1st Edition

Drum Sound and Drum Tuning Bridging Science and Creativity

By Rob Toulson Copyright 2021
    228 Pages 83 Color Illustrations
    by Focal Press

    228 Pages 83 Color Illustrations
    by Focal Press

    228 Pages 83 Color Illustrations
    by Focal Press

    Drum Sound and Drum Tuning assists drummers, sound engineers, and music students in learning critical skills related to drum sound and achieving an optimised and personalised drum kit set-up. The book covers the essential theories of percussion acoustics and develops this knowledge in order to facilitate creative approaches to drum tuning and professional-level recording and mixing of drums.

    All aspects of drumhead vibration, drumhead equalisation, and resonant drumhead coupling are de-mystified, alongside discussions relating to drumhead types, drum shell vibration, and tuning to musical intervals for different performance genres. The book develops drum sound theory and creative analysis into a detailed dissection of recording and production techniques specifically for drums, including discussions on studio technologies, room acoustics, microphone techniques, phase coherence, and mixing drums with advanced digital audio workstation (DAW) techniques and creative processing tools.

    Drum Sound and Drum Tuning includes many practical hands-on exercises that incorporate example tutorials with Logic Pro and iDrumTune Pro software, encouraging the reader to put theory into immediate creative practice and to develop their own listening skills in an informed and reflective manner. The book also documents primary interviews and opinion from some of the world’s most celebrated drummers, music producers, and sound engineers, enabling the reader to connect the relevant theories with real-world context, whilst refining their own personalised approach to mastering drum sound.

    List of Figures

    List of Tables

    1 Introduction

    1.1 Values of Great Drum Sound

    1.2 Why Bother with Drum Tuning?

    1.3 About this Book

    1.3.1 Educational Approach

    1.3.2 Online Resources

    1.3.3 Interviews with Esteemed Professionals

    1.3.4 Companion Software and Examples

    1.4 Don’t Forget to Listen!


    2 Drumhead Vibration and the Science of Sound

    2.1 Sound Sources, Acoustic Transmission and Sound Reception

    2.2 Evaluating Frequencies

    2.3 The Single Most Valuable Musical Acoustics Theory!

    2.4 Measuring and Analysing Drum Modes


    3 Tuning the Pitch of a Cylindrical Drum

    3.1 Exploring the Pitch Range of a Cylindrical Drum

    3.2 Musical Frequencies

    3.3 Coupled Drumheads


    4 Lug Tuning and Clearing the Drumhead

    4.1 Evaluating the First Overtone of a Drum

    4.2 Beat Frequencies

    4.3 The Sound of a Uniformly Tuned Drumhead

    4.4 Lug Tuning with Assistance


    5 Tuning the Resonant Drumhead – What, Why and How?

    5.1 Harmonics and In-Harmonic Overtones

    5.2 Musical Intervals

    5.3 Controlling Overtones and Intervals with the Resonant Drumhead


    6 A Holistic Approach to Drum Tuning

    6.1 Simplicity Wins

    6.2 Setting the Fundamental Pitch

    6.3 Implementing Lug Tuning and Resonant Head Tuning

    6.4 Damping and Decay Times


    7 The Wonderful World of Drumheads

    7.1 Guitar Strings on Steroids!

    7.2 The Drumhead Equation

    7.3 Drumhead Types and Features

    7.4 Resonant Drumhead Selection

    7.5 Experience Drumheads!


    8 Timbre: The Truth about Drum Shell Vibration

    8.1 Introducing Timbre

    8.2 Tuning Fork Example with Mass Loading

    8.3 Drum Shell Vibration

    8.4 Loading the Drum Shell

    8.5 Bearing Edges and Precision Manufacturing

    8.6 Considering the Drum Shell Vibration Frequency when Tuning


    9 Tuning for Different Musical Styles and Genres

    9.1 Creative Objectives

    9.2 Drum Sizes for Different Music Genres

    9.3 Pitches and Intervals on the Kit

    9.4 Tuning Suggestions for Different Genres

    9.5 Drumheads for Different Music Genres


    10 Snare Drum Tuning

    10.1 Key Aspects of Snare Tuning

    10.2 Holistic Approach to Snare Tuning

    10.3 Manipulating Snare Drum Timbre

    10.4 Comparing Snare Timbre Example


    11 Kick Drum Tuning

    11.1 Kick Drum Tone and Dynamics

    11.2 Drumheads for the Kick Drum

    11.3 Kick Drum Tuning Range

    11.4 Controlling the Kick Drum Timbre


    12 Production and Preparation for Drum Recording

    12.1 Production and Pre-Production

    12.2 Setting Standards and Getting Results

    12.3 Choosing and Evaluating the Recording Space

    12.3.1 Room Size and Dimensions

    12.3.2 Room Materials and Reverberation Characteristics

    12.3.3 Sound Isolation and Background Noise Levels

    12.3.4 Suitability for a Room’s Use in a Recording Project

    12.3.5 Positioning Drums within a Room

    12.4 Tuning and Performance for Recording


    13 Fundamental Technologies for Drum Recording

    13.1 Microphones and Transducers

    13.1.1 Dynamic Microphones

    13.1.2 Condenser Microphones

    13.1.3 Ribbon Microphones

    13.1.4 Other Audio Transducers

    13.2 Microphone Characteristics

    13.2.1 Microphone Polar Patterns

    13.2.2 Other Microphone Characteristics

    13.3 The Complete Recording Signal Chain

    13.3.1 Audio Convertors

    13.3.2 Mixing Desk

    13.3.3 Microphone Preamplifiers

    13.3.4 Recording with FX

    13.4 Monitoring and Foldback

    13.4.1 Control Room Monitoring

    13.4.2 Headphone Foldback

    14 We Need to Talk About Phase!

    14.1 What Exactly is Phase?

    14.2 Time Delay and Comb Filtering

    14.3 Mono Compatibility

    14.4 Signal Polarity


    15 Microphone Techniques for Recording Drums

    15.1 Microphone Placement Approaches

    15.2 Stereo Recording for Drums

    15.2.1 Defining The Stereo Field

    15.2.2 Spaced Pair Technique

    15.2.3 X-Y Technique

    15.2.4 Blumlein Pair Technique

    15.2.5 ORTF Technique

    15.2.6 Mid-Side Technique

    15.2.7 Baffled Omnidirectional Pair Technique

    15.2.8 Decca Tree Technique

    15.2.9 Left-Right-Center Technique

    15.3 Using Spot Microphone Techniques

    15.3.1 Kick Drum Microphone Technique

    15.3.2 Snare Drum Microphone Technique

    15.3.3 Tom Drum Microphone Technique

    15.3.4 Close Cymbal Microphone Technique

    15.4 Room Microphones

    15.5 Microphone Choices for Recording Drums

    15.6 Developing a Personal Approach


    16 Mixing Drums: Balance and Dynamics

    16.1 Balance, Panning and Bussing

    16.2 Dynamics Processing

    16.2.1 Compression and Limiting

    16.2.2 Gates and Expanders

    16.2.3 Envelope Shaping

    16.3 Hybrid mixing


    17 Mixing Drums: Creative Processing

    17.1 Equalisation and Spectral Processing

    17.1.1 Cutting Low Frequencies

    17.1.2 Treating the Fundamental and Overtones of Each Drum

    17.1.3 Adding Attack and Presence

    17.1.4 Controlling High Frequencies

    17.2 Using Reverb to Regain Authenticity

    17.3 Delay for Drums

    17.4 Distortion and Enhancers

    17.5 Sequential and Sidechain and Processing

    17.6 Drum Replacement

    17.7 The Final Mixdown




    Rob Toulson is an innovative musician, music producer, sound designer, and studio engineer working across most music and film genres. He has collaborated with many successful music artists and award-winning music producers, including Talvin Singh, Mediaeval Baebes, and Ethan Ash. He is an expert in musical acoustics and digital audio, with a doctorate in vibration and acoustics analysis and a full professor title in commercial music from University of Westminster, London, UK. He is also founder and director of RT60 Ltd, who develop cutting-edge technologies for the audio and music industries.