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Drum Science - Part 1 | Podcast

The Science of Drum Sound By Rob Toulson
Published October 2023
Professor Rob Toulson

Rob Toulson dives into the science behind how drums produce sound, in this three-part series. In Part 1 he looks at the key principles of drum acoustics and discusses some scientific aspects of different pitches, frequencies and overtones, to help producers and engineers consider how this information might affect the way you set up, record and mix the popular drum kit.

Show Notes


00:00 - Introduction
01:16 - Dealing With Multiple Frequencies
05:19 - Tuning The Fundamental Frequency
10:56 - Smoothing Out Modulation
13:31 - Harmonic Overtones
19:12 - Controlling Decay And Damping
23:11 - Summary

Useful Diagrams

Drumhead fundamental and first overtone vibration modes02:15 - Drumhead fundamental and first overtone vibration modes 05:33 - Coupled drumheads vibrating together05:33 - Coupled drumheads vibrating together 12:10 - Waveforms of even and unevenly tuned drumheads12:10 - Waveforms of even and unevenly tuned drumheads

Presenter: Professor Rob Toulson - Biog

Rob is Director of RT60 Ltd, who develop mobile apps for musicians and sound engineers. RT60’s iDrumTune Pro app assists drummers with learning the skills of drum tuning and has been the number one music app in over 100 countries since its launch in 2012. More recently, Rob and RT60 developed Songzap, which simplifies the process of recording and capturing musical ideas, enabling songwriters to focus exclusively on their creativity.

Rob stared his career as a mechanical engineer with a doctorate in digital signal processing, before following his passion and moving into the field of music technology and specialising in percussion acoustics and audio software development. Rob has held a number of academic research roles in his career, including Professor of Creative Industries at University of Westminster and Director of the CoDE Research Institute at Anglia Ruskin University. Rob’s also a successful musician, music producer and sound designer, having worked with many artists including Talvin Singh, Wilfy Williams and Mediaeval Baebes, who previously topped the UK Classical Music Chart.

Rob is author of a number of music-related books and articles, including Drum Sound and Drum Tuning, published by Routledge in 2021, and co-editor of the Innovation In Music book series, which is also published by Routledge. His sound design work has been included in films by BAFTA Winner Shreepali Patel and has been showcased at Glastonbury Festival, The V&A and The Natural History Museum.

Go to Part 2
Go to Part 3

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