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Why do some rock pop productions tune their drums to the song?

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Why do some rock pop productions tune their drums to the song?

Postby armans » Sat Dec 05, 2020 12:15 pm

In most of the reference mixes I am opening up lately, I am seeing that the kick drum, percussion and snares often are tuned to certain notes in the scale of the song? There must be a great effort in doing this so what is the benefit to doing so? I am especially interested in the kick drum. I am seeing a lof of the time that the kick drum is tuned to a note from the key of the song and many times it is the tonic note or the 5th.

Here is an example of what I mean. You can hear the drums alone and then with the bass guitar coming in on top

https://gofile.io/d/bc4tAg
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Re: Why do some rock pop productions tune their drums to the song?

Postby The Elf » Sat Dec 05, 2020 12:46 pm

There's something to be said for tuning drums to take account of the song's key - and there are some in these fora that advocate it - but it's not something I've ever felt the need to do. Of course I will tune to create the effect I want from a drum, but the actual pitch is of little interest to me.

A resonant, sustained kick drum is a feature of much modern music, so tuning becomes more critical, lest it create a horrible dissonant beating against the bass notes.

As ever, do what sounds right to you and put aside any idea of right or wrong.
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Re: Why do some rock pop productions tune their drums to the song?

Postby Tomás Mulcahy » Sat Dec 05, 2020 12:55 pm

Yes it depends on the song. I personally dislike a bass drum with a pronounced note in it. Too repetitive. Tuning a drum should be about getting the timbre to work, not the pitch. However this is a distinction that is lost on some creators because they didn’t get the classic education in the physics of sound. Also it’s both harder to do, and fairly subjective. Because you have to think ahead about how all the parts fit together. In the past I’ve found that when I work with the drummer on tuning, the snare works out well but kick and toms often got changed in the mix. Drastic eq, rather than replacing with samples.
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Re: Why do some rock pop productions tune their drums to the song?

Postby armans » Sat Dec 05, 2020 9:30 pm

The Elf wrote:There's something to be said for tuning drums to take account of the song's key - and there are some in these fora that advocate it - but it's not something I've ever felt the need to do. Of course I will tune to create the effect I want from a drum, but the actual pitch is of little interest to me.

A resonant, sustained kick drum is a feature of much modern music, so tuning becomes more critical, lest it create a horrible dissonant beating against the bass notes.

As ever, do what sounds right to you and put aside any idea of right or wrong.

Thank you. Do you perhaps know why those that advocate it do so? What is the argument for it?
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Re: Why do some rock pop productions tune their drums to the song?

Postby The Elf » Sat Dec 05, 2020 10:15 pm

armans wrote:Thank you. Do you perhaps know why those that advocate it do so? What is the argument for it?
Because it is deemed to gel with the instruments better, particularly to prevent that dissonance with bass notes.

But I'm not an advocate, so not the best person to ask - paging Jack!?!?
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Re: Why do some rock pop productions tune their drums to the song?

Postby DC-Choppah » Sat Dec 05, 2020 11:37 pm

armans wrote:There must be a great effort in doing this so what is the benefit to doing so?

Properly set up drum heads give a pitch to the drum.

But once recorded you can change the pitch while mixing to tweak the pitch to the song.

https://www.waves.com/plugins/torque


Jack Dejohnette discussing his drum tuning for jazz. He plays 'melodically' with his drum kit. He says that it changes the way you play the drums and he has seen people sit down at his kit and it the tuning he uses changes their performance! But you will notice that it is not so much the absolute pitch of the drums but the intervals between them that form little melodies. And just the fact that the drums sounds good with a discernable pitch.

For me, the issue here is that many good drummers know if you have a drum head that has equal tension around the rim it will ring with a pitch. That is a good sounding drum. It can be heard better in the mix. Good drum sound = has a pitch.

If the tension on the rim is sloppy and unequal around the rim, the drum won't sound as good and has no discernable pitch. More of a thud than a nice round tuned drum hit.

So I think that good sounding drums have a pitch. So if they have a pitch, you might as well tune them to an actual note you can recall. That way you can retune the drum next time to get back the sound you like. I know many drummers that do it that way. And their drums sound great and repeatable.
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Re: Why do some rock pop productions tune their drums to the song?

Postby Tomás Mulcahy » Sun Dec 06, 2020 12:58 pm

But a properly tuned drum won't have a "discernable pitch". Look on a spectrum analyzer. You'll see several harmonics of equal strength. If you think you can sing the note of the drum, that's just your brain focussing on one. Other people will focus on a different one, or none of them.

That's the difference between pitch and timbre.

You can get the heads to make a note, but it's not actually that common. Having a bass drum go "bong" on one note really limits the harmony in the song!

Sometimes toms are tuned to a distinct note, but not always.

Drums have complex overtones. Depending on the arrangement, you can bring focus to particular notes, but they're not inherently discernable until then. It's a similar issue to the carillon:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6WcghSgKb9I&t=258s

That's just a resonant filter with the Q and gain set up for you with some auto-compensation. You can do that with regular EQ, or this free one:
https://www.bozdigitallabs.com/product/bark-of-dog/
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Re: Why do some rock pop productions tune their drums to the song?

Postby Kwackman » Sun Dec 06, 2020 4:33 pm

If you really want to play with retuning drums, Eventide's Physion (formerly known as Fission) does a good job. The bit that might interest you is around 1'30" into this video.
https://youtu.be/nEyG3Azh2Os
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Re: Why do some rock pop productions tune their drums to the song?

Postby Murray B » Sun Dec 06, 2020 5:15 pm

Drums do sound better when they are tuned to the key of the song. Our drummer will always do this for recording but from what I remember he mostly focusses on the Toms and the raw tone of the snare before the wires get put on. I'm not sure if he's does the Bass Drum too but I think maybe not. - but then again the bass drum doesn't really ring like the toms do for the style we play.

We play Cajun / Zydeco so not just a Pop / Rock thing.
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Re: Why do some rock pop productions tune their drums to the song?

Postby Tomás Mulcahy » Sun Dec 06, 2020 8:32 pm

Kwackman wrote:If you really want to play with retuning drums, Eventide's Physion (formerly known as Fission) does a good job. The bit that might interest you is around 1'30" into this video.
https://youtu.be/nEyG3Azh2Os
Now that's very cool. Much better than what the Waves plugin seems to be doing.

But even a tom, which seems to have a distinctive pitch, doesn't really. This one is a good example. It's a really good tom sound, right? But the two loudest harmonics are a G# and an A (I checked it on an analyzer, I don't have perfect pitch :P). In other words, two "pitches" at the same time. You can easily fool yourself into thinking you hear one or the other as the "pitch", and it totally depends on the context.

Murray B wrote:Drums do sound better when they are tuned to the key of the song.
That's subjective, see above.
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Re: Why do some rock pop productions tune their drums to the song?

Postby Murray B » Sun Dec 06, 2020 9:48 pm

I agree that stating that a kit with Tom's tuned to the key of the song sounds better is subjective, I think all of my opinions about music would come into that category.

I suppose the flip side of the coin is why wouldn't you tune the fundamental frequencies of the drums in the kit to the key of the song if you can? But that's the question we are answering :)
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Re: Why do some rock pop productions tune their drums to the song?

Postby RoadieChauffeur » Sun Dec 06, 2020 9:54 pm

Coming at this from a slightly different angle, there's a reason why the orchestral world use both tuned and untuned percussion - they can both be used to add different things to the 'texture' of a piece till you get the sound you are after.

You can try and tune untuned percussion instruments, but why not experiment with mixing drum kit with tuned elements such as timpani or marimba - this is not uncommon in the pop and rock world, even if you rarely see a set off timps on display for the music act on Graham Norton for practical reasons!
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Re: Why do some rock pop productions tune their drums to the song?

Postby CS70 » Sun Dec 06, 2020 10:13 pm

armans wrote:Thank you. Do you perhaps know why those that advocate it do so? What is the argument for it?

As of tuning, it depends much of the genre and the drum sound. If the kick is dry and short, it's no big deal, the percussive sound is not long enough to notice any pitch. But if the kick is a synth or electronic, say a certain 3-numbers famous drum machine with a slow decay, then the sound becomes sufficiently long that the tuning has a meaning.

One important bit - more important than the tuning imho - is that the drummer has the right "bounce" from both the kick and the snare skins.. tuning after all implies tightening or slacking the skin... If a drummer's good, when he's satisfied, you usually will have the "right" tension for the song. Once again, it's a very different ball game with electronic kits.

As of cymbals, good ones are more "imprecise" - less focused on a fundamental frequency so they can often adapt to anything. It's cheap ones who have a very clear tuning and can create a little off effect if the FF is very wrong for the key. The tuning of the toms for me is more about them giving that descending ba-ba-ba-dam from the small tom to the floor tom than anything else.

For rock and pop, which is what I mostly do, I never felt it makes a big difference.
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Re: Why do some rock pop productions tune their drums to the song?

Postby Tomás Mulcahy » Sun Dec 06, 2020 10:31 pm

Murray B wrote:why wouldn't you tune the fundamental frequencies of the drums in the kit to the key of the song if you can?
Because you're limited to a third or a fifth. Which is limiting harmonically. And really hard to to (try it).

Tuning the drums is not about pitch, it's about timbre.
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Re: Why do some rock pop productions tune their drums to the song?

Postby ManFromGlass » Sun Dec 06, 2020 10:55 pm

Yes, and in some cases pitch.
:think:
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