Perhaps the most important skill that a drummer can have is the know-how to get the proper balance and maximum performance out of their drumset. The ability to tune a drum or an entire kit is an invaluable tool for a drummer who wants to sound his (or her) best. Even experienced drummers have trouble tuning their drums, but with some good advice and a little practice, you can conquer the technique and be on your way to a better drumset. And a better drumset makes a huge difference.

Things you'll need:
-- a drum
-- a drum key
-- a drum head
-- patience

A few considerations before you begin...

1. Don't be cheap:
Its more than worth investing in good drum heads whenever you make a trip to the music store. Good, high quality drum heads will make a huge difference in the way your drum will sound, and the difference in performance between the low and high end drumheads is well worth the slight cost increase. I used to to work at Guitar Center, and I often explained this point to the customers when buying drumheads: a crappy drum with a good head can sound significantly better than a good drum with a crappy head. Brands such as Remo (the time-tested drumhead company), Evans (the industry standard for many pro drummers), and Aquarian (they have lots of unique sounding heads) are probably your best bet, but its worth experimenting. If you want an endless amount of info on various types of drumheads, its worth checking out The Drum Tuning Bible.

2. Consider your source:
This is my first instructable, so bear with me. If you have any suggestions I would appreciate the advice, as I am planning on writing several more. Also, the info that is to come is general knowledge and you will be able to find similar instructions on the internet. This is my method for dealing with this madness, and just about everyone will have their own way. Read around, experiment, and you will eventually find your own style.

Also check out some of my other drum instructables:
Cymbal Polishing
Cymbal Repair
Effects Snare Drum

Step 1: Getting Good Heads

The first step in tuning your drums properly is to make sure you have the right heads. Depending on the drum that you are tuning, the style of head that you put on the top and bottom should be planned out to maximize the sound, performance and life-span of the heads. The relationship between the heads depends solely on the sound you want to achieve. I will list a few common pairs and you can decide where to go from there.

Head Types:
1-ply: always used for bottom (resonant) heads, and for some top (batter) heads
2-ply: a good choice for batter heads, but be very wary of using as a resonant head
snare side: an extra-thin head made specifically for use on the bottom of a snare drum
coated: there is a thin layer of opaque plastic applied to the face of this head, adds
warmth, controls overtones
clear: essentially a non-coated head, these heads tend to have more sustain and overtones

Pairing Heads: (batter - resonant)
2-ply coated - 1-ply clear: This is a common combo used on toms. The coated batter heads will provide a little more control and a little less ring, plus they look cool.
2-ply clear - 1-ply clear: Another good tom configuration, and again, this is a preference issue. You will get a lot more tone and sustain from your toms with a clear batter head. Experiment with both, and you'll find your niche.
2-ply coated - snare side: What can I say, use this on your snares, always. Some people like using a clear 1-ply on the snare side, but just dont, ok? I dont want to rant, so take my word for it.
1-ply clear or coated - 1-ply clear: A good set-up on toms of you are playing jazz, or something lighter. Its just not practical for rock and most styles; your heads will last only weeks vs. months.

Now that you've got your heads all picked out, its time to get down to business. Put on some coffee, turn on some angry music, smoke em if you got em, and get ready for some frustration.
Yo, I don't play drums, but most other normal instruments I do. Anyways, I bought a used cheap drumset, And I've been learning more bout tuning them(You), And I was wondering for toms, I have a kit with two of the small toms and a floor tom, Wondering what the drummer preferred pitch/sustain/attack is around. The reason I have this kit is for my band, once I get my little "Jam room" done. So what is the "norm" for these three toms?
Hey Drums787, <br><br>Great page with some good info on <a href="http://www.howtotunedrums.org/">how to tune drums</a>. Loads of people get drum tuning wrong so it's nice to see some solid advice. :-)
this is a great tuning guide, i recently got new heads and am in the process of tuning them, but have no experience, are there any tips to make tuning the heads easier thats not in this guide?
This was really helpful! I just started teaching myself to play about 6 months ago. I did have one question though. Do you gave to put pressure on the heads to set them in, or will that happen by itself while tuning?<br />
the heads will gradually increase in pressure as you tighten the bolts<br />
Very nice tuning guide.&nbsp; I've been playing drums for about 25 years now and it's always the hardest thing to do.&nbsp; I&nbsp;like to tweak endlessly, so it's nice to get other drummers' opinions on how to tune.&nbsp; One thing I&nbsp;like to do, rather than use a typical thin snare side head is use a 1-ply clear tom head for the resonant snare head (like a clear Remo Ambassador). &nbsp; It's give you a little more meat or &quot;thunk,&quot; but I've paired it with a more sensitive 42-strand snare wire.&nbsp; (Rumor has it that this is Alex Van Halen's snare recipe, btw.)&nbsp; I'll have to try the Aquarian head on the bass drum, too--thanks for the tip!!<br />
haha i've got ash! :P JK i hope noone brags like that O_O<br />
grescth huh... well im more of a masters of maple guy myself also with brady's drums(yeah brady awesome!!) and um.. TAMA!!!!!!!
what kind of evan4s heads do you have - i have ec2
ive got just some coated G2s on there right now, but EC2s are definitely my head of choice. i play heavier music so i use an aquarian super kick II on the kick and an aquarian hi-energy on the snare
Nice set
thanks man
realy great and detailed 'ible :) nice kit aswell, i love 2 up 2 down setups what sizes are your floor toms?. im playin a mapex v-series 5 piece but iv got an old drumworld floor tom added on and tuned much lower than my mapex; sounds suprisingly good! haha
ha, ya mixing and matching individual drums actually works better than you might think. i know people who have entire kits made from random drums. i prefer the 2 x 2 set up as well - you have plenty of options when choosing which drums to take to a gig. my toms are 10", 12, 14, 16 - im thinking i might try to get an 8" from the factory to add on as well
cool :P do u know anywhere that would sell red hoops and lugs? i think theyd look realy cool with my black kit but i cant find any.
hmm, i know gretsch makes drumsets that come with colored hardware, so you might be able to buy some from their factory. Go by a Guitar Center to look into ordering them. Otherwise, you could try to powdercoat them yourself. You can buy rims for cheap ($15 or so) and rods for even less, and spray paint them if you dont want to mess up your original hardware.
thanks, i'll look into it. gretsch will probly be mucho dinero so i mite ask some of my friends taking d+t a levels to get some powder coated.
This is an excellent source to have. As a drummer for several years, I have never really known how to tune a drum well. Thanks!
Dude, awesome instructable! Thanks for the info.

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Bio: After a number of years in Austin, I relocated to New England and have spiraled into a black hole of obsession with woodworking after seeing ... More »
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