Drum Tuning

Drum Tuning


Tuning a drum set is something that many drummers know a little about. In my experience, few understand exactly the principles and mechanics of what is going on and tuning generally therefore is a bit hit and miss.

In my opinion it defeats the purpose of investing hard earned money in buying a beautiful drum kit, then proceeding to adorn it with gaffer tape, bits of beer mats, insulation tape or even the application of ladies’ sanitary pads. It probably takes longer to organise one of the aforementioned items than it does to tune the drum once you know what you are doing.

This area of the site has grown so much that it now has its own domain -  Drum Tuning at TUNADRUM

Drum Tuning, What are we trying to do?

Tuning drums is essentially a mechanical exercise with the aim of ensuring that the tensions across a head are as equal as possible around the head, or ‘in tune with itself’. Additionally, each head needs to be tuned sympathetically with the drum’s other head and with the other elements of your kit.

Tuning is a mechanical exercise and therefore there are many varied ways of delivering an appropriate tone from a drum. The method that I propose below is one that works for me, however feel free to experiment and take other advice. Once you understand the principles the methods become apparent.



Drum heads are generally made from Mylar which is a plastic. Over a period of use, particularly with batter or top heads, that plastic will heat and stretch or be forced out of shape by force as it absorbs the impact of a players’ strokes. When a drum head gets to the point that you cannot tune to, or maintain, a single pure tone, or you physically disfigure the head, it is time to replace the heads. Regardless of what type of head you are using or the quality of your kit, there is no point in trying to tune a drum kit that has old heads that have passed their best. The resonant bottom heads don’t lose their tone as quickly, but they are still under tension and should be checked and replaced regularly, A reasonable rule of thumb is to change resonant heads with every third or fourth change of batter heads.

To get the best out of your drums therefore you should use fresh heads. To really understand the tuning process, you should work with single ply heads initially, I’m not suggesting that you use them although many professionals do, but they are the best medium with which to illustrate the tuning process and to let you hear the voices of the drum as we move through that process.

 The same fundamental tuning principles are applied to all drums in a drum kit; whether bass, snare or toms. Over & above that, bass drums & snare drums involve other considerations which we will address after looking at basic batter & resonant head tuning on toms. 

The Plan

The Tuning guide follows a number of steps. It is intended to be hands on and you should implement the process on the drum as you progress



Applying & tuning the drum heads


Related issues




Paul Marshall -

Paul is the owner of Drumdojo and the Dojo Sites, He is responsible for writing and collating a lot of of the material that you see here on drumdojo.

Playing drumset since age 5, Paul has been a drummer on and off for most of his life. He plays every drum he can get his hands on. Paul works as an instrument designer, has designed many instruments for the Stomp orchestra and more recently in Holywood Movies. Paul is a prolific web designer and currently has a portfolio of around 40 business and hobby sites.

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