The drummer is in charge of time keeping. That is the accepted version of the drummer’s role in a band. But the successful drummers understand something else: colors, taste and tone attached to feelings.
Orchestration is directly related to that. And tuning the drums is one of its main component.
Let’s look on YouTube at the video of the Beatles playing on top of the roof of Abbey Road. Do you see what Ringo is playing? He has a sheet, like a bed sheet over his whole drum set. It is something they were doing in recordings too.
By the same token, let’s listen to a song by Robbie Robertson called “Somewhere down the crazy river”. Do you hear the snare played without the wires? Do you feel the thud of the muffled toms? Do you perceive the cymbals exploding like impossibly large suns? All of that is to illustrate the song about an insomniac that wonders through a hot night.
I almost always tune my snare fairly high. I then throw a piece of pleather over it. Something I made. It is crude but it works. It’s just a long strip of cloth, really, with two holes, one at each extremity that I clamp to the head of the screws of the bottom head. It takes away the harshness of the instrument, quiets it down some too. That makes it less dominant in the mix, allowing more space for the singer or the guitar line, any instrument that’s also in the high range. I like this idea of orchestrating a song with an instrument that’s infinitely flexible, depending on the mood of the song you are trying to illustrate. The drum set is a wonderful tool for that.