Producer, Engineer, Live Sound Man
Charles England


Q:What's the proper way to tune a drum?

A: Wow, Truly the drum question from Hell. The answer to which opens an entire "Pandora's Box" of Debate. I've gotten into more than one heated argument over this one. But at the risk of starting another fight, here it is. I, for a lack of a better term, Call this the "reference" or natural tuning. In theory, a drum is 'properly' tuned; when the tension of the top and bottom heads are at equilibrium with the static tension of the shell. Like three guitar strings all tuned to the same note. This produces the most pure or natural tone without over-rings or tone drop. The most common "mistake" is see is tuning the toms too high. I see guys do this all the time. They're trying to get the tone of a 12" out of a 14". They use thick heads and crank 'em up. The higher tension on the head provides the player with more bounce of the head, which gives it greater playability to some players. The problem with this is that even if you achieve equal tension between the top and bottom heads the shell's static tension remains lower this makes the drum ring unnaturally. This is controllable enough with gates or, God forbid, Duct Tape. Rule of thumb, if your busting out the Duct tape, or Moon Gel, or excessively muffling your toms... They're probably not tuned right. With 1 exception. It's been my experience when a drum 16" in diameter or greater it "naturally" tune, it resonates forever. It produces a perfect pitch and just keeps on going. In this case I place a small napkin on a piece of Duct tape and put the tape over the top of the rim, so only the napkin is touching the head. Bottom line, you want a higher pitch out of you toms , get smaller one's.

Peace out, C.E.

Read our exclusive interview with Vinnie Vincent roadie, Charles England. Charles tell us about his days, on the road, working with Vinnie Vincent and VV / Nitro drummer, Bobby Rock.

Ask Charles a Question