Drum tunning in recording?

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by Guitarplayerdan, Jul 27, 2008.

  1. Guitarplayerdan

    Guitarplayerdan Member

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    Ok I have always wondered. If something is in a different key from the rest of a song or not in tune, its usually very obvious. How is it that drums always sound right. Is it because drums are tunned in post production to the key of the song. My mind goes in circles thinking about this really HA. Im not talking tunned to sound good but how do drums fit in a song in C if they aren't in C. Im retarded. I have been thinking about it alot because Im working a project and the drum tracks freaking sound awesome.
     
  2. vladshap

    vladshap Member

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    Drums are not a melodic instrument. When they are tuned they don't get tuned to a key, but rather to a relevance of the other drums.
     
  3. thesedaze

    thesedaze Member

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    With the exception of tunable orchestra drums like tympani and the like, drums aren't tuned to a key, and frankly can't be. They are usually relatively tuned to their own kit, and proper tuning to the shell that the head rests on. Never heard of anyone tuning a drum kit in post production...Usually drums, particularly in the studio, are either tuned or muted so that you don't really hear the fundamental note of the shell itself...it decays quick enough where there's no ring...therefore you're just hearing attack mostly.
     
  4. Guitarplayerdan

    Guitarplayerdan Member

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  5. Shon Kornfeld

    Shon Kornfeld Member

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    actually some drums can be tuned to a key, and often are in the studio. i remember a friends DW set having the pitch of each drum stamped in the inside.
     
  6. bchamorro

    bchamorro Member

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    danny carey from tool tunes his drums to D because most of tools songs are in D
     
  7. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    What a great question!!

    A well-tuned kit sounds a whole lot better than a badly tuned kit, but I really have no idea why it sounds in tune on every song.
     
  8. rob2001

    rob2001 Member

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    I think thats a pretty good answer. Drums can be tuned to a note but if you went that far, or it mattered that much, you'd almost have to tune all the drums to the notes of a chord which may or may not be reasonable. And if you tune them all to an A major, what happens when you play a song in C sharp minor? So i'd agree that they need to be tuned in relation to the rest of the kit and actual keys don't matter.
     
  9. Guitarplayerdan

    Guitarplayerdan Member

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    Thanks for the great answers. Its just werid that if any noise in a song is not in key with the rest it sounds pretty odd but... drums fit anywhere. I mean I can tell if a drum is tuned badly (ie the one at my church, depending on the player). Cool deal dudes!
     
  10. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    That's exactly what I was responding to, you're right. It's true about trap drums.

    But there are types of hand drums where the note is more prominent. I once had a sparse mix where the drum's note just sounded totally goofy in relation to the key. Retuning the drum was no help, because (like all drums) it only sounded its best with the head tightened just "so." I didn't have another drum on hand to substitute, not one that I liked as much. So I used a pitch shifting plug-in to "tune" the note, which of course affected everything else about the track, but it was a small shift and it still sounded good.

    In situations like that the drum doesn't necessarily have to be spot-on the tonic of the song. The 4, 5, 9 or even the 6 might work.

    Of course if you hire a guy like Glen Caruba, who can make anything talk, you don't ever have to worry about it:

    http://www.baalshemtones.com/audio/esthersamp.mp3

    To hear the "whooping" effect on this drum you need headphones or pretty good speakers, a laptop doesn't do it justice.
     
  11. loudboy

    loudboy Member

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    Have you ever heard that strange "wobble" in the low end, when a floor tom hit clashes with a bass note?

    If you've got the time, the kit DEFINITELY can be tuned to the key of the song. We had a few projects where the kick was tuned to the fundamental of every song. The toms were set at pleasing intervals - usually thirds.

    This is pretty standard, especially among bigger budget projects.
     
  12. drbob1

    drbob1 Silver Supporting Member

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    The other factor here is that most drums are fairly atonal. That is, they have a huge number of partials that make up their sound, and nothing that truly is a fundamental. Think about cymbals: they ring like a bell, but unlike a tuned bell there isn't a note that you can point to and say "that cymbal is a C". Because of that, there's got to be a lot of leeway to how drums are tuned. Having them set up so each drum sounds its best and blends well with the others has gotta be way more important than trying to capture some mythical note that each drum will be tuned to. As an example, play a minor second on the piano-it's pretty atonal, more percussive than melodic, and will blend with any key you want to play in!
     
  13. isfahani

    isfahani Member

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    I agree with that statement, at least the part following the word "there's". BUT really - if you can't hear the note or notes the cymbal is making, it doesn't mean that I, or other people can't!

    I have 2 questions:

    How many of you here are drummers?

    How many of you here are drummers that play another instrument aside from percussion?

    There is an amazing amount of erroneous info about drums and their tonality in this thread.
     
  14. thesedaze

    thesedaze Member

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    I am a drummer that plays guitar, misc. percussion, and other goodies. Was in orchestra as a kid.
     
  15. testing1two

    testing1two Gold Supporting Member

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    +10000000

    Every session I engineer or produce has the drums tuned to specific pitches in intervals that are relevant to the key signature. The timbre of the drum and amount of decay time is a matter of preference that can be adjusted, but the whole reason there are different sizes of drums is to be able to tune to specific pitches (or more accurately, a specific range of pitches).

    I'm not saying that this level of scrutiny is necessary for everything (especially live work) or that acceptable results can't be obtained with other methods. In fact, music is full of "happy accidents" where arbitrary drum tuning turned out just fine. But understanding drum tuning and its place in a song's harmonic structure will yield more predictable results and better tracks in the long run.
     
  16. thesedaze

    thesedaze Member

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    shell size variety is more about general timbre than it is about specific diatonic tone....there's definitely a difference in my opinion.
     
  17. testing1two

    testing1two Gold Supporting Member

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    In terms of bearing edge profile, shell thickness and shell depth, I would agree those affect timbre primarily. In terms of shell diameter however, that affects the range of tension that can be placed on the head, which is more related to pitch. I'm not saying they are mutually exclusive as pitch/drumhead tension does affect the overall timbre, but I still contend that various diameters of drums are geared towards tuning range. YMMV
     
  18. mrface2112

    mrface2112 Member

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    testing1two and loudboy speak good truth. tuning drums is no different than tuning a guitar, really, once you know how to do it.

    for bigger productions, usually the kick and snare are tuned to the fundamental of the song's key, and the toms are usually also in the key, tuned either a 3rd or 5th apart. many drummers will even do things like minor 3rds with their toms.

    often with a heavy handed drummer, you will have problems with the snare not keeping the same pitch throughout a few takes. much like that pesky b string, just be sure to retune between takes.

    drums have a "happy spot" in which they want to be tuned. if you take all the hardware off (heads, rims, lugs, etc) and suspend the shell on your finger and strike it hard with your other hand, you'll hear what note the shell resonates at. aim to tune somewhere in that range and you'll achieve maximum fatness.

    DW has made somewhat of a name for themselves by matching drums in a set by the fundamental notes their shells produce. not hard to cover the bulk of the spectrum with a wide assortment of DW kicks, toms and snares. budget-allowing, of course.


    cheers,
    wade
     
  19. isfahani

    isfahani Member

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    Yes, and unfortunately IMO this 'shell tuning' concept, while good from a resonance standpoint, has brought about a certain homogeneous sound...

    I keep referring back to a post on a Rush fan forum (wish I would have saved it so I didn't have to mis-paraphrase) about how Neil's pre-DW era tonality was a lot more individualistic due to the cantankerous nature of the Slingerland and Tama kits he was using, when he switched over to DW's he started sounding like 'everyone else on the block'. As a result, even though I am a working musician I would be hard pressed to play DW even if they gave me a kit.

    My previous post was made during morning coffee so it was a bit short. I liken double-headed drums to each course on a 12 sting guitar... Which is where that similarity ends! There's a lot that can be done by tuning the bottom head differently, regarding resonance and pitch bend...

    It just seems weird to me that people can't hear a defined pitch in regular cymbals - at least, the bell has one.
     
  20. jazzandmetal?

    jazzandmetal? Supporting Member

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    Doesn't Terry Bozzio have a chromatically tuned drum set? A really big one at that too.
     

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