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Newbie wants to know... about Tom Tuning!

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  • Newbie wants to know... about Tom Tuning!

    I've noted that my drummers (when I was in bands) typically had three toms tuned in a major 3rd, often second inversion (eg, G C E). In the TD-30 presets that's also common, with the floor tom an octave below the high tom. Questions I've got about this are:

    1) now that you can retune your set at the press of a button, does anyone bother matching these tunings to the key of the song? Is it something you'd do in a perfect world but never bother in real life doing even on a recording? Do you feel you get a somewhat different attitude in the sound being in the key of a song vs. being say a semitone off?

    2) What are the common tunings for a four-tom set?

    3) Do you guys with like 8 toms add more treble notes, more bass notes, or keep the same range but have finer divisions between them?

    4) Given four (or more) toms, how common is it to make a "matched set" that varies only in pitch, vs. making say one floor tom an utterly different tone?

  • #2
    40+ readers but no-one has anything to add so far...

    I like this Bob Gatzen tuning for a 4-tom setup. low D for 16" floor; octave up D for 10", then another fourth up for 8", hi G. Then second floor tom (18"?) C and snare an octave above that. One thing I like about this is that its not really a major or minor tuning.

    Other than that vid, I'm finding almost nothing on the subject. There are a fair number of people writing about tom tuning, but they're concentrating on how to tighten bolts, how to adjust the bottom head WRT to the top. Some say "use a tuner" but don't mention what intervals they like or that pros use. Others say tune each drum until it sounds best. All of these suggestions are heartfelt and well-intentioned but don't really address e-drums in general.

    As a guitar player of several decades, I know you can always find out what tuning a given player is using for a given song if its not standard. It seems in the drum world not only is there not a standard, but people don't share that info around, if anyone even has it.

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    • #3
      My thoughts quickly thinking would be if it sounds good to the ears why would you care what key a Tom plays?
      I have OCD at time but that stretches it a little far. Even if I cared about key I know the listening audience does not.
      "It makes sense if you dont think about it"

      Mimic Pro, SPD-SX, 2-QSC K-10s, K-sub, Yamaha mixer, and a bunch of other expensive cool things!

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      • #4
        It usually does not matter.There is a thread on Gearslutz.com about this and session drummer Chris Whitten said he has never been asked to do this. Chris has played with Paul McCartney and many other well known artists.

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        • #5
          OK, so setting aside the question of retuning for each song, what are some intervals people use with 5-, 6-, 7-tom setups? People are definitely ending up with SOME sort of tuning, and given how many sets are tuned to a first-inversion major chord (eg, T1=E, T2 = C, T3 = G, T4 = low C) I can't believe people suddenly stop using any pattern whatsoever once they add extra toms...

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          • #6
            Actually it occurs to me I should just experiment myself. I'm hardly a drummer (only 10 weeks' experience?) but I have the setup (keyboards, recording software) to make some demos. I think I'll try laying down just a simple I-IV-V riff in G major, and see how it sounds with some tom fills in G major (which would be best-fit) vs. F# or G# major (which would be probably worst possible fit).

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            • #7
              Terence Fletcher wants his kit tuned eh?

              I think I have a liking for wide note spacing between toms. I've never checked what the exact note is, but I do pay attention to the note spacing between the rack toms, (by ear) which then defines what sort of tuning the floor toms will have.

              From my real kit experience, I tune the 8inch as high as the highest resonant frequency will allow. (particular frequencies where the drum shell will resonate with itself - I pick the highest one of those).

              I tune the 10inch, as low as the head will allow, tuning up until it starts resonating. - This all depends on how much range a tom has to tune with though. Some toms (cheap heads) simply will only accept 1 tuning and that's it lol.

              Floor toms are way trickier for me. I spent most of the time stopping excess resonance at this point, since it's often too boomy for my liking - not because of the drum, but because of the room I'm in, certain tuning is just not possible.

              Sampled toms I tend to leave native, because I'm far too sensitive to pitch modulation, so my window of tuning is really narrow before it starts sounding artificial.
              ♦ Diamond Drums 4pc in Di-Noc carbon ♦ MegaDRUM + Roland UA-1010 / cymbals / KT-10 (x2) ♦ Tama / Gibraltar hardware ♦ JBL LSR3 Series 2.1 Monitoring
              Community Drum Module Document
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              • #8
                now that you can retune your set at the press of a button, does anyone bother matching these tunings to the key of the song? Is it something you'd do in a perfect world but never bother in real life doing even on a recording? Do you feel you get a somewhat different attitude in the sound being in the key of a song vs. being say a semitone off?
                Even though it would make a difference in the overall sound, drummers don't typically tune that detailed.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by New Tricks View Post

                  Even though it would make a difference in the overall sound, drummers don't typically tune that detailed.

                  Because they are half deaf from the damn guitarist that thinks only loud will make you proud!
                  "It makes sense if you dont think about it"

                  Mimic Pro, SPD-SX, 2-QSC K-10s, K-sub, Yamaha mixer, and a bunch of other expensive cool things!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    If you still want to get into details - check out the nice tune bot device http://tune-bot.com/product.html ...here you can find both advises how to tuning and create a 7 trum tom kit. They have also a calculator - 8"(G 3rd octave), 10" (D# 3rd octave), 12" (A# 2nd octave) and so on...​

                    Best Regards

                    ANGR77
                    Pearl CrystalBeat and Sonor Safari, Roland CY-14/13R/15R/12CR, RT-10x,2xBT-1,VH-11/12/13 & KD-10, Quartz, Pintech Dingbat, Triggera D14,D11, ATV AD-h14, 120MHz MegaDRUM with PS board, 2box 5&3, dd4SE, TD-9, Addictive Drums 2.1.8. All ADpaks, Microsoft Surface PRO, Macbook, Pearl Throne Thumper, Zourman HH & Ride Conv Kit www.zourman.com

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                    • #11
                      I have the TD-20X.
                      I also have the Tunebot Studio and Tuning Guide for Acoustic Drum Tuning
                      http://tune-bot.com/tune-bot-studio.html
                      http://tune-bot.com/tuning-guide.html

                      Obviously, the Tunebot does not work on Mesh Pads as the tension only controls the feel and not the actual tuning.
                      In the COSM it is possible to change the Head Tuning - Inst-Edit-Head - TD-20X Manual p.50 - but the value is default 0 and can be offset from -480 to +480.
                      I wonder if anyone has a reliable tuning method to match the settings for Tom to Frequency/Note value?

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                      • #12
                        My method was simple. I had the sound of what I wanted in my head and tuned the drums to match.

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                        • #13
                          it used to be common (not universal to my knowledge) for jazz drummers to tune their toms to notes, but it is a rare thing nowadays. unless you are truly trying to play melodically, the note of the toms doesn’t matter, and if you are trying to play truly melodically then you need to be in the right key. most people tune their toms to their ‘sweet’ spot - a sound that suits the particular player’s ear and style - rather than a note or interval
                          Last edited by jackodrum; 02-27-19, 05:25 PM.
                          TD9 v1 > Scarlett 2i4 > macbook running SD3 and Garageband // TD9 v1 > Scarlett 6i6 > imac running SD3 and Logic // Zendrum > Stompblock > Scarlett 2i4 > macbook running SD3 and Garageband // ATH-M30x headphones / Yamaha DBR10 // small acoustic kits with Zildjian Ks, plus a few As and Sabians

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                          • #14
                            When I was gigging and warming up, I use to do what I would call a cross or X break. Right on the snare, Left on the small tom, Right on the larger tom, then Left on the floor tom, then back again, and keep doing that, building up the speed. Doing this you could hear how your tunings were working together and if it did not match the way you were thinking it should sound, then you adjusted them till it came right.
                            Last edited by John.b; 03-09-19, 12:20 PM.

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                            • #15

                              Didn't the late great Buddy Rich say something to the effect of, "You don't tune a drum, you tension a drum."
                              Hardware: TD20SX --> Roland UA-25EX --> MSI GT780DX w/ i7 2670, 16-GB of Ram, Windows 7
                              Software: Superior Drummer 2.0, Metal Foundry SDX, Metal Machine EZX, Toontrack Solo - - Sonor X1 Studio - -

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