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Before you begin tuning, you have to identify your goals for your sounds. As it has been said before, there is no real "right" answer for tuning your drums. Tuning is done by adjusting the tension lugs on the drum heads. If you tighten a lug, that lug pushes down on that area of the head. If you have a bunch of lugs with uneven pressures, that's what creates a bad drum sound. What creates that sound is the head's vibrations creating a bunch of disharmonius pitches at once, also known as dissonance. This is what we would call the wrong answer.

First, you should think about what style of music you are playing. If you're playing pop, you want your drums to sound punchy, clear, crisp and light. So, you'll want to tune your snare up high for a nice crack, with your toms tuned medium to lower with some resonance.

Here's a guide, complete with some YouTube links, so you can hear -- generally -- what drum sounds are appropriate for certain genres. Again, you can defy convention and go with some other sounds, but generally, you'll want to try to emulate these tones.

Classic Rock

Fleetwood Mac's "Say You Love Me" is a great example of the "fat" tone classic rockers sought in the '70s. The snare, toms and kick drum are all tuned low to provide a thick, low-end sound, dead thud to the drums. To get this sound, tune all drums low and use double-ply heads with a lot of muffling.


The Aggrolites' "Love Isn't Love" demonstrates how in ska and reggae, the target drum sound is almost the exact opposite of the classic rock sound. The snare is tuned as highly as possible to create a timbale-like sound. Which the snare tuned high, the side-stick hits also sound brighter. The kick is also tuned fairly high. Notice also how the toms are tuned much higher and have a lot of thin sustain to them. To get this sound, use one-ply heads across the board (except on the kick) and aim high with your tuning. For the snare drum, try getting the head as tight as you can -- just be careful. If you tighten heads too far, they can explode.


On Avenged Sevenfold's "Almost Easy," the metal sound comes out. The key here is a very "clicky" bass drum sound. Part of that comes from a highly-tuned kick drum. Some metal drummers have been known to tape quarters on their bass drum heads as a form of muffling. The snare is cranked very high. Notice also how the toms have a very dry, dead sound. They're tuned mid-range but muffled as well.

Pop and Country

On Vanessa Carlton's "A Thousand Miles," the drummer has a mid-range, thick snare sound with sustain with a punchy tom sound and kick. It's a very standard, versatile sound with sustain. The drummer most likely uses a single-ply head for the snare and two-ply heads on the toms. This sound can also be applied to newer country drumming.

Indie/Alternative Rock

This genre is so ridiculously broad it's impossible to peg it down to one drum sound. So, I'm going to try to narrow it down to one aspect of it. The Killers' "Mr. Brightside" is considered one of the quintessential indie rock songs of the past decade. In this song, notice the mid-range tuned snare along with powerful, low toms and a booming kick. For this type of powerful drum sound, that's what you're going for.

Punk Rock

In "Anthem" by blink-182, listen to how Travis Barker uses a high-pitched snare with a fair amount of sustain. On his toms, he uses mid-range tuned toms, but they are probably on the lower end of "mid-range." His kick is punchy and powerful, tuned in a mid-range as well.


Nowadays, the drum sound for R&B might be more like what you would hear out of pop, but if you're going for a vintage sound, you'll definitely want pay attention to the sound on Arthur Conley's "Sweet Soul Music." Think less about pop or rock sounds and think more about jazz. The snare is tuned higher with more sustain to the sound. One-ply heads across the board would probably be the way to go if you're looking to get this sound.


Nothing like Miles Davis' Kind of Blue album. This track, "Freddie Freeloader," is a perfect example of the kind of sound you want as a jazz drummer. The drums should have resonance and sing like notes on a piano, almost. Instead of having a dry, dead tom sound like most rock music strives for, jazz requires a more melodic tone to the drums, tuned higher up. This includes the kick drum.


There's no better example of hip-hop drumming than The Roots' "Rising Down." The simple beat, but the powerful bass drum tone and hard-hitting snare. The music is all about establishing a hard groove. To get a tone like this, two-ply heads across the board, with the snare tuned to the middle-range, kick low and punchy with SOME sustain to it (but not a lot.) and a low-middle tuning to the toms.