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  • Tuning Guidelines for Marching Percussion

    A common issue I have found through working with many groups and judging is that most groups do not tune their equipment properly. There are many different ways to tune marching percussion however, I have found the following to be the most effective in the groups I have worked with. 

     

    Tuning the drum:

    Once the head is in place, tighten the lugs with your fingers to the “finger tight” position and continue using a drum key

    Tune each lug by tightening across the drum lug to lug

    Keep the head in balance during the entire tuning process

     

    Snare Drum:

    Great snare drum tuning is achieved through proper head balance and the understanding of the snare strainer. 

    The bottom heads should be the same pitch or slightly higher in pitch than the top head.

    The guts should be tightened so that they barely touch the head and should be tightened in order to get a snare response at all volumes.

     

    Tenor Drum:

    The register will depend upon the newness of the head and the size and depth of the drums. As the head becomes increasingly stretched the head will reach a range where it is not vibrating efficiently. When this happens, don’t tighten the head anymore until it has a chance to settle.

    Finger tighten at first and tune cross lug by a ¼ crank only.

    Be reactive to the pitch of the head near each lug.

    Always keep the head in balance.

    Tuning Process for tenors:

    Use “Sol Feg” as a tool for tuning.

     

    Scale Degree                1            2            3            4            5            6            b7            1

    Sol Feg Syllable            Do         Re           Mi          Fa           Sol         La           Te            Do

    Drum Number              4                          3                          2                          1

     

    Tune Drum 2 (12” drum) to a desirable pitch (Sol). 

    Tune Drum 4 (14” drum) to the root of the chord (Do).

    Tune Drum 3 (13” drum) to the third of the chord (Mi).

    Tune Drum 1 (10” drum) a minor third higher than drum 2 (Te).

    The resulting pitches are an Mm seventh chord (1 3 5 b7) or (Do Mi Sol Te).

    Tune the 6” drum to a minor third above drum 1

     

    Bass Drum: 

    The same general rules for tenor drums apply when tuning the bass drums.

    Tuning process for bass drums:

    Use “Sol Feg” as a tool for tuning. 

     

    Scale Degree                1            2            3            4            5            6            b7            1

    Sol Feg Syllable           Do         Re            Mi           Fa          Sol         La           Te            Do

    Ideal Pitch*                  Bb                         D                          F                          Ab

    Drum Number             4                           3                          2                          1

     

    *Ideal Pitch is for specific drum size

    Tune Drum 4 (28” drum) to a Bb (Do). 

    Tune Drum 3 (26” drum) to D (Mi).

    Tune Drum 2 (22” drum) to F (Sol).

    Tune Drum 1 (20” drum) to Ab (Te).

    Drum 5 (32”) is out of the tuning scheme

    Depth, resonant, low pitch to fill out ensemble

     

    The resulting pitches are an Mm seventh chord (1 3 5 b7) or (Do Mi Sol Te).