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Charting the tuning range of our frame drums

Tuning and Maintenance


Frame drums have an indefinite pitch, though you may find yourself needing to tune the drum to a specific note when playing compositions along with keyed instruments.  Essentially, the pitch that you hear is defined by the diameter of the drum. Each diameter drum has very limited tuning range, and you should not expect any single drum to perform well beyond its range. 

Many design specifications beyond the diameter contribute to the tone/timbre of the drum. For example,  drum head materials are specifically formulated to make the head sound warm, or dark, or bright, etc..The drum shell depth and material can impact the resonance and tone.

We have explored the topic with several endorsing artists and have done our best to develop a simple chart - but charts are a bit reductive, and input from our endorsing artists has been invaluable in helping to understand this topic.

It's also important pay attention to what you are hearing from your particular drum. 

Become familiar with our tuning system and the process of tuning our drums by watching this informative video by our endorsing artists David Kuckhermann:


Appended are comments from Randy Crafton, River Guerguerian, and N. Scott Robinson that expand on the charted pitch ranges.

In speaking with Randy Crafton we came up with the following guideline:

22" drum    A-D possible,  B-C best range
20"             B-E possible,   C-D best range
18"             E-A possible,   F-A best range
16"             G-C possible,   A-B best range

To generalize about a set of diameters/drums you might try:
22"     C
20"     D
18"     E
17"     F
16"     G
15"     A
14"     B
13"     C



If you are going to get serious about recording with frame drums & playing with other instrumentalists, then yes... you will probably need more drums.  I would recommend getting 2-3 tunable frame drums. If I am mainly playing frame drums, I bring about 5-7 to the gig. And sometimes, the group will switch keys on you at the last minute.

These are based on Cooperman frame drums with REMO heads.


22” G# to about C

20” A# to about D

18” C# to about G

16” up to around A

I also have [a Cooperman] 14” Ghaval (Renaissance).  I use it around a C but can get a D or higher.

[The Cooperman] Riq sounds good between C-E.

So... 3-4 drums can give you a range of an octave.  I’ll tell you my set-up with Omar Faruk Tekbilek, this is after years of experimenting.

We play in many keys



D-20” (this is the most important note in Middle Eastern music, and the most difficult to get a good tone on.  Sometimes, 20” seems too tight; I think 19”might be ideal.




**I try to tune the drum so that it is in the middle of its range.  If you tune too tight, then you go past a certain threshold... and you loose the fundamental, then you are hearing more higher partials.  I am mainly talking about tuning with other instrumentalists of course.  If you are playing solo, then that is a different story, and you do what you like.

These are all approximate pitches and totally depend on the shell and what type of skin you have. Most of them can go higher than what I wrote, but for me they get too ringy, especially in the studio.

98% of my gigs I am amplified.  The key is to get the Dum and Tek to sound equal in volume, without one tone overshadowing the other.

Yes, of course the tonic, fourth and fifth are good pitch choices.

But, if there already is a bass player in the band, then experiment with the other musicians until you find a pitch that’s good for your drum and that works well in the scale of that song.

You can become a creative part of the harmony!  You can play one drum for the verse, and another for the chorus.

If you have too much ring in the studio... you will probably end up using compression, and some parametric EQ to find that one frequency/pitch that is disturbing (isolate it, and bring it down), and you might need to use muffling.

Experiment, Experiment, Experiment!!

peace and good luck,

River Guerguerian


FROM N.Scott Robinson:


21" Cooperman Persian Daf - tuning range - low A to high E (a range of a perfect fifth).


RE: Tars:

My drum (22”) goes to a low C no problem and my tar (14”) goes to a high C no problem.


The bendir (12”) with snares will go to a B or Bb but not below that but it's buzzier and probably not the best choice for oud.


The 18 will sound fine at d but below that it will be too floppy sounds (bottom of the drums tension and not the best place to be for playing).


I don't think we have any drums that go down to a low G but my tar goes to a G (above the D) but that's on the low side of that drum.  If he really needs a good G then he should go with a drum bigger than a 14" but no bigger than an 18" drum. 


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  • Uri SplitBrain on

    Great articles & insights from great players :-) I enjoy my 18" Cooperman tar ( Renaissance skin I believe ) which I tune as low as C for some of my tracks ( sounds great if you ask me ) or as high as F if required. More tension & more bouncy finger reaction. Both tunings sound great & have their unique qualities. But I agree that D-E are ideal for the 18" drum. Hoping to experiment with the 22" drum soon :-)

  • N. Scott Robinson on

    Update to Tuning Ranges of Cooperman Frame Drums:

    In my experience, most of the frame drum playing I do requires me to tune to a specific pitch. I have noticed over 20-25 years of playing Cooperman frame drums that the quality of the craftsmanship has steadily improved. Overall, it is very consistent. But there are slight advancements in the type of head material – I feel the synthetic heads are superior but there can be slight differences from one batch to another over time. The other variable is how the head is attached to the drum. 20 years ago, a synthetic head was attached at a higher tension on a large frame drum. So to get a D on a 22", the head was a more taught. These days I can get a great sounding D out of my 19". My 18" will go there but it is getting to the bottom of the most effective range for playing. You don’t want the head too taught or too loose for executing the advanced techniques.

    I also think each player will have slightly different experiences in what effective range they can get from their drums as far as how they tune, and how they play. For me, I always use a Drum Dial to make sure the tension is even perfectly at every tension rod. I put the drum a table with the drum dial on the skin over a tuning rod and get a reading that I like. Then I check each rod going round the drum at least 3x making very slight adjustments to get the same reading at each rod. Sometimes I skip a rod and do every other one and go back and do the others. But I’ve noticed that as you get one rod where you want it, as soon as you adjust some others the readings can change so go around the drum until you get the same stable reading at each rod. always turn the rods no more than 1/4 turn. I always turn then less than that as I keep my drums in tune, and they require only slight adjustments over time.

    Once I am done with the Drum Dial, then I use a digital chromatic tuner to read the pitch of the drum. If it’s not where I want it, I go round the drum making very slight adjustments up or down at each rod until I get the pitch I want, which is usually a half step or a step away from where I started. I do this mainly by ear but check the pitch with a tuner to be sure when done. The more you tie your drums, especially if you need to be at a pitch, you will learn the variable of your drum and how to get a good sound. It takes a little practice if your new to tuning but the goal, like performing, is the be precise!

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