Drum tuning

Tuning Your Drum Set

Drummers, listen up!  One of the most overlooked elements of drumming is having a properly tuned drum kit.  No matter how many drum

lessons you take here at Scottsdale Music Academy or how steady you can keep a beat, if your drum kit is out of tune then nothing else matters. The reality is an out of tune drum set is a surefire way to ruin your sound and kill an otherwise great performance…and nobody wants that!

The first thing to know about tuning drums is that every drummer will have their own sound preferences. Drums can be tuned to many different tones, so what’s ideal for one drummer might not be ideal for another.  That being said, there are some general rules to tuning a drum set that apply to each and every drummer regardless of genre or experience.


Whether you wish to tune your drums to a high pitch, low pitch, or anywhere in between, you’ll undoubtedly need a drum key. For those who are new to playing drums, a drum key is a must-have, inexpensive little tool that is used to adjust the tension rods of a drum, making tuning a drum set a quick and easy process.


Now that you know what you need to tune a drum kit, next you need to know how to tune it. While there are a few different ways to tune drums, one of the most standard ways is by tuning in opposites. To do this, choose any lug as your starting point and turn it to the right (using a drum key) until you feel some resistance. Then, move to the lug directly across from that one and do the same. Moving clockwise around the drum, repeat this process of tuning the rod straight across from the previous one that was just tightened. This method of tuning in opposites helps to ensure the drum is balanced and prevents the rim from bending.


Once the drum lugs are evenly tightened, the real tuning work begins! To test out the sound of your drum, take a drumstick and tap 1-2 inches away from any lug. Tweak the tension of that particular lug until you get the sound you desire. Then use this lug to model the rest of your lugs after, making sure every lug has the same sound. Like before, tune in opposites to ensure a uniform sound all around. Don’t forget to tune the resonant skin (the bottom of the drum) as well. Pro tip: tune the resonant skin a few pitches lower than the batter skin for an even better sound.


This drum tuning method can be used for all the drums in your drum kit no matter the type. So once you’ve mastered the technique with one drum, be sure to move on to the rest . All that’s left after that is to find the perfect sound for you and your music and tweak each piece accordingly!
Bonus Tips:

  • Tune each piece of your drum kit in relation to one another, not in relation to another instrument. Doing so helps to keep your kit in sync and your sound on point.


  • Larger drums should be tuned to a lower pitch while smaller drums should be tuned to a higher pitch.


  • For a bit of extra help, use a drum tuning aid to guide your tuning process.  Apps like Drumetune PRO  are designed to analyze your pitch and make the tuning process more exact.


  • Experiment, experiment, experiment! Chances are you’re not going to get the ideal sound you’re after right off the bat. Play around with the tension of your drum rods until you finally find that sweet spot. It might take some time, but trust us, it’s worth it!


For more helpful tips and tricks related to drum tuning or drumming in general, sign up for our drum lessons in Scottsdale for one-on-one attention and tailored advice!


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