If you are learning how to play the drums, it is also important to know how to tune drums in relation to each other for the best sound quality. Tuning a drum set also depends on what style of music you are playing, as different styles often require slightly different tunings. Tuning the drum set requires a few basic steps. Once you have tuned all the drums to the desired pitches, you will find that your drums will complement each other as well as the sound of the other instruments in your ensemble
Tune each individual drum to itself. This involves tightening the drum heads evenly around the circumference of the drum. Tighten the lugs in a star-like pattern–don't tighten one lug and then the one right next to it, but rather tighten a lug, then the opposite lug, then skip one or two lugs along the circumference and repeat until the drumskin is taut enough to produce a steady tone. Then strike the drum head an inch or two away from each lug and adjust until the same tone sounds all along the circumference.
- Tune the drums to each other. The drums are tuned from lowest to highest, with the bass drum or kick drum having the lowest tone and the snare drum the highest. The toms are in between, with the smallest of the toms carrying the highest tone. Some drummers tune all the drums to the lowest possible tone, or to the highest possible tone that can be produced on that drum. Others will tune the toms a perfect fifth or a perfect fourth apart, then tune the snare to a higher pitch and the kick drum to a lower pitch. What tones you decide to use depend on your personal taste, the sound of the rest of your band, and the style of music you are playing. For example, jazz drums tend to be tuned to higher pitches than drums used in a rock band.
- Check for sympathetic resonance. If, when you strike a tom, the snare drum rattles, or another tom produces an unpleasant overtone even though you are not striking it, you have sympathetic resonance. It is difficult if not impossible to completely eliminate overtones or stray vibrations from other drums, but you can tune the drums to minimize this phenomenon. Experimenting with various tones will help you find a combination that works for you.
Once you have learned how to tune drums, you can vary tones depending on the exact sound you want for an individual song or performance. Different brands and weights of drum heads also produce different sounds and different tonal ranges, so feel free to experiment with tuning your drums until you find exactly the sound you're looking for.