05:14 PM.