Tuning drums requires practice, a lot of practice. There are basic steps to follow and with anything, the more practice completed, the more proficient you become at tuning a drum. It’s best to start practicing on a 10″ or 12″ six lug set of toms. The skills you learn tuning these drums are universally practiced on all other drums.
Start by removing all tension rods on one side of the drum. Then remove the head and rim of the drum. The fit of the head of the drum and the rim should be a snug fit with little resistance. It shouldn’t be tightly put in otherwise it will be difficult to tune properly. Tighten the tension rods to make sure that they stay flush with the head of the drum. Do not tighten too tightly as this would cause the drum to become too sharp. Make sure all tension rods are tightened by hand. Using a drum stick hit the drum near each tension rod to listen to the sound. You are striving for a constant sound. Make sure to remove any wrinkles in the drumhead.
Seating the head of a drum requires you to memorize the pitch the drum makes. Tap the drum with a stick and memorize the sound. Then put your palm into the center of the drum and push. You might need to push several times. The seating of the head of the drum is important to sustain your tuned drum. Tap the drum again and see if the sound is exactly the same. If the pitch is lower or there are any imperfections on the head of the drum then re-tighten and repeat the prior steps until the drum pitch sound identical. Make sure to push the drum firmly but not with full force. You will want to tune the tension rods in a diagonal pattern. Start with the tension rod closest to you then the next one to be tuned will be across the drum furthest from you. Continue the pattern to create universal tuning at each tension rod.
Make sure the drum is in tune by again hitting the drum with a stick around each tension rod. Once they are consistently the same pitch around the drum the tuning is a success. If one area’s pitch is lower than the rest of the drum then turn the rod about 1/8 of an inch and keep hitting each area until they sound the same. A drum key is an inexpensive tool to purchase and is used to tighten and tune the drum. Turning the key about halfway it a great process in keeping the drum in tune.
Two headed drums in sets can be tuned to the same pitch. Remember that loosing the tension rod will lower the sound and tightening it will create a higher pitch. Tuning a snare drum requires the same procedures completed at the top of the drum and the bottom. Before you know it, it becomes second nature with practice. You will find the perfect pitch for your drums.