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Tuning drums according to the song's key?

Discussion in 'F.O.H.' started by mirflee, Jun 5, 2013.

  1. mirflee

    mirflee SSL Studios

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    I've seen it being used a lot on Alternative Rock/Pop records and it sounds huge. Would it make sense then to use it for Metal too?

    Would love to hear some inputs on this, thanks for reading! :D
     
  2. Kohugaly

    Kohugaly Member

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    I've read that some people on this forum di change cymbals and some even tune toms, to fit the song key. Opinions differ a lot... some say it's cool, some say it's just a waste of time and some say you should tune the drums to sound good regardless of song key. Dunno about kick and share...
     
  3. Max Morton

    Max Morton Member

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    Just ran into this topic. What a cool coincidence! I recently became obsessed with fine tuning the snare (sometimes toms) to the song's key. Which is not necessarily a root note - fifths sound very cool, too. Sometimes thirds, if the chord progression suits it.
    Sometimes the songs beg for it. Sometimes it's not crucial. It sounds really great, if you're aiming for live and great sounding drums. But if the overtones are buried deep in the mix, dominated by attack and reverb tails, then I think it's not that important.
    It's actually not "great sounding shell" versus "a shell tuned to the song's key". You can get both. And achieve amazing results (if the drummer is great, the shells gonna sound cool in lots of tunings).
    We're actually tracking our second album right now, and I'm changing snare drums and tuning them, as well as toms, to fit the song. Then doing the multisample libraries for each song individually. And I'm loving it! Never was that happy with drum tones before.
     
  4. Mago

    Mago Austrian Blech Machine

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    I've heared the approach of letting the drummer tune the kit the way he has it tuned usually (assuming he knows what he's doing) and the tune it up or down to the nearest note that is in the key of the song.

    But I dunno...especially snares change the sound so much when tuned to different notes, would freak me out to hear a much higher snare on some songs for example.

    I've ment to dig into this deeper, but didn't have to chance yet. I think it can fuck up the feeling if it is tuned to something that constantly doesn't fit, but so far I've been doing good with tuning it so it feels nice. But would love to get into it more still.
     
  5. ForHerDeadEyes

    ForHerDeadEyes Señor Member

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    Some drums are also made to resonate better at a certain key..
    But I say tune the drums to what sounds good/fits the song..
     
  6. MrBongo

    MrBongo idiot at work

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    regarding cymbals: yes, i caught myself favoring certain cymbals, depending on the chord played. my 16 & 17 inch sound very similar in pitch, like half a step different.

    same with toms, sometimes you just can´t hit one of them.

    i didn´t purposely tune to a specific note yet, but (starting with the lowest tom) tuned to a pitch that sounded good while playing with the band.
    the other toms a certain interval above, so it sounds good when hitting any 2 of them, alternating or at the same time.

    ...well, in the end i probably tuned to specific notes, but wasn´t aware of it. the important thing was that my drumset worked in all the songs of various genres we played,
     
  7. RedDog

    RedDog Humanoid typhoon

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    Who doesn't tune drums to the key of the song? Why would anyone not do this? Drums are an instrument too. If you're not doing this, you're wrong.
     
  8. if6was9

    if6was9 Ireland

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    Bit of a wild statement. I've heard of people doing it but hardly as common practise.
     
  9. RedDog

    RedDog Humanoid typhoon

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    Yeah, it's kind of harsh but hardly a wild sentiment. Drums are a very important part of any session, they need to be treated with the same care as any guitar track.
     
  10. Max Morton

    Max Morton Member

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    Tuning to the song's key is not crucial at all (sure thing, tuning drums in general is crucial). As an example, Metal Machine's toms, snare and kick sound fantastic with lots of different songs in different tunings. There are lots of live gigs where the band plays a full set with one drumset, and it sounds great no matter what.

    Tuning to the key is a lot of fun, but it's not obligatory.
     
  11. smy1

    smy1 Member

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    I never found it very important for rock/metal because a lot of the time everything is very fast and has very short decay times. In electronic music you can't not tune your kickdrum. Due to the fact that it is so big in the mix, a kickdrum that's off even 1 semitone sounds weird. I rarely tune snares, unless I want to go for a different sound.
     
  12. if6was9

    if6was9 Ireland

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    Exactly what I was thinking. Sure it's cool but there's literally millions of examples of where the drums just sound good on their own and don't change from song to song. Hell there's tons of songs that change key all over the place so it'd be impossible to tune the drums to a certain key.

    Tuning drums and tuning drums to the key of a song are 2 totally different things.
     
  13. RedDog

    RedDog Humanoid typhoon

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    Live shows are obviously the exception to the rule, and this comment right there puts things in perspective. I personally tune the kit with wide intervals of itself so the whole thing is unified to a scale, the same way guitars can be tuned to scales that aren't necessarily in fourths as is the standard. What I should have said in my previous comments is that the tuning of the drums within itself is the most basic principle and should be taken care of. Key changes withing a song aren't very easy with a simplified kit for obvious reasons. Thank you for showing me where I was wrong.

    That said, I am a fan of tuning drums to the root of a song, with emphasis on the kick and snare being usually fifths apart note wise, frequency wise, there's a couple octaves. You get the picture. My house kit is in a weird scale that fits a C minor scale with certain modes that sound great for standard tuning, what with it's quirky fundamentals being either a 2nd or a 9th from the root and the snare a minor third from the nearest root. When the huge fills hit, the kit is unified and super cohesive, unlike any sample collection I ever built. Makes mixing a hell of a lot easier too when you can plan around the notes as they appear and not only use your ears, but musical theory knowledge to balance pitch and timbre.

    Previous comments recanted. If you're not tuning drums, you're wrong.
     
  14. slo77y

    slo77y Member

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    dont forget to choose cymbals that have some harmonic content to the key of the song in it. otherwise you´re wrong
     
  15. El_Gato

    El_Gato I love this gain

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    What? no!
    Every drum has a sweet spot / fundamental where it shines, specially snare and toms. Don't screw it by trying to tune it to a song. In fact, many pro drummers have their own way to tune their drums but I'm about to see one tuning them to a song key. And the cymbals tuning is a joke, right?
     
  16. RedDog

    RedDog Humanoid typhoon

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    Zildjian ZBT allll day son.
     
  17. wutzington

    wutzington massive member

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    Don't tell me you don't have a lathe to tune your cymbals.
     
  18. El_Gato

    El_Gato I love this gain

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    :lol:
     
  19. DavePiatek

    DavePiatek Member

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    When you hit the floor tom, especially in quick succession, it can rub against the song in a weird way. That said, every drum can benefit from being tuned to the key of the song, but the floor tom is the most noticeable.

    We list key signature recommendations for specific drum tunings in our Room Sound Drum Samples Usage Guide http://www.roomsound.com/resources/Room-Sound-Vol-1-Usage-Guide.pdf, but they're also applicable for tuning real drums. The Tune Bot is your best friend for this purpose. :D

    http://www.tune-bot.com
     
  20. StoneLord

    StoneLord LurkMachine Pete

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    Most of the bands I do have way too many key changes per song to make this even remotely possible/worthwhile.
     

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