How to Tune a Drumset Series

Previously titled: Why Does My Drumset Sound Like Foo-Joo Burgers?

Lots of newbie drummers, correction: newbie-parents, spend hundreds of dollars on overpriced drum kits. But when they get them home the drums sound similar to the ghetto-brand store model. Why? The heads aren’t tuned. Every time you hit the heads, you alter the tuning.

Maybe you’re going into the studio and you’re spending your hard-earned savings on recording. You’re worried your drums won’t cut it because of the brand name. Or that it will cost you an arm and a leg to engineer your mediocre drums into the majestic vision in your mind.

This article will show you how to make any drumset sound decent and an average drumset sound spectacular.

For your convenience, this series is broken into five sections:

1) Introduction

2) Drumhead Selection

3) Properly Seating New Drumheads

4) Tuning Your Drumset with Existing or New Heads

5) Recording Your Drums


There are a few points I need to make first:

1) If your current heads are in working condition, meaning there are no significant dents, they are not stretched beyond normal tuning and they were replaced less than 18 months ago, then you’ll survive the tuning process. Using old heads is far from ideal for any situation, especially recording. Even with semi-worn heads, you can get your drums sounding awesome for your next show or basement demo.

2) If you have any expendable money, buy new heads. This goes a looooong way with tuning. New heads will do the most to enrich a drum’s sound. If you’re professionally recording your kit, you absolutely must, must, must buy fresh heads before you record. I’ll touch more on this later.

3) If you’re not sure what heads to buy, talk to the Drumshop Tech. Generally, 2-ply (or two-layered) drumheads will have less resonance or less “bonggg” and are generally for heavy hitters, ie: metal, hard rock. Single ply or 1-ply heads will have more resonance and are generally for jazz and lighter rock music.

*Note for Newbies: The “batter” side is the side you strike with your stick, the “resonant” side is the side that you do not hit.

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