Official Drum Dial thread. . . .

Discuss anything in general that has to do with music.

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Official Drum Dial thread. . . .

Post by =^-..-^= »

This little tuning device is great! Expensive, but great.

I thought I had a pretty good ear for tuning drums, but this little device showed me I had plenty of room for improvement. Judging head tension by lug tension is very misleading. Some of my lugs ended up being almost detuned, and some super tight to get the same tension on the head itself.

Getting the drum in tune with itself on both heads, and then getting them to the pitch you want takes a lot of time at first; but then you just return to the settings you write down the next time. I had switched to Evans heads from Remo. The Remos always seemed easier to dial in, and these Evans have been a bear to break in, but the Drum Dial really showed me why I was having so much trouble. My tensions were way off.

Four things that Drum Dial 2 needs:
1. A lighted dial - I have to use a flashlight to see the tiny marks.
2. Dial should be able to rotate so you don't have to take the drum off or walk around
the kit to tune it
3 Lug guage should reach up over the rim and have a notch in it so its placement on
the lug is exact each time.
4. A decent carrying case.

Once again: Note to young drummers (experienced drummers ignore)– don't just get your drums tuned to where you think they sound good from behind the kit playing in an empty room.. Listen to them WITH the music, AND get out front with someone else playing them and really LISTEN to them. Chances are, you have tuned away all the ring and the overtones, so they sound like quiet cardboard boxes in a band setting. You really need those nasty overtones.
"Yesterday Mr. Hall wrote that the printer's proof-reader was improving my punctuation for me, & I telegraphed orders to have him shot without giving him time to pray." -Mark Twain

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Post by zenmandan »

I tune my individual lugs by ear. Go around to each lug, tapping very gently as to not get any overtone, just the ring of the lug you are on. For lower toms I put a finger in the center of the head to help muffle a bit. When you find one lug that seems to be the pitch you want, start tuning to match its pitch opposite that lug. Then the two on either side of the one you tuned second, continuing around until back at the original lug. I do this for both sides of my drum heads. Often times, when a drum is "in tune with itself", it will "sing" the pitch back to you, much like when tuning a timpani head. If you know the pitch you are hunting for, when the drum is in tune it should fully resonate when you hum that pitch into the head.

I never liked using the dial. Every head is different, and you have to spend the time doing it anyway, why spend the extra money (for me anyway). The only bad part for me about doing it by ear is that after a while you start to hear the overtones differently. Sometimes you hear one fundamental pitch on a lug lower than another lug, but the overtone seems higher. Your ears start to play tricks on you. If I need to replace heads I usually do it over the couple days before they're needed for recording or whatever. That way I can take my time and the heads have time to set in.

By the way, I use Evans as well. I got wicked fed up with Remo's lack of consistancy (especially in their marching heads). I refuse to let any of the schools I work with use Remo. They end up spending twice what they would be if using Evans because of snare and tenor heads pulling. :? Quality control anyone?!
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Re: Official Drum Dial thread. . . .

Post by supwichya »

=^-..-^= wrote: 2. Dial should be able to rotate so you don't have to take the drum off or walk around
the kit to tune it
Unless your toms sit perfectly flat, you shouldn't use the dial while they're mounted. If you're holding the dial in place with your hand, you're affecting the tension on the head and pushing down on the device. This will lead to false tension readings.

Also of note, most mounting systems put a sideways torque on the toms as they hang which will also affect the tuning. Wish I had a nickel for every time I had a great sounding tom only to hear bad overtones and muffled decay as soon as I mounted it.

Perhaps you've found ways around these probs, but I would always recommend tuning the drums on your lap or the floor.

But I do love the dial, wish I invented it myself!
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Post by =^-..-^= »

ZenMan, are you saying you tap on the lugs themselves to get a sound? Or do you tap on the head near each lug? The dial seems to help me get the exact same pitch when I tap the head near each lug.

I agree, I wouldn't want to use Remos for marching or high-volume situations. I just think that they are easier to break in and get a decent sound from sooner than the stiffer Evans heads; but they won't last as long. The Dial seems to overcome that disadvantage in Evans heads.

Also: (Drum companies do this these days, where they didn't before.) If you are refinishing your drums and have all the hardware removed, balance the shell on 1-2 fingers inside and tap on the drum with a mallet or your finger. Use a keyboard to figure out what note your tom resonates at, and try tuning the head to that note. Better drums will have that note stamped inside the shell. (Some drummers prefer not to tune to a definite note, though.) Oh, and when changing heads, take a screwdriver to the lug screws and make sure they are tight.

Oh, and if you are fighting snare ratlle, try almost completely detuning the 4 lugs by the strainer. Some drummers don't like this approach, but if all else fails. . .


supwichya: My toms are mounted almost flat, so I can get a quick tune-up without removal; but I agree that sitting the drum flat gets the best results. I also removed the RIMS mount from my 10" tom and got a better sound with the Dial than when it was on. My 10" tom has always been a tuning nightmare. It sounds absolutely great when it is in tune; but it is hard as heck to get it there. The Dial helps quite a bit to get that elusive note I'm after.
"Yesterday Mr. Hall wrote that the printer's proof-reader was improving my punctuation for me, & I telegraphed orders to have him shot without giving him time to pray." -Mark Twain

"There is a level of cowardice lower than that of the conformist: the fashionable non-conformist."
Ayn Rand

". . .and the trees are all kept equal by hatchet, axe, and saw."
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Post by zenmandan »

Yes, I was writing about tapping the head (of course) not the lug. It's funny you mention not being able to get a good tone out of you 10" head. I have always had the same problem with my 13" heads on either of my kits. Maybe I SHOULD get a drum dial! :D You guys definitely seem sold on them.

Good thread idea. We need more just for us percussion types.
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Post by =^-..-^= »

zenmandan wrote: I have always had the same problem with my 13" heads on either of my kits. .
A friend of mine who worked at the old Percussion Center said that what he ran into when setting up so many kits was inconsistency from drum to drum by the same company. He would tune up the same size toms from the same company, and one would sound great, and one was just untunable. I would think the better companies these days would reject those drums.
"Yesterday Mr. Hall wrote that the printer's proof-reader was improving my punctuation for me, & I telegraphed orders to have him shot without giving him time to pray." -Mark Twain

"There is a level of cowardice lower than that of the conformist: the fashionable non-conformist."
Ayn Rand

". . .and the trees are all kept equal by hatchet, axe, and saw."
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Post by Lou B do B dooo »

I personally love my drum dial. I just tune the heads to my last tension setting make a few minor tweeks and presto!

I use an Evans st dry on my snare and Aquarian studio x coated on the toms and I always get a great tone. but every kit is different.
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Post by =^-..-^= »

I've noticed a big move back to whte coated heads on toms lately. Is it a nostalgic thing for that classic overtone-y coated sound, or do they really sound better than they used to?
"Yesterday Mr. Hall wrote that the printer's proof-reader was improving my punctuation for me, & I telegraphed orders to have him shot without giving him time to pray." -Mark Twain

"There is a level of cowardice lower than that of the conformist: the fashionable non-conformist."
Ayn Rand

". . .and the trees are all kept equal by hatchet, axe, and saw."
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Post by zenmandan »

I switched back because in my recording sessions, I noticed a distinctive difference in the actual attack sound of the head. The non-coated mylar heads have a harsher sound, especially with plastic tip sticks. The plastic on mylar...not for me. It's less obvious with wood tip (which I use more often in recording for a better cymbal sound) than with plastic on mylar, but on the coated heads, I hear a big difference. I could just be being paranoid or overly picky about it, but hey...it's my name on the final product, so why not.

As far as being better made, I don't know. My snare head still gets the tell tale "wear circle" on it when I don't change the heads for a while, but I don't necessarily think they are any better. Perhaps it's that the recordings have gotten that much better. People don't go for the "flat funkiness" of a hydraulic head as much, or a Control Dot, or heads and cymbals with 5 pounds of duck tape on them anymore. Tone is in. Flat is OUT!
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Post by =^-..-^= »

Okay, now on to Bass drums:

I run mine wide open–no internal muffler. Head with a big hole in the front. I have some weatherstrip on it so it only resonates a low tone. The new Evans with the foam ring on the batter side, tuned kinda' high for more attack sound. Wood beaters on the pedals. I like the big sound I'm getting. I might try a Gibraltar plastic impact pad to get more click; but I won't use one of those "click from hell" pads again - that is just too much.

Okay opinions on Kick tuning are really varied; let's hear it. . . .
"Yesterday Mr. Hall wrote that the printer's proof-reader was improving my punctuation for me, & I telegraphed orders to have him shot without giving him time to pray." -Mark Twain

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Post by zenmandan »

Really varied is an understatement! Personally, I have one of those Remo muffles on my batter head. I know, I know. It sounds pretty good though. My kit isn't the best, so as far as tone goes, my kick seems to be lacking. I've tried several different heads (though not the newer Evans) and they all seemed about the same. I use a piece of egg crate foam that sits in the bottom of the bass drum. It's about a foot wide and goes from just touching the front head to just touching the back head. This helps eliminate the unwanted extra ring. I've gotten compliments from sound guys, so it must sound OK.
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Post by supwichya »

I like mine wide open also. Right now I'm using a PowerStroke 3 on the batter side with no muffle. I'll usually tune the reso head even all the way around just tight enough to get the wrinkles out.

I'll also occasionally place a thin strip of 2" foam inside that just touches both heads. I agree that's a good way to get rid of some of the junk.

I've recorded a ton of drums and you would be surprised at how many different tones you can get just by retuning the reso head.

I like the falam pads on the batter side too. Helps give some attack but it also saves a bit of wear and tear on the head.
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Post by =^-..-^= »

I understand that in the studios lately, they take the resonant head off the kick, mike it close with one mike, then build some sort of tunnel out of heavy cloth off the front of the kick, then place a second mike at the end of that tunnel. Anyone seen this?
"Yesterday Mr. Hall wrote that the printer's proof-reader was improving my punctuation for me, & I telegraphed orders to have him shot without giving him time to pray." -Mark Twain

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Post by supwichya »

=^-..-^= wrote:I understand that in the studios lately, they take the resonant head off the kick, mike it close with one mike, then build some sort of tunnel out of heavy cloth off the front of the kick, then place a second mike at the end of that tunnel. Anyone seen this?
Yeah, this has been fairly common for some time now. Just have to make sure to keep both mic's in phase. You do whatever it takes to get the sound you're looking for.
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Post by =^-..-^= »

ANyone heard Jack Johnson's 1st CD, Brushfire Fairytales?

The drum sound on there is awesome! It is just so wide open and natural-sounding - ringy and overtone-y

I bet they had to use a lot of studio tricks to make it sound like they did nothing at all to those drums!
"Yesterday Mr. Hall wrote that the printer's proof-reader was improving my punctuation for me, & I telegraphed orders to have him shot without giving him time to pray." -Mark Twain

"There is a level of cowardice lower than that of the conformist: the fashionable non-conformist."
Ayn Rand

". . .and the trees are all kept equal by hatchet, axe, and saw."
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