Once you have found the right sound for each drum, having found the right tension for all the skins, the right timbre for your taste and make sure that the intonation is in phase with the tonal possibilities of the drum only remains to give a ‘global tuning of the drum so as to sound good, in harmony all the drums.
The first step is to understand well the number of instruments in front of us.
The drums, unlike other instruments, do not have as many notes as a piano or guitar can have them.
Since this instrument has a limited number of drums, ranging from 2 drums for the minimum set of bass drum and snare drum to a larger number that in some cases reaches 8 drums, you have to consider the tonal range of the lowest sound and the highest sound you can have.
The highest sound is generally established by the fundamental note of the bass drum or the double bass drum.
The highest sound, as intonation, is usually given by the first tom and the snare drum.
The difference is given precisely by the number of drums available.
If you have a few drums, the distance of tone must be greater in order to reach a scale that covers the entire tonal range of all drums.
If you have many toms, the distance of tone between one drum and another will be smaller to cover the entire tonal range of the instrument and maintain an adequate balance of sounds.
The basic melodic concepts of drums
As we said before, the difference in choosing the right notes depends on the number of drums we have available.
Tuning a drum kit with only the case and snare drum
If you only have two instruments to tune the music, it teaches us that to have a good range of sounds it is good to have a distance of fourth or fifth. This means that if, for example, the fundamental note of the bass drum is comparable to the note DO, the snare drum can be tuned to a G or an FA.
(The notes taken as an example are only a reference and are not to be considered real but for simplicity we examine the scale of C major)
Tuning a battery with case, snare drum and gable
With three instruments at your disposal you should be able to create a melody with only three notes.
The possibilities can be:
I – V – VIII, e.g. DO – SOL – DO (octave)
I – III – V, e.g. DO – MI – SOL
I – IV – VI, e.g. DO – FA – LA
Other melodic possibilities are allowed in relation to the possibility of being able to tune each drum to a note that can resonate well compared to the others.
Tune the drums with case, snare drum, tympanum, tom
This is the set that is used most in jazz and in recent years also takes hold in other genres such as rock, pop and others.
With four instruments you have more melodic possibilities for tuning the drum set, always taking into account that if the lowest note is that of the bass drum and the highest note is that of the snare drum we will have to place the two notes of the tom and the tympanum in order to create a scale of notes in tune with the two extremes.
At this point you can think of proceeding at intervals of III or IV or creating a real chord major or minor so that harmoniously all the notes can be played simultaneously.
I – III – V – VIII (although the octave should be avoided due to problems of beating or masking)
the octave can then be transformed into a seventh or ninth
I – III – V – VII or I – III – V – II (at the high octave)
Depending on the tonal possibilities of each drum you can find different possibilities of tonal distances between the various drums always considering that overall volumes must remain unchanged, thus keeping in phase the tensions of all drums.
Tuning a battery with 2, 3 or 4 toms and 2 gables
To tune a drum kit with a lot of toms and maybe two timpani means that we will have to deal with a set of 6 to 8 pieces or more.
In this case the possibilities become more limited compared to sets with fewer instruments so you have to follow some tricks to avoid having a drum kit that sounds like a forgotten guitar (out of tune).
The ideal approach is to establish a fixed interval of, for example, III and keep it as a distance between all the instruments.
Then start from the note of the case and proceed for third with the last tympanum and continue with the drums in ascending mode.
The more instruments you have, the smaller the interval of notes between one instrument and another must be.
With a battery that has many toms you can think of creating a full scale greater or lesser.
A pentatonic scale can be an interesting idea to make the melodies on the drums always correct.