Part 4: Drum Gauges/Dials

These are essentially tension or torque measuring devices that do have their place in the scheme of things. But the best gauge on the market comes packaged on each side of your head, which are your ears (god forbid your missing one).

Some of the best drums on the market are being intentionally manufactured with lugs that cause resistance. The resistance induced by the lug itself can fool a gauge that measures torque. Further, devices that measure tension can and are fooled by thicker versus thinner heads.

Especially when you consider the film used is not always exact in thickness from edge to edge, due to manufacturing issues. And, finally, if you’ve spent much time tuning by ear, you know that it’s not uncommon to have a few lugs feel loose compared to others, it’s the pitch at each lug, NOT THE TENSION OR TORQUE that counts. So where do the gauges fit in?

Gauges can cut several minutes to hours off of tuning time, and here’s how. The seating of the head cannot be effectively accomplished by the use of a gauge; it must be done manually, and then detuned. At this point you should find the tuning of the desired drum without a gauge and use you ears.

Place the gauge on the drum and record the settings created at tension and pitch. When replacing heads, you can seat by had, detune, place the gauge of your choice on the drum and very quickly get the drum reasonably in tune. Tweak by hand and even the head out to itself so that pitch is the same lug to lug.

Know that anytime you change brand of head, drum, thickness of head, or the manufacturer changes it’s manufacturing technique, you should start over by hand and record the settings. And remember, the bigger the venue, play less and tune higher, so you might have several gauge settings.