Updated: August 22nd, 2022
While even amateurs know the importance of turning a guitar or other stringed instrument, the idea of keeping drums in tune can be a bit of a mystery. It is not a straightforward process, so beginners can struggle without the right tools, and even professionals don’t always manage to get a consistent sound out of their kit.
Having your drums in perfect tune can make the difference between you sounding like a professional or an amateur. Good tuning can also make a cheap kit seem expensive, while a pricey kit isn’t worth the price tag if it isn’t kept in tune.
So, in today’s article, we are going to share with you the four best drum tuning kits that you can start using today to upgrade your sound. We’ll also share some fundamental tips for turning your drums and a buying guide for finding the right tuner for you.
DrumDial Drum Tuner
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Tune-Bot Studio TBS-001 Digital Drum Tuner
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Tune-Bot Gig Clip-On Digital Drum Tuner
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DrumDial Digital Drum Tuner
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4 Best Drum Tuners
- Tune in loud spaces
- Accurate tension readings
- Requires some experience and ear turning to use
This tuner from DrumDial is the best on the market. This classic tuner will appeal to purists who like to tune by ear. Plus, you can get your drums tuned without having to hit them, which is ideal if you need to get your kit ready in a noisy space.
All you need to do is place this tuner on any part of your drum head and it will give you a pressure reading, letting you know your tension levels.
Combine this with ear and instinct to get your drums turned up exactly how you want them the first time. Afterwards, you can just replicate the same pressure with every tuning to get a consistent sound every time.
There are no bells and whistles with this tuner, but that is why it’s so affordable. It is designed to do one job and one job only, and it does it well.
If you know what you are doing when it comes to drums, and you are looking for a tool that lets you quickly get your drums in tune no matter where you are (and how noisy it is), then this is the ideal tuner for you.
- Extremely accurate
- Note recording
- Works like a guitar tuner
- No silent tuning
If you are comfortable with turning instruments such as guitars, you will immediately feel at home with the Tune-Bot Studio tuner because it functions in the same way. It records the sound of the drum and gives you a reading, so you can then adjust to the pitch you want.
Tune-Bot is a leading brand in the drumming world, so it should be no surprise that they also have a supporting phone app, which gives lots of tips and tricks for getting the exact sound you want out of your kit.
The major drawback with this tuner is that you won’t be using it to tune up your drums before a show. Since it needs to register the sound of the drum, it is pretty much useless in a noisy setting, but it’s note accuracy is ideal for studio recording.
If you are heading into the recording studio and accuracy is your biggest concern, then you will appreciate just how good this tuner is. The fact that it works like a guitar tuner means you can discuss your kit with the rest of the band in a language they will understand.
Hitting the studio? Check out all the kit that we recommend for studio recording.
- Accurate readings
- Familiar and easy to use
- No silent tuning
- Not as accurate as other options
If you like Tune-Bot, but their studio tuner is a bit pricey for you, then you might be happy with their more affordable Gig tuner. It also works just like a guitar tuner, but it’s an earlier generation and just isn’t as accurate or user-friendly as the more expensive option.
Clip it onto your drums and hit the head to find your pitch. You can then adjust up and down until you get it perfect.
This tuner is ideal for “dabblers,” such as guitarists who like to rock out on the drums occasionally as well. It is simple to use and easy to move from guitar to drums with this tuner. It’s also affordable, so you can have your own.
We aren’t always looking for the best of the best. Sometimes we just want something affordable that works. That is what Tune-Bot is offering here.
- Tune in loud places
- Accurate tension reading
- Visibility in low light
- Higher price than similar products
If you prefer the ease of a digital tuner but want something that lets you get your drums ready even when it’s noisy and you can’t tune them by ear, then the digital tuner option from DrumDial might be just what you are looking for.
It works in the same way as their classic tuner. Just place the tuner on your drum head and it will let you know what your tension is. So, you’ll want to tune your drums somewhere that you can hear them the first time around, and then record your ideal tension for each drum so you can recreate the same balance anywhere, anytime.
The main advantage of the digital DrumDial tuner over the analogue option is really just that it has an LED screen to give you your reading, which makes it easier to use in dark spaces, or if you aren’t a fan of reading the analogue dials.
You are paying quite a bit extra for that LED screen, but it sure is convenient. You don’t really want to be fiddling around with your mobile phone flashlight when you’re trying to get everything perfect ahead of a gig.
If you are a gigging drummer, and getting your kit set up in dark bars with the noise of glasses clinking, this will be one of the most convenient tools available for you.
Drum Tuner Buying Guide
When thinking about choosing a drum tuner, you might think your first choice is between digital or classic. But in reality, this will make very little difference, as both will give you accurate readings. So, this one often comes down to personal preference.
The only usability reason why you might prefer a digital tuner over a classic analogue is if you anticipate needing to get your kit in tune in dark spaces. Digital tuners will usually have LED screens that will save you a bit of a headache in the dark.
A more important question is whether you want a tension tuner or a note tuner.
A note tuner will be more familiar to most musicians, as it works in the same way as a guitar tuner. You hit the drum and it tells you the pitch. You can then adjust up or down until you get the pitch you want. Simple.
With a tension tuner, you place the tuner on the drum and it tells you the tension of the skin. If you know what tension you like for each of your drums, you can then adjust up or down until you get what you want.
Tension tuning is more fiddly when you start. You need to turn the drum by ear and then make a note of the ideal tension for each drum. Then, when you turn again, you can just return the kit to the same tension. While this represents more work upfront, there are advantages. First, it is easier to tune your drums exactly the same every time, so you always get the same sound. Second, if you are turning up for a gig, you might be in a loud space or a space where you can’t really hit your drums. With a tension tuner, you can tune silently.
Note tuners also have their advantages. They are more accessible for beginners who aren’t ready to tune their drums by ear. They are also more familiar for most musicians, so they make for more comprehensible conversations when you’re trying to coordinate with the band. And finally, you don’t have to tune your drums the same every time. If you decide that you need to make a change to better coordinate with the band, you can do it on the fly with your note tuner.
So, generally speaking, a tension tuner might better suit experienced, gigging drummers who know their kit well and want to be able to tune them up quickly and silently. Note tuners are better for beginners, and also often better for the studio when you might want to make changes to better coordinate with other instruments.
Really, we recommend that you have both! You will want your note tuner for when you first tune your drums and when you are in the studio, and your tension tuner when you are gigging.
How To Tune A Drum Kit
Once you have your trusty drum tuner in hand, how do you tune your drum kit?
In theory, you don’t need a drum tuner—you can do it by ear. Drums aren’t tuned to a specific pitch, they just need to be in balance with one another. But unless you are very confident in your ear, you’ll probably find the process much easier with a tuner.
To start the tuning process, you first need to de-tension the drum head that you are focussing on. To do this, turn the tension head on the side of the drum counter-clockwise until the head is loose. This is also a good opportunity to wipe down the heads and clean the bearing edge.
You are now ready to start tightening the head to get the tension you want. Using a drum key, tighten the tension rods on the side of the drum. Make sure you turn each tension rod the same amount for even tension. Also, don’t circle while you are tightening—criss cross instead. For example, if you start at 12 o’clock, don’t go to 1 o’clock. Cross over to 6 o’clock, then move to 3 o’clock, 9 o’clock, and so forth.
Use the tuner to get your desired pitch, tightening the rods clockwise to get a higher pitch and loosening counter-clockwise to get a lower pitch.
Once you get one “right,” you’ll want to move on to the next, but chances are you will also want to revisit and make small adjustments so that you have all your drum heads in perfect balance.
Ensure that you slap the drum head after turning each tension rod, both in the center and an inch or two from the rim. This helps settle the tension and give you a true sound.
Dampening or muffling your drums will also give you a purer tone without overtone or unwanted pitches. So, consider spreading a dampening gel on your snare head, floor tom, and other drums.
Struggling to set up your drum kit? Read our complete guide to setting up your kit.
Should I use a drum tuner?
While you can certainly tune your drums by ear, this is a talent that can take a while to develop. A drum tuner can help you as you learn. A drum tuner is also ideal if you want to make sure you tune your drums exactly the same every time, or if you want to know the exact note you are making, perhaps when mixing with other instruments.
What is the standard tuning for drums?
Drummers tune their drums in relation to the other drums in the set. Toms are usually tuned a fourth apart. But this also depends on the number of toms, and kits with more toms may need to be tuned at closer intervals.
Drummers, both amateur and serious, need a drum tuner to keep their kit sounding the way it should. There are many great options on the market, but your principal choice is between a tension tuner and a note tuner.
We actually recommend that you get both. Tension tuners are often preferred by experienced drummers who know their kits well. They are also ideal for silent tuning in noisy spaces and getting your kit to the exact same tuning every time.
Note tuners are great when you are new to drumming and can’t tune by ear. They are also ideal for the studio, when you might want to make changes to your tuning in order to better sync with the rest of the band.
Whatever you are looking for, you should find what you are looking for in our list of recommendations.
How do you like to keep your drums in tune? Share your experience with the community in the comments section below.