How to Tune Drums for Metal

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So you play metal, but you aren’t exactly sure on how to tune your drums to get that killer sound. You’ve gone past the skin bashing stage and you now need to tighten up your sound and deliver the goods. That is awesome, and we” gladly try to be of assistance by answering the big question.

What is the best way to tune drums for metal?

What is the best way to tune drums for metalWhat we are looking for here is to achieve a punchy bass tone, huge and spacious toms, a cracking and precise snare and some ripping cymbals to spice it all up. We’ll proceed to show you how to tune each of the drum components in more detail.

How to tune snare for metal

We’ll begin with the snare, since the snare drum seems to be a starting point for many musicians. If your goal is strong heavy metal vibe, you will need to tune your snare high. We’re looking for a high pitch, loads of tension and a precise tone that strongly resonates and delivers a punch to match the heavy instrumentation.

How to tune drum toms for metal

In the toms department, we’re looking for a somewhat opposite effect than the high pitched strike of snare. To be precise, you should aim for a medium to low tuning to cover the frequencies between the high snare and the low bass drum. Here’s a nice tip to help you along the way – when tuning the floor toms, they should be showing wrinkles when you press them with your hand.

Additionally, when tuning the bottom heads, it is not a bad idea to tune them to a slightly lower pitch than the top toms. This will shorten the sustain and allow you to enrich your sound with some pitch bend, a feature that is commonly preferable.

How to tune bass drum for metal

Finally, we have reached that big lad down under in charge of the low end department – the bass drum.

When tuning the Big Betty for metal, it is quite apparent that we need things big, but not uncontrollably big. Metal might seem like a genre where everything is crushing and punching, but don’t be fooled even for a second, as this is a very precise and well controlled force.

So for the bass drum, you should tune the component low, keeping in mind the same “wrinkling rule” implemented for the floor tom. Additionally, in order to enhance the thud, the bass drum might need some dampening done by reducing the sustain and overtones. If you are looking to increase the clicking effect, you might want to consider placing a few pads on the head. However, this vibe and sound can also be dialed in through a EQ when using a proper recording microphone.

Additional tips

How to Tune Drums for Metal - Additional TipsWhen it comes to additional tips, we’d like to point out that you should first and foremost keep your drum set clean and ready for action at all times. There is a detailed guide on how to clean a drum kit on our site, we recommend checking it out.

Additionally, if you’re planning on recording your drums, there is way more stuff to deal with than just tuning, but since some of them are about generally improving your tone, we’ll list them here. First of all, keep your drum stool high, that secures a much stronger metal tone and even causes less muscle strain to your body. Also, keep the components of your drum kit at a fair distance, you don’t want them overlapping with each other.

How to tune drums for metal – Conclusion

In a nutshell, these three steps are what metal drum tuning is all about. You need to have a strong tone and precise sound if you want to play metal, and tuning is the very first step to accomplish that goal.

Note that tuning is by no means the final step, but only the beginning of a long journey of acquiring a killer metal tone. Work hard, practice hard, always groove, always records, and you’re in for a hoot. Horns up!

3 COMMENTS

  1. Wow, I never knew that this much business went into tuning drums! I’m a newbie and this really helped a lot! I was like what the hell is drum tuning, but then did some tweaking around with my kit and this stuff actually works!

  2. Fine stuff about snare tuning, plenty of valid points (Y) I found that part of the piece most well thought through and researched, the rest is fairly solid too. Also a suggestion – how about you write an article on how to tune drums for specific metal genres, like death metal, thrash metal, black metal, classic heavy metal, etc…?

  3. I could never get the right time with my tom I would always have to use an oring to get rid of the unwanted over tones I was always taught never have wrincles in the toms but I’ll give it a shot. Hopefully no over tones and no orings.

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