After owning many drum kits and sitting in on even more, I am convinced that any drum set can sound great, even if it is a low budget kit.
Here are some basic tips for getting a great sound:
- Replace any heads that are dented, torn, worn, or just plain old. Many Pro’s replace their heads before every show! I’m not suggesting that your budget allows that, but if you think your heads are a couple of years old, get rid of them. Yes, that includes the bottom (resonant) heads too!
- Make sure that all of your drum mounting hardware, lugs, and stands, are all in good shape. Not rattling around or loose. Check the lugs, tension rods, and all nuts (including the bolts inside the shells) to make sure they are secure and don’t rattle while playing.
- Choose new heads wisely depending on your playing style. If you are going to be pounding out rock beats, than you may want to look into double ply heads for toms and kick. Also, a 4 or 5 inch port hole cut into your front (resonant) kick-drum head will give you a controlled sound, creates a place to mic the drum, and allows you to adjust any dampening material you may have in the drum.
- Experiment with tuning each tom at the top of the pitch spectrum (tight) and bottom (loose) and see what you like best. Make small adjustments in whichever direction, and strike the drum as you go to see what sound you like best.
- Tune the bottom heads of your toms just slighter higher in pitch than the batter heads. This combination can create maximum resonance.
- Choose a good general-purpose head for your snare drum. Always check the top, and bottom heads to make sure they are retaining proper tension. Some snare drums may require repeated tuning during a show.
- Try to tighten the tension rods on each drum evenly. Count each half turn on the first rod, and then tension the rod directly across the drum the same amount of turns. Continue around the drum in this fashion, tapping and checking the sound the entire time.
Finally, take your time and don’t get frustrated. Enjoy the prospect of creating your own signature drum sound by experimenting. Rock on!
Rachel Fuhrer is a highly active musician, educator, and writer. She has played drums for artists such asUme, Peter Stopschinski, Corey Glover (Living Colour), Brad Houser (Edie Brickel), and Eric McFadden (P-Funk Allstars) among many others. Over the years, Rachel has shared the stage with hundreds of notable artists including Jane’s Addiction, Blondie, The Toadies, and Franz Ferdinand. Last year, Fuhrer was featured in the book Woman Drummers, A History by Angela Smith (Rowman & Littlefield).
Illustration by Kelly Abeln