Detailed discussion of tuning options?

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Detailed discussion of tuning options?

Postby drbongo42 » Mon Oct 02, 2017 7:54 am

Hi Guys I have found a few threads discussing tuning - with a few tips etc but there isn't that much detailed information about specific tunings and drum sizes etc. I would love to hear about some other peoples tunings and what the usable tuning ranges are for drums of specific sizes/makes etc allowing for skin thickness etc. At the moment I am using three congas - but have ordered a fourth.

I am using the C4 (Requinto 10") G3 (Quinto 11") and D3 (Conga 11.75) tuning at the moment (perfect 4th intervals*) - I am buying a Tumba 12.5" but haven't decided how to tune this yet - or whether I will modify the tuning on the other drums.

The questions I have are: What are the usable tunings for drums of these sizes - i.e. what is the highest /lowest note I should be able to get out of drums of these sizes? The reason I ask is that the requinto and quinto were sold as a quinto and conga set and thus the head on the quinto is thicker than you would expect - which means taking it up to C requires a massive amount of tension which I am worried might damage the head and/or shell. What notes do people tune requintos to normally? Higher then middle C? The other question is what would be a common tuning for four drums - I could keep the current tunings and add the tumba a perfect fourth below D - or shift all of the other drums up a few notes. Or I could tune to a chord e.g. Cm7 or C7 etc - any suggestions greatly appreciated. *Finally, there seems to be some ambiguity/confusion in the discussions I have read between absolute intervals and degrees of a scale e.g. it is not always clear whether they mean four or five semitones apart (i.e. a major 3rd or perfect 4th whether tuning up or down) or tuning to the fourth/fifth degree of a major scale (which is five/seven semitones apart and changes depending on whether you go up or down). Some consensus on this would really help to clarify things...

If I get enough feedback I would put the information into a table and post it back - a tuning guide to possible tunings for drums with the upper/lower safe/usable limits of each drum size etc :)

8)
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Re: Detailed discussion of tuning options?

Postby drbongo42 » Tue Oct 03, 2017 7:50 am

I found this information on the scanned image of a page from the Gon Bops 2007 Catalogue posted on this forum - it is a good starting point, although the head sizes seem to be slightly smaller than average which might mean you might have to take everything down by one semi-tone. I imagine the thickness of the heads would also have an effect on the effective tuning range as well - thicker heads being able to be tuned a little lower and thinner ones a bit higher. I also imagine that high end drums with six tuning rods can take a lot more tension that low end ones with five...

Drum Size Lowest...Highest
Requinto 9.75" G3... Eb4
Quinto 10.75" F3...D4
Conga 11.5" Eb3...C#4
Tumba 12.25" Eb3...C#4
Super Tumba 13.25" D3...B4

What would be nice would be for some recommendations as to what five notes people would actually tune the drums to from within these ranges...
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Re: Detailed discussion of tuning options?

Postby drbongo42 » Wed Oct 04, 2017 7:51 am

I tried out a whole bunch of tunings yesterday based on the Gon Bops chart posted above. As my drums are slightly bigger - 10", 11" and 11.75" I was able to tune the drum a little deeper and not quite as high. The 10" requinto started producing a nice resonant note at around F3-G3 and really started to sing/pop around B3-C4. Taking it higher than this started to choke the sound and required a lot of tension. The 11' quinto started producing a very deep resonant tone at around D3 and really sang at around G3, higher tunings were possible - up to around A3, but the skin is very thick and I was worried about taking it much higher then this. Finally the 11.75" conga produced a really nice resonant sound at around D3 and sang clearly at G3 but got too thin and ringy any higher - this drum has a relatively thin skin and shell compared to the others. I assume that the sweet spots where these drums resonate is where the head and body of the drum vibrate together and the frequencies in between just resonate the head (obviously these frequencies will be different on other people's drums)? I then tried a variety of tunings within these ranges: perfect 4ths (DGC), major 3rds (EAbC), major (EGC) and minor (GBbC) chords. The tuning I found most pleasing to the ear is the DGC tuning from low to high (p4ths) where the drums resonate well and the open tones are very distinct from one another - reminiscent of a simple latin bass line. I found the other tuning (M3rds and Major and minor chords) to be too melodic - the open tones are a lot closer together and thus they sound more like someone trying to play a simple melody rather than a bass line. Unaccompanied the DGC tuning sounds great to my ear - however I found that when playing along with some tunes occasionally the low D seemed to clash a little with the recording - and tuning it up to an E avoided this, but this was the exception not the rule. When I get the 12.5" tumba I am planning to try tuning it to either C3 (an octave below the quinto) or down to A2 if this is possible - if neither of these work well then I may have to consider tuning all of the drums up a semitone or two or tuning the tumba and conga to D and E so I can avoid the low D clashing on some tunes without retuning. I suspect that people with more expensive drums and better quality skins will be able to get a better sound at higher frequencies than me even with larger drums...
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Re: Detailed discussion of tuning options?

Postby drbongo42 » Thu Oct 05, 2017 7:49 am

Ok so I decided to bite the bullet and try to get each of my drums up to the maximum tuning range suggested by the Gon Bops chart. I start with the 10' Meinl Headliner requinto, which I usually tune to C4 - I pushed up to C# where it sounded quite good, but at D it started sounding very tinny and I was worried the head would be damaged if I went any further. the 11" Meinl Headliner quinto which I usually tune to G3 made it all the way up to C4 and it sounded pretty good, but as this drum was (mis)sold as a conga the head is quite thick and the tension required was frightening - I wouldn't want to leave it at this tension for too long. Finally I pushed the Tycoon 11.75" conga up to C4 - this wasn't as difficult as I thought as the skin isn't too thick and it has 6 tuners instead of five. At this pitch the open tone sounded ok, but the slap felt a bit thin and tinny. Given the amount of tension required to get the larger drums to these notes I assume this is why people are strongly advised to detune them when not playing and at lower tensions this isn't as important. I also imagine that with higher end drums with the correct thickness of skin it is easier to get to these tensions and they can cope with the high tensions involved for longer...
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Re: Detailed discussion of tuning options?

Postby drbongo42 » Fri Oct 06, 2017 12:40 pm

Ok final post of this monologue :) Took delivery of the tumba from the tycoon platinum range - a 12.5" drum with a good quality rawhide head. I tried a variety of tunings with four drums - CGDC, CDED, CBbGF as well as CAbEC - but wasn't that impressed with any of them - mainly that there was not enough difference in pitch between the bottom two drums. So decided to keep the tumba at a D, tune the 11.75" conga to G3 and tune the 11" quinto up to C4 - which means I will definitely have to tune it up and down each time I play :( - however this makes the requinto redundant because I can't get it to tune up to E4/F4 and having it at D4 was too close to the quinto at C. So I will probably stick with three drums and the CGD tuning but each one a size bigger than before which gives me more volume and depth. I may use the requinto as a solo/portable single drum tuned to C when I am travelling or pushed for space. One day I will save up and buy a decent set of congas with good heads and the tuning shouldn't be that difficult to achieve...

Edit: Tried tuning the requinto down to Bb and it sounded very like a large hand carved African drum I picked up whilst working in Zambia - so now using the CBbGD tuning (high to low) and very pleased with the results - this allows me to play latin and afro flavoured beats - Now I just need to work out the best way to position four drums...
Last edited by drbongo42 on Tue Oct 10, 2017 7:15 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Detailed discussion of tuning options?

Postby Chtimulato » Fri Oct 06, 2017 7:14 pm

which means I will definitely have to tune it up and down each time I play


You have to , anyhow, with any drum, if you want it to last and to be in good shape...
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Re: Detailed discussion of tuning options?

Postby Chtimulato » Sat Oct 07, 2017 11:40 am

By the way, you did a great research on this, even if it becomes a little bit complicated for me. I tune my drums by ear (I try to remember a tumbao melody before tuning, something from Patato or Daniel Ponce for instance). Either on 2, 3 or 4 drums, I keep this melody in mind by tuning. And no one complained about my tuning so far.
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Re: Detailed discussion of tuning options?

Postby drbongo42 » Mon Oct 09, 2017 7:34 am

Thanks, I wish I could tune by ear - it is definitely an advantage over relying on digital tuners - but I just can't do it. It isn't the specific notes that are that important but getting the intervals right between the drums. I am hoping that if I keep tuning them to the same pitch I will eventually be able to recognise them by ear. Without the digital tuner I never got the intervals right and I was unsure whether I could safely tune the drum any higher without doing damage to the head or shell. At least this way I know roughly how tight the head is supposed to be in principle. I have played the drum kit and other percussion instruments for years but as a beginner on the congas there just isn't much information available on how to tune them and different manufacturers sell different size drums with the same names which can be very confusing - you would think that the manufacturer would at least provide a guide on tuning them...
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Re: Detailed discussion of tuning options?

Postby Chtimulato » Mon Oct 09, 2017 2:25 pm

It isn't the specific notes that are that important but getting the intervals right between the drums.


Hence the melody in my head...

Good luck ! :D
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