Drum Sound and Drum Tuning
Bridging Science and Creativity

By Professor Rob Toulson 

About the book

Drum Sound and Drum Tuning assists drummers, sound engineers, and music students in learning critical skills related to drum sound and achieving an optimised and personalised drum kit set-up. The book covers the essential theories of percussion acoustics and develops this knowledge in order to facilitate creative approaches to drum tuning and professional-level recording and mixing of drums. 

All aspects of drumhead vibration, drumhead equalisation, and resonant drumhead coupling are de-mystified, alongside discussions relating to drumhead types, drum shell vibration, and tuning to musical intervals for different performance genres. The book develops drum sound theory and creative analysis into a detailed dissection of recording and production techniques specifically for drums, including discussions on studio technologies, room acoustics, microphone techniques, phase coherence, and mixing drums with advanced digital audio workstation (DAW) techniques and creative processing tools. 

Drum Sound and Drum Tuning includes many practical hands-on exercises that incorporate example tutorials with Logic Pro and iDrumTune Pro software, encouraging the reader to put theory into immediate creative practice and to develop their own listening skills in an informed and reflective manner. The book also documents primary interviews and opinion from some of the world’s most celebrated drummers, music producers, and sound engineers - including Sylvia Massy, Alex Reeves and Cherisse Osei - enabling the reader to connect the relevant theories with real-world context, whilst refining their own personalised approach to mastering drum sound.

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About the author

Professor Rob Toulson is an innovative musician, music producer, sound designer, and studio engineer working across most music and film genres. He has collaborated with many successful music artists and award-winning music producers, including Talvin Singh, Mediaeval Baebes, and Ethan Ash. He is an expert in musical acoustics and digital audio, with a doctorate in vibration and acoustics analysis and a full professor title in commercial music from University of Westminster, London, UK. He is inventor of the iDrumTune and Drummer ITP mobile applications and also founder/director of RT60 Ltd, who develop cutting-edge technologies for the audio and music industries.

Table of contents

1 Introduction

2 Drumhead Vibration and the Science of Sound

3 Tuning the Pitch of a Cylindrical Drum

4 Lug Tuning and Clearing the Drumhead

5 Tuning the Resonant Drumhead – What, Why and How?

6 A Holistic Approach to Drum Tuning

7 The Wonderful World of Drumheads

8 Timbre: The Truth about Drum Shell Vibration

9 Tuning for Different Musical Styles and Genres 

10 Snare Drum Tuning 

11 Kick Drum Tuning 

12 Production and Preparation for Drum Recording

13 Fundamental Technologies for Drum Recording

14 We Need to Talk About Phase! 

15 Microphone Techniques for Recording Drums

16 Mixing Drums: Balance and Dynamics

17 Mixing Drums: Creative Processing

Includes primary interviews with award winning drummers and music producers:

Cherisse Osei (Simple Minds, Paloma Faith, Bryan Ferry)

Alex Reeves (Elbow, Bat For Lashes, Dizzee Rascal)

Sylvia Massy (Tool, Taylor Hawkins, System of A Down)

Emre Ramazanoglu (Noel Gallagher, Kylie Minogue)

Mike Exeter (Black Sabbath, Judas Priest)

Simon Gogerly (U2, No Doubt and Underworld)


This inspiring text provides a comprehensive look at the drum kit for what it is – a complex musical instrument. The book covers subjects such as basic acoustical properties to how drum sounds have been modified and presented differently across various genres and eras. The specific instruction on drum tuning is presented in a way that is easy to understand and will benefit beginners, experts and educators. The online resources available via the companion website are highly valuable as well – I plan to take full advantage of the videos and slides as I discuss drum tuning with my students!

Richard King (14-time Grammy Winning recording engineer and Associate Professor at the Schulich School of Music of McGill University)