Tuning Drums

Hi there,

Just wondering how to tune drums. What exactly am I listening for. I understand how to find what key a song is via bassline and music notes, but for drums, I just find it hard to tell when its just a single drum hit. Does anyone have any tips or suggestions that might help?



Voxengo Span Mate.


Stick it on your master.

Play something through it, solo it, hover the cursor over the spectrum, and you’ll see the musical note come onscreen at the frequency you are at.

You’ll be able to tell, make an accurate guess at what the musical pitch of what you’ve got is.

Solo your kick - see the pitch. Make bassline in same key. Change other sounds, or raise/lower pitch if you can to make them fit.

This thing will definitely get you ballpark, but let your ears give the final say. If it sounds ok, dont get caught up on what Span is telling ya. If you find out what notes are in the keys you’d like to work in, and what notes are in those keys - you can start constructing your tune in regards to that.

Works the same if you wanna rip someone elses tune apart to check the note of kick, bassline, where the other elements sit etc… Bring it into your daw & take out a little section. Chop out the bits if you want. I’ve cut out individual hits in tracks before & its helped me make sense of things

Thanks for getting back to me!

So lets say I’m in the key of A minor, I should tune my kit so that all the drum hits happen on the white notes, correct? When I’m choosing my kick, should I have it any of the keys, or should in be on A? Do I want my kick to be in any of the notes in my key range, or should it be the root note? Does the same apply with any of the other drum hits?

I was using the ableton spectrum analyzer to check they key of my drum hits, but certain hits like bongos and peaks all over the place, I wasn’t able to tell where the fundamental frequency was. Would this plugin you recommend be better than abletons?




Theres no rules of course… but if I was doing something in the key of A, I’d normally have the kick in A & then choose everything else in relation to that.

Stuff thats more pitchy, like a tom… you’ll get that in the spectrum.

Stuff like hats, or noisy sh!t - thats gonna be harder to pinpoint, cos its all random stuff. Lots of freq’s. Sometimes its hard even to tell with stuff thats doesnt seem to be complex… thats where ya gotta roll the dice & use your ears & have a play with pitching stuff up & down.

Thanks again for your info! I understood everything except for when you say stuff thats more pitchy like a tom, you will see in the spectrum? Could you just explain that a little bit further? I’m just not sure if you’re saying you are or you aren’t able to find the note of something like a tom.



Pitched drums… like kicks… toms, congas, cowbells - You should be able to see them in the spectrum clearly.

Other stuff thats more complex - hats, rides, claps etc… will occupy more of the spectrum. There will be no clear “pitch” usually.

Seriously mate… you should fire it up & test it out & see. It’ll take 2mins for you to understand :slight_smile:

I just don’t tune my drums… I feel like it adds tension.

Its not really about tuning them so that they sound beautiful :slight_smile:

Its more about filling the gaps that you have available to ya. If you wanna throw something in you can get to work.

I use my ears for the most part - but I will use the spectrum to make sure its in the area I want & whether or not I have to cut any freq’s.

Yes I actually have tested the spectrum analyzer out when is why I came to post this topic. I found the things like bongos and congas were hard to detect the pitch, maybe it was the samples I was using, or the ableton analyzer. Thanks again for your help, definitely has helped me out! :slight_smile: