How To Tune A Bass Drum
Although it is automatic to assume that musical instruments, such as guitars and woodwinds, need to be tuned, few ever consider the fact that drums also require tuning and how important it is to know how to tune a bass drum. The sound of the drums, though, functions as the framework of any song, so drums must be kept in tune to maintain the right sound and tonal qualities.
The bass drum, also known as the kick drum, can be tuned in several different ways depending on the type of music you intend to play. The tuning procedure for how to tune a bass drum, however, is the same for any tuning and basically consists of these main steps:
Placing the drum skins on the drum. Although drums can be tuned at any time if necessary, it is especially important to tune them after the drum skins or heads have been replaced. Placing the new skins on the bass drum involves attaching them to the drum hoop and tightening the lugs that hold the skin attached to the hoop. The lugs should be tightened in a star-like pattern, tightening one lug, then the lug opposite it rather than pairs of lugs that are next to each other along the circumference of the skin. This creates a more even tension along the full surface of the drum head. Lugs are often tightened by hand, but some drummers prefer to use drum keys.
- Tuning the drum to itself. After the drum head is snug on the hoop, tune the drum to itself. Because of varying tensions along the surface of the drum skin, different parts of the drum head will produce different tones unless the drum is tuned properly. To tune the drum to itself, strike the drum an inch or two away from each lug. The sound emitted from each area should be the same tone. Adjust the lugs until the tones match around the circumference of the drum head.
- Tuning the individual heads to separate tones. Both the batter head, the head that is struck by the drum beater, and the opposite, or front, head should be tuned. In some cases, the opposite head on the kick drum is removed for a particular sound resonance. In these cases, only the batter head is tuned, but often a pillow or other cushioning material is placed inside the drum to modulate the sound. In general, the separate heads can be tuned to the same tone or one can be tuned higher than the other. The resulting tones and resonance will provide a different sound for each combination of tones. If the front head has a hole cut in it, be careful when tightening it to prevent ripping.
- Use a muffling material to reduce sympathetic resonance. Some drummers like to use a muffler of some kind inside on the outer surface of their bass drum to reduce "ringing" tones caused by sympathetic resonance with other drums in the kit.
Following these general guidelines for how to tune a bass drum will provide a strong, powerful sound that will nicely complement the rest of the drums in your drum kit.