Drum Sound and Drum Tuning

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 1 summarises the values, benefits and importance of developing scientific and creative capabilities related to drum sound and drum tuning for drummers and sound engineers. The introduction chapter gives an outline of the book layout and educational approach, with links to online materials, companion software and a discussion on the benefits of hands-on learning. 

Figure  2.1. Sound sources, transmission through air and reception

Chapter 2: Drumhead Vibration and the Science of Sound

In Chapter 2, the fundamentals of acoustics, as applied generally to sound and specifically for two-headed cylindrical drums, are discussed. The chapter gives an overview of drumhead vibration modes, and identification of the fundamental and first overtone characteristics of a cylindrical drum, and considers their relevance to drum sound and drum tuning.

Figure 2.3. Drumhead vibration modes with different numbers of circular and diagonal axes

Chapter 3: Tuning the Pitch of a Cylindrical Drum

Chapter 3 gives an explanation of tuning the pitch of a cylindrical drum and identifying the useable pitch range for a number of different diameter drums. A discussion of coupled drumheads is presented alongside the introduction of musical frequencies and the creative options for tuning popular drums to specific musical pitches.

Figure 3.3. Suggested pitch ranges for standard cylindrical drums

Chapter 4: Lug Tuning and Clearing the Drumhead

Chapter 4 builds on the theory of the drumhead’s first overtone and its ability to be different at different locations around the circumference of the drumhead. The identification of drumhead beat frequencies and amplitude modulation of uneven drumheads is discussed, both from human listening and signal analysis perspectives. Strategies for clearing or equalising the drumhead overtone and observations of the sonic characteristics of an equalised drumhead are considered.

Figure 4.4. Microphone recording of even (top) and uneven (bottom) tuned drumheads

Chapter 5: Tuning the Resonant Drumhead - What, Why and How?

A scientific discussion of the resonant drumhead and its role and importance in the sound characteristics of popular drums is presented in Chapter 5. Approaches and analyses for optimising the relationship between the batter and resonant drumheads is given with respect to the different drumhead vibration modes and their tuneable ratios.

Figure 5.3. C major scale and associated frequencies in hertz

Chapter 6: A Holistic Approach to Drum Tuning

Chapter 6 reflects on the prior chapters and implements the discussed drum acoustics theories in a hands-on practical context. A holistic approach to drum tuning is presented, which enables the reader to learn how to quickly install new drumheads and achieve a preferred or target drum sound. The chapter also incorporates a discussion of drumhead damping and different approaches for controlling drumhead overtones and decay times.

Figure 6.3. Spectrogram comparison between drum sounds that have
(a) significant overtone frequencies and (b) controlled overtone frequencies that decay more quickly

Chapter 7: The Wonderful World of Drumheads

Chapter 7 looks in detail at different drumhead types, particularly with reference to thickness, density and elasticity of drumheads and those with damping features incorporated into their design. The chapter facilitates a hands-on investigation into the sonic characteristics that are evident in different drumhead types and gives an overview of the different drumhead features that can be considered in developing a personalised drum kit sound.

Figure 7.1. Examples of different drumhead designs and features

Chapter 8: Timbre - The Truth about Drum Shell Vibration

Chapter 8 introduces the concept of musical timbre. This brings in a discussion of the acoustic qualities of different drum shell materials and drum shell vibration modes, as well as all the other sonic characteristics that make two identically tuned drums sound different. 

Figure 8.2. Drum shell deform-reform vibration profile (fundamental mode)

Chapter 9: Tuning for Different Musical Styles and Genres

In Chapter 9, creative objectives are introduced as a concept for identifying the target drum sound. A discussion of different tuning strategies and the chosen pitch of different drums, dependant on drum shell sizes and for different music genres, is given. 

Figure 9.5. Example tuning range for 12″, 10″, and 8″ rack toms

Chapter 10: Snare Drum Tuning

Chapter 10 draws together the prior discussed concepts in the particular case of snare drum tuning. Including a discussion of different snare drum types, snare drumheads, different snare timbres and the importance of the snare drum sound in popular music.

Figure 6.1. Example star-form tuning order for five, six, and eight lug drums

Chapter 11: Kick Drum Tuning

Chapter 11 draws together the prior discussed concepts in the particular case of kick drum tuning. Including a discussion of the kick drum sound in popular music and different strategies, materials and technologies available for achieving desired sonic characteristics.

Figure 11.1. Simplified waveform diagrams showing three different kick drum profiles

Chapter 12: Production and Preparation for Drum Recording

Production and pre-production of drums in a recording context are discussed in Chapter 12. An overview of the recording process is given along with the benefits of setting objectives and planning ahead. Drum recording spaces are discussed, particularly with respect to evaluating a potential performance space for optimising the recorded drum sound.

Figure 12.2. (a) Direct sound to the microphone, (b) short-path early reflections, (c) long-path early reflections, and (d) diffuse reverberation

Chapter 13: Fundamental Technologies for Drum Recording

In Chapter 13, the fundamental and essential technologies involved in the process of drum recording are described. In particular, microphone types and their characteristics are discussed, specifically with respect to drum recording scenarios. A summary of essential studio equipment for recording drums, including mixers, interfaces, preamplifiers, studio monitors and headphone foldback systems are covered.

Figure 13.1. Simplified dynamic microphone schematic

Chapter 14: We Need to Talk about Phase

The complex topic of phase coherency is discussed in Chapter 14, owing to its significant impact on drum recording and production. Acoustic and electronic theories relating to time delays, comb filtering, mono compatibility and signal polarity are covered, and particular good- and bad-practice examples relating to drum sound and drum recording are highlighted.

Figure 14.6. Comb filtering shown with the Nugen Audio Visualizer plug-in

Chapter 15: Microphone Techniques for Recording Drums

Chapter 15 gives an overview of room, overhead and spot microphone recording techniques for acoustic drums. The stereo field and stereo microphone setups are discussed in detail, given a number of different strategies for recording drums that deliver the desired stereo spread of sounds on playback.

Figure 15.5. ORTF microphone recording technique

Chapter 16: Mixing Drums: Balance and Dynamics

Chapter 16 discusses common mixing layouts and approaches for drums. The chapter describes signal flow templates for track balance and panning as well as routing tracks through sub-mixes and effects auxiliaries. The chapter also includes a detailed discussion on dynamics processing for drums, including compression, limiting, gating, expansion and envelope shaping in different sequential and parallel processing setups.

Figure 16.2. Drum instrument tracks with panning and volume adjustments, sub-mix bussing, and auxiliary sends

Chapter 17: Mixing Drums: Creative Processing

Chapter 17 looks in more detail at the most creative audio processing tools and their applications in mixing drums. Spectral, and spatial processing are discussed, incorporating detailed discussion on the use of different equalisation, reverb and delay strategies when mixing drums. Sonic enhancers, sidechain processing and drum replacement tools are also covered in order to equip the reader to create professional standard drum mixes.

Figure 17.1. Six-band parametric equaliser applied to a snare drum recording (Waves Renaissance EQ plug-in)