Tuning drum kits

Hey! Does anyone know the typical tuning (I mean, like by scale degrees) of various drums?

E.g., iirc kick drums are typically the root note, and snares often the fifth but in not sure, and am curios as to things like hi hata etc… Is there any good guide out there or do folks here know?

1 Like

Im not entirely sure its that simple afaik. A cursory google search shows ranges to aim for expressed as Hz rather than absolute pitch. Further noted, is that different genres use different tuning goals - rock and jazz aim for different tunings. Kicks, snares and toms arent really going to convey much in the sense of musical tone, or be able to be harmonised. Ive never heard a kick and snare and thought “wow, they sound harmonically in tune”.

Personally, I’d only bother tuning to avoid clashes with core elements of the rhythm section as a whole and to avoid the need for excessive filtering when mixing - but that’s just me.

What is your goal for tuning? That might let people gove better advice than me.

1 Like

Generally hihats and crashes are not tuned. They are more like noise bursts, rather than something with a perceivable pitch. If you have something that does have a real tone to it, like a bell or something, tune it to whatever you like. Roots, 4th and 5ths are all safe, but maybe going with something less safe it is interesting.

As for kicks, there is a decent argument to make to not tune it to (the root of) your track. So it doesn’t run into phase issues with your bass line. But it’s all personal preference and case dependent. The longer the kick rings out the more of an impact its tuning will have.

Yeah, tuning the bottom / low end of the snare is common practice.


You can tune anything using eq, even noise, if you boost a narrow frequency enough the ear will perceive the note.


The spectral analyzer inside Renoise can help you with this. I’m sure you could do some really interesting stuff by tuning the cymbals to chords or whatever else you can think of, I’ve never heard of a standard tuning for cymbals in any genre though.I just pitch them up or down and keep them at whatever i like.

1 Like

If you’re writing harmonic music oriented around a stable fundamental pitch, it sometimes makes sense to tune percussion around that fundamental. I usually take the tonic of my bass as tonal center and work off of that. For psytrance it sometimes/often sounds good to tune the kick to a whole step below the bass tonic, which creates a bouncing groove with more movement, even when the bass movement is static. I will usually tune the body of my snare to an octave of the tonic as well, sometimes boosting an octave of that with eq as @ToybOx describes for a klonky, harmonic rich snare in tune with the bass. For hi hats and cymbals I usually just go by feel/ear, as they are largely inharmonic, but sometimes I’ll use a comb filter to add some subtle (or not so subtle) reinforcement of the root or fifth to help them gel with the rest of the rhythm section, too.
I only work this way sometimes. Sometimes the dissonance of haphazardly tuned percussion feels/sounds better.

1 Like

Excellent, thank you! @BriocheBaps I think Mr Z is getting towards what i was looking for. I’ve experimented before with using easy tune (tool) to tune specific drum hits w the intent of them carrying melodic content - mostly, though, Im going by feel when I program drums in this way, and was curious if there is any sort of “science” behind this.

Interesting re tuning kick to a tone below to avoid phasing/add counterpoint, never would have thought of that. Grats to all for commenting here!