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Author Topic: Tuning Drums for specific sounds  (Read 6134 times)
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IBJAMN in Nashville

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« on: February 18, 2009, 04:04:27 PM »

From Tomm:
“Absolutely right, Ken, finding the right sound for each drum is a very personal thing.  Snares have been my personal demon, followed closely by bass drums.  I still experiment with the snare drum set up, with my goal now being individual clarity in "phantom" strikes, used predominately in jazz.”    I’m starting a new thread regarding this latest post from Tomm.  Here’s a couple of blogs I contributed that deal specifically with tuning.



However, Tomm is citing jazz in particular.  Obviously, that narrows things down a bit, but the genres of jazz are still pretty wide as far as volume and technique.  I’ll try to generalize, with the understanding that my suggestions have to be tempered with any “hyphenated” jazz style (acid-jazz, smooth-jazz, traditional-jazz, big band-jazz, etc.) that might make your needs a very different matter.

For jazz snare drum tunings, I prefer sensitivity above all.  The “phantom” and “ghost” strokes HAVE to be heard clearly.  So it’s the way I tune my snare of choice to make that sensitivity happen, that guides me.  It is easier for me to tune my 4” x 13” Yamaha steel shell snare drum with Fat Cat snares, or my 4” x 13” Yamaha Maple Concert snare drum with 30 strand bronze snare for sensitivity, than to try that with a drum designed for higher volume.

For big band work I prefer my old maple shell 5” x 14” David Weckl model with the dual snare system.  That gives me a variety of sensitivity options, and timbres plus the power I need to drive a sixteen piece band.

For fusion, my "go to" snare is the old 3 ½” x 14” Yamaha model 493 with the fully extended snare system, or for larger venues a, 5 1/2" x 14"  Manu Katche model. 

So I guess my answer to Tomm’s question is that…just as I change cymbals for the various genres of music…..I also change snare drums.  I also would likely use maple sticks for the lighter music and hickory sticks for the more powerful music.

As far as bass drum sounds; again, I consider the music.  If it’s the dead thud sound (like Weckl or Gadd might play) then I would use a 20” or 22’ bass drum with a ported head and padding inside.  For big band, I use a 22” bass drum with no port in the front head and the overall pitch is slightly less-than-medium-tension.  For Bebop stylings, I use an 18” bass drum with no port in the front head and medium tension.  Personally, I use 14" - 16" depths, because the deeper drums tend to sustain (ring) more, and I, personally, do not need more sustain on my bass drums. 

Guitar players change guitars for different styles.  Keyboardists change their sound settings.  So my approach is more in line with that philosophy.  Basically, I use drums and cymbals that fit the venue and the musical genre.

If your drums are tuned for a light stroke to get a nice tone, then pounding them isn’t going to sound as good.  If your drums are tuned more loose and deep (some call it wet), then it’s going to take a more powerful stroke to extract the tone, hence they may not sound as good when played softly.

I don’t know if that helps Tomm any at all……or anyone else reading this.  But, everyone has a different way of stroking their drums.  With the reality of that aspect understood, getting your drums to produce the sound you desire is mostly determined "in the tuning and head selections" you make for your playing style.

Ken Sanders
IBJAMN in Nashvile, TN
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« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2009, 01:47:33 PM »

Hi Ken, thanks for the insight and it was helpful, as well as thought provoking. 

As far as my reference to "Jazz", to me...it's all good.  My personal definition, the one I stand by when someone asks me what type of music I play or like is "Jazz...anything that augments time, rhythm or execution of the norm.  I know that's not a professional outlook, or official in any way but it seems to get the point across when I am asked. Wink
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