How to Change and Tune Drumheads: For Quads (video + article)
This is a breakdown on how I change drumheads and my tuning approach for quads.
This video will give you a step by step guide for the entire process. Whether you’re a first timer or a seasoned veteran, I hope that you find this tutorial informative & helpful. I have 12+ years of tuning experience as both a member of DCI (Blue Devils, Bluecoats, Madison Scouts) and as a clinician for (Evans Drumheads, Promark Drumsticks). Throughout these past years I have experimented with multiple tuning sequences and have found the one below to be my favorite. In no way is this the only way to tune quads, just another option for all of you drummers out there!
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1) Remove heads
Start off by discarding old heads, and if you have a new set of drums I suggest removing all of the factory heads as well.
Keep in mind, it is best to loosen each lug slowly with even tension around versus taking out one lug at a time.
This will help avoid causing damage your bearing edges.
2) Clean rims and bearing edges
Take a paper towel or cloth and wipe down each rim. This will help remove any excess debris such as stick tape.
If the rims are extremely dirty I suggest using any household cleaner or Windex. Wipe down all of the bearing edges with a dry cloth or paper towel.
Once complete, if you own an older set of drums waxing the edges can lengthen the life of your quads.
3) Choose your drumheads
Choosing heads is a great way to get your feet wet before hitting a single note on the drum. As an Evans Drumheads artist I am partial to their heads and designs, but I have had 12+ years playing on a variety of designs. The Evans Level 360 / System Blue tenor head is currently my go to choice. Whether you are looking for durability, sound quality or head response these heads can withstand a beating! The new design features a subtle yet awesome addition of highlighted playing-zones on each individual drumhead. Throughout all of my years tuning quad lines, matching these heads is extremely feasible.
4) Line up heads by playing zones and logos
Now that you have your heads, you’ll want to align them according to each corresponding drum. I begin by stretching each head out and then I line up the Evans logo in the appropriate position.
For Evans Heads here is a guide for alignment:
- HIGH SPOCK - 6 o’clock
- LOW SPOCK - 6 o’clock
- DRUM 1 - 1 o’clock
- DRUM 2 - 11 o’clock
- DRUM 3 - 4 o’clock
- DRUM 4 - 8 o’clock
***Note that I am making sure the highlighted playing zones of each head are setup properly.
These settings are for Evans drumheads, if you are using another drumhead company I suggest starting each head out in a vertical 12 o’clock position, but for the System Blue heads I suggest following the above steps to achieve the best sound quality.***
5) Install rims and lugs
Next, let’s reset all of the rims.
Start by finger tightening each lug. If you have an older set of drums I suggest greasing the bottom of your lugs on a regular basis using Lithium Grease.
Finger tightening is vital if you want your rims to sit nice and flat on the drum head prior to adding tension.
6) Bring lugs to the point of initial tension
Now we can start using a drum key. I prefer a T-key over a standard drum key because they make the job much easier and quite a lot faster. When you begin placing higher and higher tension on marching drums these type of drum keys are best to use.
Place a couple fingers in the center of the head to ensure it doesn’t move around while we tune. Lightly tighten lugs opposite from each other until you begin feeling tension. A good reference point is when you feel the lug start to touch the top of the rim. I suggest taking your time with this process as there is nothing worse then warping your bearing edges! This is another precaution to help extend the life of your drums :)
***The star pattern tuning method is also great to use***
7) Add tension using the "3-2-1 principle"
Once our drumheads are set, we can begin applying more tension to each lug. I like to use the "3-2-1 principle" to quickly tune drums up.
What is the "3-2-1 principle"?
I’ll do 3 turns of the key around each lug (opposite motion), then 2 turns around and finally 1. Repeat this on each drum going from Drum 4 all the way up to Spock.
8) Choose a note sequence
My tuning process is based on a set of notes. Now that our 3-2-1 sequence helped us set a good basis, I suggest only turning the key a quarter-turn at this point to make detailed adjustments. A great app for tuning to a piano is Virtuoso, but any standard piano app will suffice!
Make sure to go around each drum and listen for higher or lower inconsistencies in pitch when making small corrections. Also feel out for uneven tension lug to lug. One trick I like to use is when I can’t quite hear the pitch, is I hit a rimshot to bring it out. For higher pitched drums such as Drum 1 and spock, feel free to use a 1/2 turn of the key instead.
- DRUM 4 - F Sharp
- DRUM 3 - A
- DRUM 2 - B
- DRUM 1 - D
- 8” SPOCK - F Sharp
(octave above drum 4)
- 6” SPOCK - D
(octave above drum 1)
Option 2: (lower)
- DRUM 4 - B Flat
- DRUM 3 - D Flat
- DRUM 2 - E Flat
- DRUM 1 - G
- 8” SPOCK - F
- 6” SPOCK - B Flat
I prefer to conclude by playing the drums up & down to see if I’m happy with the final tuning. Mess around with the sequence until YOU are happy. Thanks for checking out this tutorial. I hope I answered any questions you may have had and that this lesson improves your quad tuning. There are plenty of ways to tune your drums and in no way do I think my method is best for everyone. This is what works for me and I'm happy to share it with you all.
To see this quad tuning in action, check out these videos. Look out for new tutorials coming soon!