Join Rich Lackowski for an in-depth discussion in this video Tuning the drums and replacing a drumhead, part of Drum Set Lessons: On the Beaten Path.
- What do you do if a drumhead breaks or you just want to replace the drumhead? We're going to talk about that now. So when you take the drumhead off, there is this ring around the drum. This is the sharp edge of the wood and it's called the bearing edge of the drum and that is what the drumhead rests on. So the first thing you want to do is you want to wipe that down so you get rid of all of the dust and debris from the drum bearing edge.
The next thing you want to do is grab your drumhead and just rest it on top just like that. Next, we'll place the counterhoop over the drumhead and we'll start putting the screws into the lug receivers here.
And for now, we're just going to get these started. Don't screw them in all the way or anything. And when you do this, be careful not to cross-thread the lug. So it should go in nice and easy. You shouldn't have to force it. You shouldn't have to be fighting it in any way. They should just go in real nice and easy.
So the next thing is to tighten the lugs down just so they just start touching metal to metal. The whole name of the game here is evenness and consistency. If you tighten one lug down, you want to make sure all the other ones are tightened down the same amount so it's all uniform and even.
Now, I'm going around the drum and I'm tightening opposite lugs with both hands and just kind of bringing the tension in until it's as tight as I can get them with my fingers and I'll go around the drum a few times. Sometimes, I'm turning them. Sometimes, they're as tight as they'll go. So now, they're all as tight as they'll go with my fingers. Okay? Now, when you're tuning a drum, you want to make sure that only the head that you're working on is facing up and that's the only head that's unobstructed.
You actually want to muffle the head that you're not working on so the only head that you're hearing is the drumhead that you're working on and tuning. So now, take your drum key, go to the lug farthest away from you and pay attention to how the lug is sitting. This is kind of going left to right for me so I'm going to turn it a half turn. Now, I'm going to go to the opposite lug closest to me. Okay, I'm taking a note of how that looks and I'm just going to turn the key a half turn and we're going to go opposite of that.
Half turn. Opposite. Half turn. Opposite. Half turn. And then half turn. So now, this is called cross-tensioning. I'm going across the drum. The whole idea is to put the drumhead down against the bearing edge as evenly as possible so if you went around in a circle, you could do that but then the drumhead's going to be a little bit farther down on this end and as you work around, it's going to be looser on this end, tighter on this end and it could pull the whole thing off to one side so I like the cross-tensioning system because it's very very even tension that I'm applying all the way around the drum.
So now that I did a half turn, I'm going to tap it probably about an inch away from each lug, okay? (drum beating) Okay. What I'm looking for, what I'm listening for is that the note that I'm hearing at each one of those lugs sounds pretty close to even. A couple of these were down a little bit lower than the others so I'm going to tune them up until they're all even.
(drum beating) Okay, pretty good. So now, I'm going to hold the drum by the rim and just suspend it there and I'm going to hit it. (drum beating) Okay. That's a little bit low still so I'm going to go another round with a half turn on every lug.
Okay. Now, always go to opposite lugs. If you hear the drumhead cracking and creaking, that's normal, that's okay. You're not breaking anything. Sometimes, you hear the plastic and the Mylar just kind of separating and falling into place. That's normal. So I just brought everything up a half turn again and I'm going to do the tap test again and tap an inch away from every lug. (drum beating) Pretty good.
So now, I'm hearing the drumhead's coming alive. I'm hearing a consistent tone. It sounds a little bit more alive. I'm getting some resonance so what you do at this point is you want to seat the head and this also stretches out a new drumhead and keeps the sound consistent when you play it over time. So you push your palm into the drumhead and push down. You're going to hear that cracking. Again, that's normal, it's okay. You're not going to break the drumhead by doing that.
You're just stretching it out and just seating it into place. So now, when I tap around the lugs again, the drum's going to go down in pitch because I just stretched out the drum head a bit so it might have pulled the drumhead a little bit unevenly in some places so I want to check the lugs again, do the tap test and get everything to the same pitch. (drum beating) This one's a little bit higher so I'm going to turn it down a bit and when I do that, I loosen it passed where I think it should go and then I tighten it up just a hair.
You always want to tune up and not tune down so I tune down passed where I want it to sound and turn it back up a bit. (drum beating) Needs to go a little bit more. (drum beating) Little bit more on this side. (drum beating) Okay, now I'm going to check the drum again and suspend it under the rim. Tap it. (drum beat) Now, I'm getting a nice open tone.
So that's right about where I want it. Now, this same technique is used for tuning and switching out any drumhead on the kit. I'm going to put the rack tom back up. Now, I'm going to show you a couple of the differences between the rack toms and the snare drum when tuning. The first thing is the snare throw-off.
Now, this drum sounds different just simply because it has snares. If I just listen to it with the snares disengaged, it's going to sound like a really high pitched tom-tom. (drum beating) Okay, so now when I engage with the snares, presses them against the bottom resonant drumhead and I'm going to hit again and you're going to hear that sound with the snares. (drum beating) Now, you can adjust this tension screw, this thumb tension screw.
The tighter you make it, the tighter the snares press against the head. If you over tighten it, you're going to choke the drum and it's not going to sound good at all. If you keep it too loose, you're going to hit the drum and the snares are just going to rattle real loose. That's not real good either so what I do is I tap the drum as light as I can and if I hear any kind of tom-tom sound, the snares are either too tight or too loose. What I'm looking for is I can hit this as soft as I can hit this with my finger and I should hear a nice crisp tight snare sound.
(drum beating) So these are a little bit loose so I'm just going to tighten this up a bit. (drum beating) And that's perfect right there.
By the time you complete this course, you'll understand all the essentials of being a good drummer: from reading and writing music to playing with healthy technique to keep you drumming for a lifetime—along with a well-rounded vocabulary of over 140 famous beats and fills that you can use to create your own music and start playing in bands.
- Setting up your drums
- Basic hand and foot technique
- Reading music
- Playing basic beat and fills in a variety of styles
- Playing in 3/4, 5/4, and 7/8 time and more