How Often Should You Tune Your Drum Heads?
Drums like all other instruments need to be tuned. Since most of the sound is determined by the head, tuning a drum involves decreasing or increasing the tension in the head. To maintain a quality sound, you must regularly tune your drumheads, but exactly how often is regularly when it comes to tuning drumheads?
Drumheads need to be tuned based on how often they are played. Drums that are played regularly should be tuned once a week, while unused drumheads do not need to be tuned at all to maintain their sound. The age of the drumhead (new or heavily used) may also impact how often tuning is necessary.
Tuning is a vital part of any musician’s skillset. Drummers are no exception, and so if you are on the path to becoming a great drummer, or are simply curious, keep reading to find out everything about how often you should tune your drumheads!
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When Does a Drumhead Need to Be Tuned?
When understanding how tuning a drumhead works, it may be helpful to think about another instrument: the guitar. Guitars are tuned by loosening or tightening the strings to reduce or increase string tension. However, as you pluck at those strings while playing, they become looser again and require retuning.
Drumheads work in a remarkably similar way. Tuning rods around a head allow you to stretch the drumhead, decreasing and increasing the tension in the head to change the sound. However, as you beat on the drum, the head will move, stretch, and vibrate, altering the tension and changing the sound.
Therefore, it is most often the action of playing itself that causes a drumhead to need tuning. If you play more often then the drumhead takes more of a beating, and adjustments are required more often to maintain the sound. If you do not play, then the drumhead’s tension will not change, and tuning will not be needed to readjust.
Thus, how often you need to tune your drum heads depends on how often you play. If you are playing three to five times a week, then you should be tuning your drums once a week or at least once every two weeks. If you only play once a week, then your drumheads may only need to be tuned once a month.
How Do I Tell That My Drumheads Need Tuning?
Other instruments tune when they get off a certain pitch. However, drums are not pitched instruments, so what tells you that a drum is off and needs to be tuned?
Tuning a drum controls the tension on the head which affects the overall sound. A loose head may reverberate causing uncontrolled overtones and a head that is too tight may have a hollow sound lacking any reverberation.
Tuning thus greatly affects the sound of a drum, but because drums are unpitched, most drummers tune to get the sound they want. The general aim is to get the drumhead tension where striking it produces a full sound without a lasting echo.
However, the type of music you are playing also may have a large impact on what you want your drums to sound like. Drums in a rock and roll band sound very different than the drums in a jazz ensemble. You should tune your drums whenever they fail to make the type of sound you want from them.
In short, whenever you are not getting the sound you want from your drums, the first answer should be tuning, and the more you play the more often tuning to get the sound you want will be necessary.
Does the Type of Drum Make a Difference?
There are a multitude of different types of drums, so does the type of drum impact how often you need to tune the drumhead? The type of drum does not have a direct impact on how often you need to tune, but it will likely impact how often you play that particular drum and therefore how often it needs to be tuned.
Essentially the drums which you physically hit or play more often will need to be tuned more than the drums you rarely ever play. Therefore not all of your drums necessarily need to be tuned at the same time, although for many tuning at the same time is a simple way to ensure regular upkeep.
In other words, you may need to tune your snare and Tom-Toms more than your bass, but it will largely depend on the type of music you are playing and what drums you tend to favor.
When Should I Check To See If My Drums Need Extra Tuning?
Besides periodic tuning, there are also times when you might need to perform extra tuning. In general, before you start playing you should give each drum a whack to make sure everything sounds in order.
Another time when extra tuning may be needed is whenever moving your drums to a different space. Different rooms have different acoustics, and you may need to adjust your drums to get the right sound in different locations.
You should also check drums that have been in storage for a while. Changing temperatures could cause the drumheads to contract and expand, which may mean they require tuning even if you haven’t played them.
While the amount of playing you do impacts how often regular maintenance tuning is required, there is also tuning involved when first adjusting a new drumhead. Because new drumheads have not yet been stretched and played, they are not as malleable and therefore not as tunable as older heads.
A new drumhead requires much more frequent tuning. When you first get a drumhead, you do not want to overstretch it which will make the drumhead likely to rupture. It is best to therefore under tune your new drumhead when you first install it.
In the week following putting on a new drumhead, you should tune every day. You can then slowly stretch the drumhead with a smaller risk of damage. It will take tuning everyday or every other day for a while after getting a new head to get the head properly stretched.
New heads also simply take longer to settle. They will change more frequently with playing and thus require more frequent tuning. As you continue to tune the head to the same stretch, it will settle into that point and require tuning less often.
At What Point Is Tuning No Longer the Issue?
No matter how often you tune your drum heads at some point tuning no longer gets the sound you want. When this occurs, your drums will start to sound dull or dead no matter how much you tune.
Over time a drumhead simply becomes worn from so much stretching. Even if your head is not ripped or dented from wear when it becomes overly stretched it will no longer be able to produce a good sound. At this point you cannot stretch the head anymore with tuning and a replacement head is necessary.
Drummers who play regularly will need to replace their heads every few months. Six months is a decent average for most consistently used drumheads. However, this time varies depending on how hard you strike the drum and how often you play. You know you need a new head when tuning is simply not getting results.
How Often Should You Tune Your Drum Heads? Conclusion
If you play your drums a lot you should expect to tune them a lot! Beating on drum heads naturally causes them to shift and stretch, which affects the overall sound produced. You should tune your drum heads as often as you need to maintain the sound you prefer.
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