The battery tunes just like all other instruments. It does not have the strings, of course, but the skins, which are the plastic surfaces on which we hit with the sticks.
The skins are tuned by means of the tie rods, those screws that stand on the metal circle of each drum. A higher tension of these screws generates a higher sound, while a slow tension generates a lower and deeper sound.
Let’s better specify which are the 2 skins that are mounted on the drum:
- beating skin – the skin above the drum (where we hit with the stick)
- resonant skin – the skin under the drum
The tension ratio between the two beating and resonating skins, in combination, generates a note. Depending on how much we pull the skins, the sound may be more prolonged or have a fast decay.
Is there a “better” way to stretch the skins?
Drums can have 6 to 10 tie-rods, depending on size. The case, for example, which is the largest drum, will have at least 8 or 10 tie-rods, while a smaller drum will have six or at most eight tie-rods.
To correctly tighten a skin, it is used to pull the keys in a so-called “crossed” manner. In this way, the tension of the skin will be distributed equally close to the tie rods, leaving no areas of greater tension than others.
In the picture below you can see three different drum examples, with six, eight or 10 tie rods. The numbers correspond to the order in which you should pull the keys to tighten the skin correctly. Just follow the numerical order to ensure uniform tension.
Check your drum kit for the number of tie rods on the drum you want to tune and take your cue from this diagram.
Each drum is to be considered as a whole given the main dimensions that are:
– diameter of the drum;
– depth of the drum;
– thickness of the drum.
The tonal range in which a drum can play depends fundamentally on the diameter.
The depth of the sound and the sustain depend on it.
The drum thickness determines the speed of sound propagation and the timbre.
These three factors, combined together, produce the totality of the final sound of a drum, bearing in mind that everyone can influence the others as well.
Each drum has a starting sound even without skins.
Basically we will have a starting sound. By acting on the skins we give voice to the drum and by modifying the various tensions we can emphasize or diminish some of its characteristics.
It must be kept in mind that each drum has a fundamental note which must be taken into account when proceeding with the tuning of the drum.
There is no need for trick or machines that display the surface tension because only the ear (better if experienced) can understand if the sound is the right one.
Depending on the style of music you have to play you can tune the drums in various ways and it is appropriate to have a starting idea of the type of sound you want to get.
Regardless of the timbre you want to obtain, to make a drum sound good we will proceed in order to hear all the tonal possibilities to reach the one you want, taking into account that :
– Some notes sound good;
– Some notes may not sound good.
It is preferable to loosen all the tie rods so that you can start from tension on both skins = 0
Proceed first with the resonant skin and then with the wing
1. Initially use only your fingers and screw all the tie rods from the side of the thread without the key up to the maximum that you can screw with your own strength;
2. Play flat on the skin and note that it is not yet taut enough to produce a resonant sound;
3. Proceeding crosswise (one key and then the one in front) start with 1/4 turn for each tie rod;
4. proceed gradually until both skins vibrate;
5. Probably some points on one of the skins will not be pulled enough so give 1/6 turn to bring it to the same tension as the others;
6. We have reached the lowest note that drum can produce;
7. Proceed in six turns and as the note goes up try to play piano and loud to understand if the sound is always given by skins + drum;
8. choose the height you want and always check that the volume is given by all parts of the drum;
9. If you go ahead with this procedure the volume decreases, it means that you are going beyond the possibilities of that drum so it is preferable to go back;
10. as long as the volume remains constant, it means that the tension of the skins will be in phase with the drum, which means that the tuning is consistent with the drum in question;
11. Move on to the other stages of tuning.