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Tricks to make drum kits sound better?

Discussion in 'Sidewinders Bar & Grille' started by Vindibona1, Dec 6, 2017.

  1. Vindibona1

    Vindibona1 Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

    I play in a semi-regular "acoustic" group which has morphed a bit, has electric lead and bass and has recently purchased a set of Gretsch drums and now we bring drummers in to play with us. A couple of guys can play really well, others ok. I'm told the drum set is a pretty good intermediate level set. The problem is that tonally it sucks. The tom is too wet and ringy, the bass drum doesn't sound quite right and the snare... I've rarely heard a snare on a trap set (or the whole set for that matter) that sounded...well like Nate Morton. All I know it that I often sit beside it and the sound makes me nuts because it isn't balanced within itself or the group.

    I know I could wander over to a drummers' forum but I'm hoping that someone here is experienced enough to provide some tips on how to optimize the sound of a drum kit. I'm thinking it just needs a good all around tuning, but what do you listen for? TIA

  2. 1980

    1980 Strat-Talker

    Dec 18, 2016
    United States
    New heads, propper tune-up, and some moongel will go a long way. (only need new heads if they are worn out)There are plenty of youtube videos on drum tuning. Start with the snare or bass drum and dial it in. Then move on to the toms.

  3. amstratnut

    amstratnut Peace thru Music. Strat-Talk Supporter

    Dec 1, 2009
    My house.
    Most drummers I play with use some type of dampening rings.

    Aside from tuning properly, dampening helps keep drums from ringing and interfering with well, everything.

    Some guys will refuse to put a pillow in a bass drum. In my experience a hollow bass drum can sound fantastic but, it seems to take a real expert to make it so.

    I prefer the pillow method.
    stratman in va likes this.

  4. stratman in va

    stratman in va Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

    Jul 27, 2012
    I recorded some friends of mine over the past weekend. I was really surprised at how much tuning the drums helped. My drummer friend put a pillow in the bass drum and he put down some throw rugs on the floor prior to tuning and playing.

  5. stratcpo

    stratcpo Senior Stratmaster

    Jan 19, 2010
    coastal Maine
    Even a piece of duct tape will dampen the ringing and buzzing sounds in most cases. ENJOY!!!
    amstratnut likes this.

  6. anderz

    anderz Senior Stratmaster

    May 4, 2014
    When I had my Tama Granstar kit it came in bits from former rental in the UK.

    3 boxes for the 8 drums and I had to learn since I am a guitarist and want to drum get a kit.

    The skins were there but old and used. I took of any tape and put them back on.

    Tuning makes the difference and I had put some the kit up as I needed some more hardware. I tried playing it but my skills sounded as bad as the tuning.

    My bass player came by and told me it needed tuning. I agree but how?

    I am a Tama nut so I got a tension watch to try if it could solve my problem.

    I tried with a bass drum first and tuned to the example settings. How does this sound? This sounded good so on I went with all 9 drums total which took less than an hour.

    What a tension watch does it measures the tension on the tension screws you find on the rims. Then balance it to an even number on a dial.

    You decide the number.

    You can also decide the sustain this way on the bottom heads pretty easily. Ad a little more tight for shorter ringing? Very simple by taking the drum and dial 5 more on each tension screw to see if it is where you want it to be.

    Being double bass I could match the other and I had nothing covering up the skins or inside. Sure it was loud but it sounded great to everyone who heard it.

    That was even with old skins and they got replaced with new heads tuned to numbers I wrote down so the tuning was consistent.

    I learned to play on it and the quality of the kit + my tuning method meant I could keep playing as the drums rarely lost their tuning at all.

    And I loved playing that kit hard.

    Heads when new needs like guitar strings to be stretched to stay in tune.

    With the tension watch I tuned to my desired numbers on each side of a drum one head at a time then put my weight on the head and retune to my desired numbers. After a short while the head stays at pitch.

    If you have patience to sit and tune drums manually then good for you. I had to many drums and wanted to play.

    Every drummer has a tuning method and the older the more they dislike tension watch and drum dials. They do the job though!

    Lastly I recall a drummer I played with in 2001. His cheap Pearl kit had a stuffed bass drum and the kit and him never was on time as such or in tune.

    I demonstrated the tension watch for my drummer when I got my kit tuned up by doing it on his 1972 Ludwig floor tom.

    I tuned it to the same as mine and it sounded quite the same as well to a 1987 Tama Granstar floor tom 16*16. Both kits were birch.
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2017

  7. Dadocaster

    Dadocaster Dr. Stratster Strat-Talk Supporter

    Even cheap kits can be made to sound decent with heads, tuning, damping. How to do those three things will depend on the player and on the primary genre. If you have guys over the play really well, have them tell you what it needs. Otherwise, do some internet research and do it yourself.
    carver likes this.

  8. tripleb

    tripleb Strat-Talk Member

    Jun 5, 2017
    Quick and easy fix..
    Tune, then fold up some tissue and duct tape it onto the drum head.
    You'll be surprised how much it helps

  9. jaybones

    jaybones Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

    When I was playing in the drum corp in high school, we used weather stripping on the inside of the drum heads where they meet the shells.

    Kinda hard to have marching bass drums with pillows or whatever stuffed inside. Given that the drums were put into cases and moved around.

    Also we started using fibraskin heads on them. They were more dead sounding and mimicked the sound of traditional skin heads.

  10. Dadocaster

    Dadocaster Dr. Stratster Strat-Talk Supporter

    You can also just stick random pieces of adhesive backed weather stripping here and there on the batter and resonant heads. It's cheap, easy and you can dial in the ratio of Ring/dead. On toms I really like Evans hydraulic heads for that rock and roll thump. Snare heads are very much a matter of how you want to hear it. I like the double coated batter heads, but Boyo is in jazz band now and has decided he likes a more open sounding snare.

    Starting from scratch on tuning ends up being trial and error but it teaches you a lot along the way. Moongels are great for quick and easy experimentation.

  11. GuitarPix

    GuitarPix Senior Stratmaster

    Oct 21, 2013
    I wound up buying a cheap kit for our band’s rehearsal spot (and obviously figured I’d better learn to play drums at least a little bit). Replaced the beater heads and learned to tune the things.

    This was a good video I learned from

    I also bought one of these and it works quite well

    This helped with getting the most out of the kit


  12. Vindibona1

    Vindibona1 Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

    I didn't know there was such a thing as a "drum watch". I suppose that could help, but only once we got the drums sounding good. They're not my drums so I have to approach the situation with great delicacy and diplomacy. What I'd like to say is "Ya know, those drums sound like #%^@!". But I have convince the leader that they truly sound awful and that he really needs to do something about it. My thinking is that I need to know what the solution is before I confront him with the problem. You know what I'm saying.

    Thanks for your guidance guys.

  13. carver

    carver The East Coast Strangler Strat-Talk Supporter

    its most likely the crappy stock skins or heads whatever you want to call them.

    Change them out for some Evans EC 2 series skins and have one of those good drummers tune up the kit. it will sound much much better. cheap skins sound horrible....

  14. Vindibona1

    Vindibona1 Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

    I don't disagree with you. But the set isn't mine. It belongs to the "house". If it were mine I'd have bought a better set, and yes, made sure it had good heads and was tuned properly. About the best I can hope for is to get permission to come in and tune them myself... But I have to learn to do that first.

  15. Swingbass

    Swingbass Senior Stratmaster

    Mar 21, 2011
    Nature Coast Florida
    Lighter sticks and a deft touch will help as well. I'm no drummer but I have played a little bit and experimented with various weight sticks and tips.

  16. Dadocaster

    Dadocaster Dr. Stratster Strat-Talk Supporter

    Get a pack of those. They can go a long way quieting down odd ringing and resonance and they can be applied, moved, removed without affecting the drum heads. Tune and Moongel can make things tolerable.

    Thumping those tube with BIG LUMBER is more likely to be the sound that is needed for rock and roll. :D

  17. Vindibona1

    Vindibona1 Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

    Moongel is on the list, even if I have to buy them myself. Light sticks we have. Deft touch? The drummers tend to rotate, some ok, some, let's just say, are less than artistic. I'm happy if they can just maintain time. The main thing is that I have to be very careful not to step on anyone's toes. What I may have to do is talk to the leader without being critical and tell him that I think the drums would benefit from a good tuning, then volunteer to do it. I think that's the only way it's going to get done. But I've never tuned a drum set before, but maybe... I'm scheduled to play next Friday night. Perhaps I need to see if I can come in a couple hours early and attempt to tune the kit. The only thing I know is that I can't hurt the sound much.