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Some notes on using the Cooperman tuning system

Tuning and Maintenance

Since the late 1990’s, all Cooperman frame drums and tambourines have been built to be tunable.  Our tuning system was designed by us to give players  some control over the pitch of the drum, albeit within a limited range defined largely by the diameter of the drum.  The tuning system also addresses, to a limited extent, vexations as the drum head tightens or loosens as a result of ambient humidity changes, or as the head material stretches over its lifetime.

Take a few minutes to  view the following video of David Kuckhermann demonstrating the process of tuning a 22″ Cooperman Tar.

Yousif Sheronick also offer an excellent tuning video (free to signed in guests of Yousif”s Frame Drum School):              CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO INTRUCTION VIDEO


On tuning:

All new drums go through a breaking-in period. Over time, drum heads become “played-in” and may sound quite different that when they were first built.  Both skin heads and synthetic drum heads will stretch some, though synthetic heads are more stable than skins.  It’s important to know how to adjust your drum to maintain its optimum sound range.

Keeping frame drums exactingly tuned has long vexed owners of drums mounted with skin drum heads.  Although the combination of synthetic drum heads and well crafted drum shells go a long way towards providing a reliably tuned drum, environmental factors and a drum’s age inevitably require a drum, even those with synthetic heads, to be re-tuned from time to time.  Our tuning mechanism helps players adjust the relative pitch of both synthetic and skin headed drums.

Skins heads constantly change as they adjust to the ambient humidity, and so require frequent tuning adjustments.  Synthetic heads are more stable, but do change over time and in response to changing barometric pressures.  When adjustments are indicated you will find:

-The goal is to establish a clean, true sound through even tympanic tension. The drum will be out of tune with itself if different sections of the head are tuned unevenly – you will experience this as an inconsistent, wobbly, oscillating sustain as you tap on the drum head around its circumference.  Very slight adjustments will clean-up the uneven sound.

-Small adjustments – ten minute turns – to the tuning screws will have a substantive effect on the way the drum sounds.  Turn the screw clockwise to increase tension (make the pitch higher), counterclockwise to decrease tension (lower the pitch).  Tune the drum in a pattern like you would the lug-nuts on a car tire – tighten opposing screws as you work your way around the circumference of the drum.

-We sometimes use a DrumDial® to test for even tympanic tension; this tool is precise and effective.   You should, however, be able to achieve a good, even, clear pitch just tuning by ear, and without the need to resort to a precision tool. (see also below) More About Tuning-

-Although we wax the edge of the shell to lubricate the contact between the wood shell and the drum head, occasionally the head will stick to the frame. If the head adheres to the rim, the head is prevented from floating evenly on the bearing edge.   It is a good habit to apply some pressure all around bearing edge where the head and shell make contact – this is known as “seating the head.” Hold your hand in an open C-shape, and grasp the bottom of the shell with your thumb, and with your fingers squeeze along the top bearing edge.  Alternatively, place the drum on the floor and apply pressure with the flat of your hand to the center of the head. You may hear creaking or even a cracking pop as the head releases from the shell – this is normal.  The head needs to float to be adjusted.

-The tuning system responds positively going UP, but synthetic drum heads are not as flexible in coming back DOWN.  Skins relax into a new position more easily than synthetics, which are more likely to “leap” rather than gently, synchronously adjust (especially coming “down”).

-The tuning rim operates against a “set collar” position.  The collar on a skin drum heads re-forms itself as the head adjusts to new tension settings and ambient humidity.  The collar on synthetic heads is fixed with heat during construction.  If the tuning rim does not make good contact with the drum head, you will likely hear a buzz.  Be sure that there is positive contact between the tuning rim and the drum head by verifying that there is good, positive tension on the tuning screws. Again, test to make sure that head is “seated” (see above).-

-The screws are threaded through brass inserts that are pressed into the shell.  Some screws may feel tighter than others.  They will all work-in over time. Any tension you feel in the screw itself is not effecting the tuning of the drum.

-Don’t rely on the visible gap between the shell and the tuning ring to determine the evenness of tension on the head.  Variations in the head density, or in the way the head was originally tensioned when it was first mounted, may require one segment to be tensioned differently from another.


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