One word that can make drummers of every skill level shutter with fear. Every drummer has struggled with tuning at one point, finding that perfect tone can be a real hassle. When it comes to tuning, most veteran drummers will tell you to suck it up and learn how to tune your drums by ear. However, taking the time to tune each drum by ear may no longer be the best sounding or quickest option. With modern tuning assistants, you’re able to tune faster, better, and more accurate than before. In this article different drum tuning aids and devices will be covered to help you decide which (if any) are the right fit for what you’re looking for.
The first, and most popular tuner on our list, is the Drum Dial. From a technical standpoint, the DrumDial delivers specific head tension measurements (called Timpanic pressure) and allows you to tune all of your lugs to the same tension to provide even sound across the whole drum. The biggest advantage to the DrumDial is that it is 100% silent, and can be a lifesaver for tuning in situations where you can’t make much noise. There is another option available from DrumDial called the Digital DrumDial, with an easier to read display and more accurate reading. The downside to the DrumDial is it will not make you a better tuner, it only gives you accurate readings. Even lug tension will not always give you the best sound out of a drum, there are many different variables when it comes to tuning. Making the drum sound good through fine-tuning is still in your hands, but the DrumDial can get you there a bit quicker. At 60$ for the standard and 85$ for the digital these devices can be pricey; But if you want fast, accurate measurements that can help you get to better tuning faster, look no further.
Very similar to the DrumDial, the Tension Watch allows tuning based on head tension. The Tama TW100 and the DrumDial are almost identical products with the same advantages and disadvantages. The TW200 is a comparable product with a few technical improvements, including a upward facing gauge that makes it much easier to read. Coming in at 70$ for the TW100 and 90$ for the TW200, the prices are also close to the DrumDials. When it comes to choosing between a Tension Watch and a DrumDial, it’s very much a matter of preference and convenience.
The Tru Tuner is an innovative device used to tune drums and quickly replace heads. It is comprised of s-shaped keys turned by a plastic disk all at once to get even head tension across the drum. The Tru Tuner works on drums ranging from 8-16 inches and the standard lug patterns of 4,5,6,8,10, and 12. The biggest positive is the added use of a quick drum head changing system, along with it’s tuning capabilities. Again with this device, even tuning does not guarantee a great sounding drum but it will give you a great baseline to fine-tune to your liking. A substantial negative is the addition of multiple moving parts. One drum key can be a hassle to find, let alone 12. A Tru Tuner will set you back 50$, making it a bit cheaper than some other tuning devices and boasting the added benefit of a quick fix for changing heads.
A bit different from each of the devices so far, the Torque key measures the tension of the actual rods and lugs instead of using Timpanic pressure. On the key you can set the specific pressure that you want on the lugs and the key will stop turning at that pressure measurement. This way of measuring is a bit less accurate but allows for easier use. Yet again this can get your lugs more evenly tuned but still needs to be tweaked to get the best sound. Costing only 20$ with a 12$ RhythmTech variant available, this is a cheaper alternative to the devices listed above.
By far the most complex tool on this list, the Tunebot uses pitch to tune drums rather than lug or head tension. This does make the device a bit more dodgy to use, the readings may not always be 100% accurate, but with a bit of a learning curve this can be the most helpful device covered so far. The Tunebot is very similar to a guitar tuner in the way that you can select a note or a pitch you want to tune to, and then the Tunebot will help you get every lug matched to your preference. This will help you get your drums evenly tuned, and sounding great at the same time. There are cheap alternatives to the Tunebot that you can use on your iPhone, like Drumtune PRO, but these apps tend to be infinitely more unreliable because they use your phone’s microphone. With a price tag of 99$ for the Tunebot Studio, and only 70$ for the Tunebot Gig (a stripped down version of the Studio), these devices offer a great product for a decent price.
When it comes to tuning your drums, nothing can replace a good ear and general know-how, but that doesn’t mean a little help can’t go a long way. These devices are assistants to getting to your ideal drum sound, and are all worth consideration if you’re having trouble finding that. Every device has it’s ups and downs, so hopefully this article helps you choose which one is the right fit for what you’re looking for. I’ve been Dylan Vanderson, the blog writer and editor here at DrummersILike. You can find me on Instagram @djv_drumming or posting here on DrummersILike.net. See you next week!