How To Tune Drums

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01h 23min


with NYC's 1st call session drummer Graham Hawthorne

Have you ever listened to a record and caught a guitar player with an out of tune string or a bass player with bad intonation? Even worse, have you heard an average singer without Melodyne!!??

As producers, it is our job to ensure that everything we record is in tune and that includes the foundation of our mixes -- the drums!

In this tutorial join Fab Dupont and world renowned drummer Graham Hawthorne (Paul Simon, Fatboy Slim, Bon Jovi, and more) as they dissect the entire process of replacing, tuning and maintaining drum heads and hardware that are the essential and often overlooked elements of great drum recordings.

In this step-by-step guide to tuning drums you will learn about the importance of drum heads, the purpose of snare drum accessories, the influence of drum stands, and much, much more.

Learning how drums are tuned is crucial for every engineer to know because badly tuned drums will sound flappy and lifeless. The difference between a kick drum that tears through a rock record or sits calmly inside of a jazz mix may only be quarter tone away.

Topics Covered Include:

  • The order you should tune your drum lugs
  • Tuning the top and bottom head
  • Changing drum heads
  • Compare an out of tune drum kit to an in tune drum kit
  • Using a drum key properly
  • Accurate muffling and dampening drum heads
  • Developing overall tone in a drum kit
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Fab Dupont

Fab Dupont is an award-winning NYC based record producer, mixing/mastering engineer and co-founder of

Fab has been playing, writing, producing and mixing music both live and in studios all over the world. He's worked in cities like Paris, Boston, Brussels, Stockholm, London and New York just to name a few.

He has his own studio called FLUX Studios in the East Village of New York City.

Fab has received many accolades around the world, including wins at the Victoires de la Musique, South African Music awards, Pan African Music Awards, US independent music awards. He also has received Latin Grammy nominations and has worked on many Latin Grammy and Grammy-nominated albums.


David Crosby

Queen Latifah

Jennifer Lopez

Mark Ronson

Les Nubians

Toots And The Maytals

What do you have to say?
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2022 Sep 21
This was absolutely fantastic and exactly what I needed to know about drums from an engineer perspective.
2022 Feb 20
There will be no subtitles in Spanish please?
2021 Nov 04
Interesting video, however the video and audio do not match once 10 minutes have passed, a bit annoying not being able follow the tuning process.
2019 May 18
i think this is not a good video about how to tune the drum kit,just check the periphery studio pass to get more stuff to learn....
2018 Jan 05
Great to se this from a production perspective. One comment I immediately thought of in the chronology of setting up, miking and sound checking section was that after you set up the drums, you'd like te be sure that the kit is in the right place for the room. I've played drums several times in the same place and it turns out that a 4" difference in the location of the kit makes a big difference in tone and decay time etc. If I remember correctly, from the Dave Grohl documentary, the legendary drum sound from Sound City was only obtained if the drum placement was correct.
2016 Jul 29
love this
Il Pianista
2016 Apr 29
Well I've seen tons of videos about tuning drums, and this is simply the clearest and most helpful I've ever seen. Talking about practice, not just theory, and explaining every little step. As it usually is with puremix stuff. Thanks Fab, thanks Graham.
2015 Nov 28
Very good tutorial, thanks. Changing your bottom head is just as important as the top. Having a huge set in the studio, 10 drums, I also use a Tune-bot and after getting the drums very well tuned, I document the setting numbers from the tuner for future tuning. Thanks for the tutorial.
2015 Aug 31
oh and one other comment - it's theoretically possible that an overtone of a tom could set the snares into vibration, so it's also possible that avoiding perfect intervals (fifths, thirds, etc) could minimize the amount of sympathetic vibration. I haven't see this in practice very much, but sometimes snare buzz magically diminishes or increases. I would guess that it's due to a tom overtone changing.
2015 Aug 31
continuing, there is one trick which some guys use - you can lower the 4 lugs bordering the snare on the bottom of the snare drum, but I think it ruins the sound of the snare drum, and I would rather have snare buzz than a crappy sounding snare. try it though - maybe it will work for your purposes. good luck!
2015 Aug 31
hey drbeckel, since you asked - here's the only thing I know to do about snare resonance from the tom. the closer they are in pitch, the more they will sympathetically resonate when EITHER one is struck. So if you're getting too much snare buzz when hitting the tom, you can raise the pitch of the snare drum or lower the pitch of the tom. (or vice versa if you're going for something unorthodox). the problem is that sometimes you might want them pretty close in pitch. when that's the case, I don't know of a magic solution - the laws of physics dictate that they will sympathetically resonate.
2015 Aug 22
Thanks for enforcing the fact that it really does take some time to get it right. One thing I wish you had touched on was how to minimize resonance snare buzz when the tom is hit.
2015 Aug 16
nice! Can't wait to tune my drums......
2015 Aug 15
superb video. Learned so much. Thanks guys!