The Tuning of Drums

When most of us envision a percussive instrument, we typically bypass the idea of pitch and go straight to the trance-like rhythm that the drums always seem to be able to produce effortlessly. Have we overlooked something major though? There are indeed many forms of tuning that get lost in the shadows of the patterns of percussion. 

Now, this is one of those that we’ll just go straight to the source on, as this topic can become quite debatable and convoluted. We love Wikipedia’s definition, with “Drum tuning is the process of adjusting the frequency or pitch of a drum. Although most drums are unpitched instruments, they still have a fundamental pitch and overtones. Drums require tuning for a variety of reasons: to sound good together as a kit, to sound pleasing as an individual drum, to achieve the desired amount of ringing and resonance” which is a slight mind bender in and of itself, as so many of us only appreciate the rhythmic elements of the drums. 

So, are there any percussive instruments that are indeed specifically and definitely pitched? The short answer is yes. Some of these include the rototoms and the timpani. Pas fills us in on the mechanics of this with "ith your heel, press the pedal of each drum all the way down to the position of lowest pitch. At the same time gently press on the center of the head with the heel of the hand. This seems to iron out the head and yield more accurate tuning."


The manner in which drums can be tuned has such a dreamy and mysterious air to it, as if music needed an additional element of wonderment. It turns out that most drums are actually tuned by the method of either loosening or tightening the mechanisms, typically tension rods & ropes, while adhered to the drumhead.

The depth of the drums is nothing to overlook, as there is so much to explore in its varying dimensions that it can embody. Join us in the coming weeks where we explore the origins and complexities of the patterns that percussion creates in the world around us, both in music and our every day life.