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Jun 30, 2020 - 9:39:16 AM
5 posts since 6/30/2020

tldr; any tips on getting a drum dial to give a reliable and consistent reading?

I've read a lot about drum head tuning and I convinced myself I should get a DrumDial to do it. Well it turns out drum dials are rather tricky to work properly, at least for me, and I spent a lot of time and effort probably making things worse.
Why did I think my drum head needed tuning you might ask? Well I'm just starting and I sound terrible. I figured I could at least set the thing up well and maybe that would help.
I've heard four general recommendations on drum head tuning
1) use your ears
2) tune to G hashtag
3) use drum dial to set to 90
4) use drum dial to set to 89

I decided to set to 90 because I couldn't get my snarky contraption to register the sound of me tapping my drum head and my ears can't tell the difference between different notes.

Well I think it's now between 85 and 95. It's firmer than a pillow and not as hard as granite so I think that's a good start. Now that I think I have an idea of how to use my drum dial I may try again later tonight. I have to turn the thing from the bottom and it's reallllly annoying.

Any suggestions on getting my drum dial to work properly?

Jun 30, 2020 - 9:52:23 AM

738 posts since 11/27/2005

Banjoez's setup tricks

I've recently been using Banjoez's setup recommendations on my banjos.

My Stelling and the others.

The Pitchlab app has been a great way to get the head just right.

Please listen to ANY of Joe's videos to see what he accomplishes.

I'm so happy with the sound of my banjos now.

Jun 30, 2020 - 9:55:42 AM
like this

jem327

USA

24 posts since 4/25/2018

Here's a video that should give you a good overview. Also, G# is "G sharp." #=sharp b=flat

youtube.com/watch?v=bA61RQ23kGo

Jun 30, 2020 - 10:09:44 AM

Smkyle2

USA

5 posts since 6/30/2020

I watched that video before and it's actually what inspired me to try the DrumDial. It seems like his works better than mine though. I have to recalibrate it all the time and I'm never quite sure if it's accurate or not. It's used so for all I know it could be broken. I don't have a reference other than a flat counter and that's what I'm using to calibrate it. But before I toss the thing out I'm wondering if there's some trick to making it consistent and reliable. If not, I can try tuning to a note with the recommended app. I was trying to use my kliq metropitch, but I was struggling.

Jun 30, 2020 - 11:09:53 AM

Alex Z

USA

3850 posts since 12/7/2006
Online Now

When you say the DrumDial is inconsistent, what do mean by inconsistent.  If you take a measurement in the same spot three times, what might be the range of readings that you see?

For example, with my DrumDial, for three measurements in the same place, I might see a range of 1/2, such as 89 to 89-1/2.  Occasionally I might see an 88 in the same spot, but then the next two readings might be 89+ and 89-1/2, so I go with the 89-1/2. 

I use the DrumDial to equalize the tension on the head, but lower tension than optimum tone.  After that, it's turning the nuts the same rotation all around, maybe 1/8 or 1/16 of a turn, until the tone sounds best to me.

So, how inconsist is inconsistent?

Jun 30, 2020 - 11:23:56 AM

Smkyle2

USA

5 posts since 6/30/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z

When you say the DrumDial is inconsistent, what do mean by inconsistent.  If you take a measurement in the same spot three times, what might be the range of readings that you see?

For example, with my DrumDial, for three measurements in the same place, I might see a range of 1/2, such as 89 to 89-1/2.  Occasionally I might see an 88 in the same spot, but then the next two readings might be 89+ and 89-1/2, so I go with the 89-1/2. 

I use the DrumDial to equalize the tension on the head, but lower tension than optimum tone.  After that, it's turning the nuts the same rotation all around, maybe 1/8 or 1/16 of a turn, until the tone sounds best to me.

So, how inconsist is inconsistent?


Good question. Like I'll measure and get 90, pick it up, put it down in the same spot and get 87. If I make my movements really slow it helps a little. It seems to gradually get out of whack usually. 

Jun 30, 2020 - 1:19:22 PM

13011 posts since 6/29/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Smkyle2

Good question. Like I'll measure and get 90, pick it up, put it down in the same spot and get 87. If I make my movements really slow it helps a little. It seems to gradually get out of whack usually. 


That sounds like the head is losing tension since you are placing the drum dial in the same spot—It could also be as simple as a defective drum dial; when you calibrate it with the little piece of plate glass, is it different every time you try to calibrate it?  If you calibrate it, then put it back on the glass in a couple of minutes, does it still read 100?   How many hooks are on the banjo?

Edited by - Ken LeVan on 06/30/2020 13:19:57

Jun 30, 2020 - 1:25:22 PM

Smkyle2

USA

5 posts since 6/30/2020

32 Hooks. If I'm very gentle, then it more consistently hits 100. But like if I push it down and up again a bunch and set it back down then it will be way off.

Jun 30, 2020 - 1:30:43 PM

5 posts since 6/30/2020

I cannot speak to using a Drum Dial but this is how I tune my Banjo head;

huberbanjos.com/head-tuning/

Best,
Pick-A-Lick

Edited by - Pick-A-Lick on 06/30/2020 13:31:21

Jun 30, 2020 - 4:10:31 PM
like this

Alex Z

USA

3850 posts since 12/7/2006
Online Now

"But like if I push it down and up again a bunch and set it back down then it will be way off."

As the doctor says, if it hurts when you do that, then don't do that. smiley

What you're reading on the scale is the amount of depression into then head by the little pin on the bottom -- where the difference between 88 and 89 is one thousandth of an inch.

So be gentle, very gentle.  Set it down on the head, don't push it down, quietly, straight down, one time.  Take the reading.  Then lift it up completely, and do the same thing again.  Then do the same thing a third time.  Don't have to beat the thing into submission.  smiley

"If I'm very gentle, then it more consistently hits 100"

Flat counter is fine for calibrating.  "If I'm very gentle" is the key.  And patient.  It's a precision tool.

Let us know if that helps.

Jun 30, 2020 - 4:45:33 PM

471 posts since 6/2/2011

When I use my drum dial I get a consistent reading It holds true over a few days. If I have a new head it will stretch for awhile.
The only time I have had a loosening heads it was broke at the crimp ring. Once my tensioning hoop was not clear and free of the neck heel. My head was the wrong crown height.
I use the drum dial, brush the head and listen to the note, thump it at different spot and look for a consistent sound and I use a 10” straight edge inside the tensioning hoop and try to slide quarter under the straight edge at the bridge. I want it to graze the bottom of the straight edge. I will also feel the hook nuts as I tighen them for resistance. I do not rely on anyone of these but in combination. I make small adjustments then Play the banjo and see if I like the sound. Each banjo likes a unique set up to achieve the sound I like.

Jul 1, 2020 - 12:38:22 PM

106 posts since 2/16/2020

Here's another approach:
I clipped my snark tuner to the rim and tapped all around the head about an inch from the edge. It registered a G# (but a little flat). I had used a drum dial to tighten the head, and which read 87 to 88. I'm using a fiberskyn head. I don't really know if the tuner trick is worth anything, this was the first time I tried it. Any thoughts about this approach would be appreciated. Robert

Jul 2, 2020 - 11:28:59 AM

471 posts since 6/2/2011

Sounds fine as far as an approach. I have an openback Wildwood Troubadour with a tubaphone tone ring. I have a fiber skin head on it. I tighten it more than my frosted head or renaissance heads. From a setting of around 89 I tighten about 1/8 turn on each nut retune play awhile and listen, if not happy with the tone I repeat. At this point I would not make more than 1(2 to 3/4 a turn in 24 hours. I make changes slowly and let the banjo settle in.

Jul 2, 2020 - 7:01:27 PM

Smkyle2

USA

5 posts since 6/30/2020

I messed around with it some more last night and being very gentle seems to give me reliable readings. But with 32 screws to mess with and having to flip the thing over to tighten or loosen, it's a long and annoying process. I can confidently say that all spots are between 88 and 91 at least.

Jul 2, 2020 - 7:49:33 PM

2072 posts since 2/7/2008

To augment my drum dial, I also got a torque screwdriver. It ensures that each of the bracket nuts are tightened to the same torque. Some will say this is overkill, but I like tools and this gave me an excuse to buy one. When I tighten using the torque screwdriver, I get pretty consistent drum dial readings all the way around.

If I really knew what I was doing, I probably wouldn't need to use these tools, but I don't, so I do :)

Jul 3, 2020 - 7:25:45 PM

Alex Z

USA

3850 posts since 12/7/2006
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by Smkyle2

I messed around with it some more last night and being very gentle seems to give me reliable readings. But with 32 screws to mess with and having to flip the thing over to tighten or loosen, it's a long and annoying process. I can confidently say that all spots are between 88 and 91 at least.


That's great.  You're almost there.  You're within 3 on all nuts.

32 nuts is a lot.  Here is a process I use on the 24 nut banjo, to close in on getting all the nuts within 1.

As a preliminary, three things to be aware of:

   1. After turning a nut 1/8 turn, the tension doesn't always move up or down right away.  So no need to keep cranking.  Give it a small turn, go on to the others, and come back for another go around.

   2.  Turning one nut does affect the tension of the entire head.  So if you turn each nut separately to 90, by the time you're done, the 91 nuts will be higher even if you have not turned them at all.

   3.  The goal of the DrumDial is to even out the tension, and get you in the ballpark of a reasonable tension, which may be in the 88-89 range.  After that, can forget about the DrumDial, and instead turn each nut by exactly the same amount all around, no more than 1/8 turn.  Starting at about 88, each round will improve the tone -- to your ears.  When a round doesn't make the tone any better, you're done.  The head will settle in slightly overnight.

Process:

  -- First, any nut that measures 91, turn down 1/8 turn.  I think these will end up too high as you bring up the lower readings from 88.

  -- Divide up the 32 nuts in the circle into, say, groups of 4.  

 -- Measure each of the 4. Note the lowest, or tied for lowest.

 -- Turn the banjo over, and give only the lowest/ties 1/8 turn.

 -- Then go on to the next group of 4.  This way, you're turning the banjo over only 8 times, not 32 times.

After a couple of rounds of this, I think you'll end up in the 89-90 range, and that's plenty good.  After that, as noted, its each nut turned the same amount, and ears determine when you have the best tone, for you.

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