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Okay, we're finally ready to tune the drums. There are four steps to this process: first, take the drum apart. Take off both heads and rims. Second, put whatever heads you're going to be using back on the drum. once the heads are on, put all the lugs in and use your fingers to tighten them. Third, you use your drum key to tune up and fourth you use the key and stick to fine tune.

Disassembling Your Drum

The first part is easy. Just unscrew all the lugs with your drum key and put them aside. I advise using a cup to hold your lugs so you don't lose any. Take all the pieces and set them down.

Put the drum back together

The second part is just like the first step in a way, except the opposite. Now, you want to put your drum back together. You should always aim to have newer heads, but if you're going to stick with your old ones, that works too. Drums with old heads will not sound as good, but I'm not one to talk exactly. In my tutorial, for example, the bottom head on that drum is five years old. Even at a year old, a head will be in bad shape. Welcome to being a college student. The next thing you want to do is finger tighten the lugs on the top head. Just keep tightening them until your fingers won't budge them anymore. Now the easy part is over.

Tuning Up

Now, you're going to take your key and tighten the lugs up. Do it a half-turn of the key at a time. Start at the top left lug, and then move to the one across from it, not next to it. Move to the lug next to the one you started from and repeat that pattern: tune up with a half-turn and then move to a lug across. Below is a diagram for an example. Try three half turns.

Drum Tuning Diagram

Now, hit your drum with your stick to test its sound. It probably sounds like a jumbled mess of tones. That's fine for now, but you want to hear the drum's general sound. Is it too high? Is it too low for your liking? If it's too high, try detuning the top and bottom head in the same pattern, just use 1/4 or 1/8 turns at a time. Keep trying this until you get a general pitch you like. If it's too low, then do this the opposite way. Remember to tune evenly. Repeat the process with bottom heads.

Fine Tuning

Now comes the most arduous and frustrating part of them all: fine tuning. What you do in fine tuning a drum is push your finger in the center of the drum and then tap the edge of the drum with your stick. Listen for the pitch at that lug, and then the lug next to it or across from it. Either works. If the pitch at lug 1 is higher than at lug 2, either raise lug 2 with a 1/8 turn or drop lug 1 with a 1/8 turn. You may sometimes try a combination of both. Continue this process until all the lugs sound equal in pitch. Then repeat the process on the bottom head. If the drum is a bit high for your liking, you'll want to drop the tuning of lugs more often than raising and vice versa if the drum sounds too low. Just keep trying. Also note that at this stage, you're not adjusting lugs equally anymore. Once you've fine-tuned your drum, it should sound much more harmonious and have a tone similar to a note on a piano. If you're still getting dissonant tones from your drum, keep fine-tuning or try and get it as close to harmonious as you can. If you have particularly old heads like me, you're going to have to live with some dissonance, but when you're playing, you shouldn't even notice.

Finger Pushing In Center
of the Drum