I bought the DrumDial back when I started recording back in 2001. To be honest I never used it much. In fact, I’m not sure if I’ve used it at all. A lot of the drummers I work with are very hesitant about letting some engineer jerk behind their kit. I don’t blame them. I’m in foreign territory when behind a drum kit so this seemed like a fair arrangement.
Then there are those sessions where the drummer is not so skilled at tuning the drums and needs some help. While I’m pretty comfortable in guitar land, I have to admit that my heart races a little faster the second a drummer says “Help me!”.
One of those situations occurred for a metal band on a recent session. The drums were entirely out of tune from the start. To compare it to electric guitar, the tuning was similar to what you get the second you put all 6 strings on the electric guitar without actually tuning any of the strings yet. In other words, the sound was unusable. The snare drum seemed nice and bright in the room but that was because of the snare bottom that was going crazy. When the drummer did a snare roll, low end shot out of the snare drum almost as if it were a floor tom. I had never encountered this in all my years of recording.
When a situation is this bad in regard to drum tuning I have to admit that I’m a bit out of my league. Luckily I remembered my trusty Drum Dial. I did a search on Google and had some recommendations for drum head tension in about 10 seconds. In 10 minutes, the drums went from total flab useless to very usable. The snare didn’t turn into diahreah on rolls. The toms didn’t sound like a boxy, out of tune mess. The kit took on a new life. I had snare crack in the overheads and I’d say the kit sounded 10,000 times better.
For $60, I’d recommend that anyone recording drums who isn’t great at tuning drums themselves go out and purchase a drum dial. I have a feeling I’ll be using this on more and more sessions. Anytime the snare sounds dull in the overheads, the DrumDial is coming out. End of story.