The first secret is to not choke the drum, because the shell is made of a material that has its own property. I have to listen to what the drum or the drums are telling me. Every set is different. Each one will have its own voice. Each brand has a way of doing things. Particular lacquers, specific machines, unique finish. Some brand are famous for certain pieces of the drum set. Yamaha for its bass drum, Pearl for their snare drums, Gretsch for the coherence of the whole kit. Every brand has its signature. And almost each one has something worth looking into.
So, the first thing is to listen.
I start usually with a high tom. I go on a flat tuning. Meaning I begin with no tension whatsoever on the skin. It sounds like hitting a pillow. Then, I tense up the top head to get a little bit of tone. A muted “bong” of sorts. And same for the bottom heads.
That’s all I got for you.
Because the rest of the process I cannot explain. I hear it crystal and obvious to me, and I know exactly what to do, but I couldn’t describe it. I go where the shell goes. If it want to go dark and throaty, that’s where we’re going. If it’s want to go clear and boomy, fine by me. Every drum shell in a five piece set has its own distinctive voice. Which is beautiful.
And a big problem.
Because, as a tuner, you are here to make one thing happen.
I’ll tell you in the next blog.