How to Tune a Drum Set. Tuning a drum set can be one of the most important maintenance activities for a drummer. Before performing or recording, it's essential that you have a tuned drum set to play with.
Tuning the Snare Drum
Turn the snares off. The snare drum cannot be tuned correctly with interference from the snare sounds.
Tune the top head first. Turn each lug clockwise to increase the tension of the head and make the drum's pitch higher.
Tune one lug, and then tune the lug on its opposite side (180 degrees away). The drum tunes better when you don't tune these lugs in a circular sequence.
Continue this pattern so that you never tune two lugs in a row that are less than a few inches from each other.
Repeat this sequence with the bottom head. Be careful not to tune it too high, because these heads tend to break easily.
Test the pitch of each lug when finished by lightly playing about 1 inch away from the lug with a drumstick.
Make sure all the lugs have equal pitch. At this point, your drum should be tuned.
Tuning the Toms
Tune the bottom head of each tom-tom first.
Use the same tuning sequence as the snare technique, tuning each lug and then its opposite.
Tune the top head when the bottom head is finished. This head is where the pitch is generated, so it's very important to have an idea of what pitch you want to tune to.
Check each lug's pitch so that it matches the others by lightly playing 1 inch away from the lug with a drumstick.
Tuning the Bass Drum
Tune the front head first. You shouldn't spend too much time doing this, because this head doesn't have much impact on the sound of the drum.
Tune each lug of the back head (the head that your pedal plays against) in the sequence explained in the two sections above.
Make sure your drum is tuned neither too high nor too low. Bass drum sounds really depend on the style of music you're playing and how much impact the drum has with the group you play with.
Allow yourself plenty of time to tune a drum set. This is not an activity you can pull off 20 minutes before a gig or session.