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How To Tune Drums. Get an best live drum kit sound on stage

Updated on October 15, 2012

Essential reading for any amateur drummer

Ever wondered why some drummers kits sound amazing and others sound terrible? Want to make your drum kit sound sweet on the live stage? What follows is what i think are just a few of the things you need to do to have a glitch free gig with a great drum sound that blends in with the rest of the band.

Drum Matt - The first thing you need to remember when packing the van and heading to the gig is a drum matt, something to put the drum kit on to stop the kick drum sliding across the slick wooden floor of the stage. This can be a piece of old carpet or a professional one from any of the big hardware suppliers, the later will cost more than the old carpet you might find in the cellar and so I recommend you save your money for more important items and use some old carpet.

Well Tuned Skins - Buying new skins for your kit on a regular basis is important part of having a quality sounding kit. I would recommend re-skinning your kit before every recording session or every 3-4 months (depending on how often you play/can afford). Buying the correct skins is also very important. Don't just buy the cheapest in the shop, do some research in to the different types of skins and how they sound. Think about who your influences are and see what skins they are using try and pick a model that suits the style/sound of your band.

The tuning aspect of the kit is as important as the choice of skins. There are plenty of articles online explaining how to tune a drum kit so I'm not going to go over it hear. Just remember if you want your drums to sound big and slappy or high and ringy on record and through the PA the engineer cant do that from the mixing desk, you must make them sound like that. If the kit sounds the way you want it to before its mic'd up it will sound amazing when its going though the PA.

Cymbals - For me cymbals cause the biggest problems when mixing a band in a small venue. In a standard rock band drums are the only thing that cant be turned up/down, therefore the volume of the other instruments must me mixed around the volume of the drums. The issue i have is that allot of cymbals are played so loud that it becomes impossible to mix the rest of the band around them without puncturing everyones eardrums or worse blowing the PA! This means that most engineers have to mix the band with the cymbals much louder than anything else.

If your not sure wether your cymbals are coming across too loud and masking everything at your gigs try asking the engineer or an experienced friend (who isn't going to lie and tell you everything sounded great) if they think you play your cymbals too loud and they covered the sound of the rest of the band. Now i cant simply tell you to play quieter, non of my articles will will ever tell you to change the way you play. There are a few things i think you can do to take the volume of the cymbals down to a reasonable level for a small venue.

1 - Try and avoid the big expensive Zildjian, yes all the big bands use them and they do sound great on a recording but Im talking about when your playing in the upstairs room of a small bar to thirty people. Buy some Sabian Pro Sonix or Paiste, they still sound good and wont completely take over the sound of the entire band.

2 - If you still find that the cymbals are too loud try using some hotrods. They do change the sound of the kit slightly (and other drummers may think its uncool) but they also lower the volume of the drums and cymbals making the experience for anyone in that small venue much more enjoyable (and more likely to stick around and watch).

Finally - There are plenty of other tips Ill be writing about in these hubs in the future as i think of them and as they crop up at gigs. I do lots of live PA & Engineering work so whenever I see a good idea on the stage ill pass it on to you guys hear to please subscribe to my feed.

If you have any other ideas of thoughts on what ive said Id like to hear them as i havn't put these ideas to many drummers so would like to hear what you think.




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