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Following the essential guide to heavy metal drum gear, now it’s time to figure out how to coax some convincingly metal sounds from the kit. Courtesy of Rhythm magazine, here you’ll find five killer techniques, eight priceless tips from the pros, and one essential metal drummers’ checklist. Ready? Good, let’s start with tuning…
Metal drum sounds have become more and more processed over recent years with huge toms, clicky bass drums and cracking snares being the order of the day in most cases. While a lot of this is down to the way the drums are miked and processed, the tuning of the drums themselves is of huge importance.
To begin with, toms should be tuned to a medium/low tuning, with the floor toms showing wrinkles when the hand is pressed into them. And while tuning the bottom heads to the same pitch as the top will produce the most tone and sustain, tuning the bottom heads slightly lower will shorten the sustain and introduce some pitch bend, which is often preferable.
In metal, the snare is often quite high in pitch and tension and although it feels good to play it’s important to appreciate that, under a mic, a cranked up head can sound thin - so this is often an area of compromise.
Finally bass drums should be tuned low, with the same wrinkle effect as the floor toms. They’ll also need some dampening to enhance the thud by reducing the overtones and sustain. Some metal drummers tend to favour placing pads on the head at the point of beater impact in order to increase the ‘click’ - however this quality is easily ‘dialled in’ using EQ when using a decent mic.