Band Director
Close this search box.

How to Tune Your Drumset

Sponsored by Jan Evans

Start by preparing the drum for re-heading. Wipe off the bearing edges(fig. 1) and inside the shell. Place the new head on and spin it around to be certain it fits loosely onto the shell. It is a good idea to place a drop of petroleum jelly onto the threads of the tension rods (fig. 2). Place the counter hoop (fig. 3) onto the head and hand-tighten the tension-rods until they make full contact with the counter hoop. Rather than over-tensioning the head to force it to break in, the best tuning method is to bring the drumhead up to your desired pitch, or slightly higher, play on it for a while to let it break in naturally, then fine-tune it again.

Regardless of the type of drum, its best to use the cross-lug tuning sequence (fig. 4) when tuning from scratch as it creates balanced tension. Study each of the tuning sequence diagrams illustrated below. Count the number of lugs on your drum and use the appropriate tuning sequence.

Bass Drum

The bass drum is the heartbeat of the kit, you want it to sound BIG, and above all, feel great.For most musical styles, the goal is to get the lowest pitch from both heads.

  1. Start by tightening the batter head using the cross-lug tuning sequence until all wrinkles disappear.
  2. Flip the drum over with the batter head against the floor and mount the front head in the same fashion.
  3. Position the drum into the playing position and attach the pedal.
  4. Tap the bass drum with the pedal while you tweak each tension-rod up and down listening closely for a full resonant tone.
  1. Start with the tension-rods barely touching the rim (barely finger-tight)
  2. While tapping the center of the head lightly with a drumstick, start applying tension to each rod (1/4 turn at a time) until the head begins to resonate.
  3. Continue tapping the head directly in front of each tension rod, listening closely to the pitch. Continue moving around the drumhead striving for equal pitches at each tension rod.
  4. If the pitch is too high in one area, quickly decrease tension at the nearest rod and bring it back up to the pitch you are aiming for. Try to sing the pitch you are targeting.

Note: Top head and bottom head tension and pitch should be relatively equal.


The snare drum is central to the feel of the kit and getting a good sound starts with the headsand the snare wires.

  1. Mount both heads using our sequential tuning pattern. Tension them until they begin to resonate using the cross-lug tuning sequence.
  2. Set the pitch on your metronome to A-440 and tune the bottom head up to that note using the cross-lug tuning sequence.
  3. Flip the drum over and tune the batter head slightly higher in pitch (also using the cross-lug tuning sequence).
Snare Wires
    1. Thread your snare cord or a nylon strap through the holes or slots on one end of the snare wire unit and then thread it through the fixed clamp attached to the side of the drum (butt-end of the snare strainer).
    2. Position the snare unit dead center on the bottom head. Using your thumb, hold down the opposite end of the snare unit against the head and pull the snare cord (or strap) through the butt-end clamp until it is taught.
    3. Making sure the unit is still centered on the bottom head; lock the butt-end clamp down.
    4. Turn the throw-off tension knob counter-clockwise until the clamp is about halfway between its tightest and loosest positions.
    5. With the throw-off in the OFF position, thread the snare chord or strap through the holes on the end of the snare unit and then through the clamp on the adjustable snare strainer.
    6. Gently pull the strap downwards and secure it into the clamp. 7. Throw the strainer ON and play the drum. The snares will likely be too loose, so turn off the strainer and tighten the knob. Repeat this process until youve achieved your desired sound.

For more articles and information please visit Jan Evans Tuning/Care