Are Drum Dials Worth It? The Best Precision Tuner

By Evan C

New In Drum Town?

If you’re a drummer, you tune drums and you probably clicked on this post to answer the question, are drum dials worth it? I can understand your curiosity and speculation, as I’ve been in your shoes! So, let’s get to it. 

So, Are Drum Dials Worth It?

Are Drum dials worth it? This is a question that many drummers ask themselves when considering tools to help with their drumming.

Drum dial tuners are devices used to measure the tension of your drum head, helping you achieve consistent tuning across all drums. They claim to provide better results and make tuning easier, but do they actually deliver? 

Those who swear by drum dials believe that they save time and effort in achieving the perfect sound. With consistent tension across all drums, there is less room for error and more control over the sound produced.

However, some argue that relying solely on a tool such as a drum dial can hinder one’s ability to develop an ear for tuning manually. 

Ultimately, whether or not drum dials are worth it depends on personal preference and playing style. Some may find them helpful in achieving consistent results quickly, while others may prefer the traditional method of manual tuning.

The DrumDial precision drum tuner
DrumDial Precision Tuner

Clear As Drum Tuning Can Be?

I’m sure that may have been as clear as mud for you. Haha.. There’s a little more to it and it can differ based off of why you’re looking for one and/or what you’re looking for. Let’s look at some pros/cons, and also how to use a Drum dial among a few things. 

The Facts About Drum Dials

Drum dials, or actually the DrumDial precision drum tuner (as the company is DrumDial and have several products), are a popular tool for drummers to tune their drums.

They are small, handheld devices that measure the tension on the drumhead and provide a reading in units of measurement, such as pounds or newtons.

It actually measures the tympanic pressure of your head by each tension rod. The idea is that by using a drum dial, drummers can achieve a more precise and consistent tuning than they would by relying on their ears alone. 

But are drum dials worth it? In this blog post, we will explore the pros and cons of using drum dials and help you decide whether they are right for you.

The mechanics of a DrumDial
The mechanics of a DrumDial tuner

Pros Of Using Drum Dials

1. Consistent tuning

One of the biggest advantages of using a drum dial is that it allows you to achieve consistent tuning from drum to drum and even from session to session.

With a DrumDial, you can measure the tension on each lug of the drum and make sure that they are all at the same level.

This can be especially helpful if you are a session drummer who needs to quickly and reliably tune different drum kits.

2. Saves time

Using a drum dial can also save you a lot of time. Instead of spending hours tweaking each lug by ear, you can quickly measure the tension on each lug with a drum dial and make small adjustments until you achieve the desired sound.

This can be especially helpful if you are setting up for a gig or recording session and need to get your kit sounding great in a short amount of time. 

3. Great for beginners

If you are a beginner drummer, using a drum dial can be a great way to learn about drum tuning. By measuring the tension on each lug, you can get a better understanding of how changes in tension affect the sound of the drum.

This can be helpful as you develop your ear for tuning and learn to make adjustments based on the sound you want to achieve.

4. Useful for drum techs

If you are a drum tech or work in a music store, using a drum dial can be a useful tool for setting up drum kits.

By measuring the tension on each lug, you can quickly and easily tune the drums to the desired pitch, saving time and ensuring that the drums are set up properly. 

5. Positive Perception

Knowing how to use a Drum dial effectively will make you a better drummer. When you pull out your Drum dial and start tuning your drums, people take notice and it give you the perception of a professional.

After you play your drums and they sound really good, you may have other drummers approach you about helping them tune their drums (assuming you’re playing a show with other bands).

I’d help drummers sometimes tune their drums and it makes you feel better knowing you’re helping them sound better.

You’d be surprised how many drummers play shows with completely out of tune drum sets. A pristinely tuned drum set will catch peoples’ attention. 

Are drum dials worth it when you become the pro tuner at any show?! 😎

Cons Of Using Drum Dials

1. Expensive

One of the biggest drawbacks of using drum dials is that they can be expensive. A good quality drum dial can cost anywhere from $60 to $100 or more (considering analog or digital, more on that later).

While this may be a worthwhile investment for professional drummers or drum techs, it may not be a practical expense for beginners or hobbyists.

2. Can be inaccurate

While drum dials are designed to provide precise measurements of tension, they are not always accurate.

Factors such as the temperature and humidity can affect the tension of the drumhead, which may result in inaccurate readings.

Also, if your starting tension is extremely uneven across different lugs, this can prompt inaccurate readings.

In addition, the readings provided by drum dials can vary depending on how the device is used, so it is important to use the device consistently to achieve reliable results.

3. Not a substitute for ear training

While drum dials can be helpful for achieving consistent tuning, they should not be relied on exclusively.

Ear training is still a crucial part of drum tuning, as it allows you to make adjustments based on the sound you want to achieve.

I mentioned the perception of being a professional. Knowing how to tune by ear should be something every drummer strives for (I’m still working on it myself).

Are drum dials worth it if you’re basically tuning drums with training wheels?

Using a drum dial in combination with ear training can help you achieve the best possible sound from your drums.

4. Not necessary for all drummers

Finally, it is important to note that drum dials are not necessary for all drummers. If you have a good ear for tuning and are able to achieve consistent results without using a drum dial, then there may be no need to invest in this tool.

Similarly, if you are a hobbyist drummer who only plays for fun, then a drum dial may not be a practical investment.

A drummer who plays 5 days a week would benefit more from this investment vs. a drummer who plays 5 times a year. 

Are drum dials worth it when it takes seconds to tune up? I'd say yes!
Using a DrumDial doesn’t take long at all! (I didn’t tune in this GIF, but you’d just adjust all tension rods)

Before Using A DrumDial

During drum head changes, ensure that the new head is evenly seated on the drum. Install the hoop and tighten the tuning lugs by hand.

This guarantees a proper fit on the bearing edge. If previously used drum heads are being tuned with a DrumDial for the first time, loosen them up, tighten by hand and gradually bring up the tension using the tuner.

Ensure that the drum to be tuned is level to avoid the tuner from slipping on the head. While the DrumDial is zeroed at the factory, the tuner may require occasional re-zeroing due to frequent use.

To reset the DrumDial, place it on a flat glass surface, unlock the bezel, rotate it until the large needle points to zero, and then re-lock the bezel.

How to Use a DrumDial

Ensure that the tuning tip is tightened by hand. The top cap screw does not serve for calibration and should be kept secure and never removed.

Place the tuner in a position where the dial is readable. Slowly press the tuning tip on the drum head until the full weight of the tuner rests on the drum.

The DrumDial base should be located around ¾ of an inch from the edge of the drum, straight in front of a tuning lug.

The DrumDial Edge Gage can be used to measure this distance easily. Attach the Edge Gage to the neck of the DrumDial and position the tuner so that the Edge Gage lightly touches the inside rim of the drum.

Remove your hand from the DrumDial at this point (do not place your hand on the drum head as it may cause an inaccurate reading).

There is not one dial indicator, but two! Use only the large needle hand to take readings, the small needle is not utilized for tuning.

Observe the reading on the gage. Pick up the tuner and move it to the next tuning lug, and so on (ensure that you press the tuning tip slowly).

Identify the tuning lug with the highest drum dial reading and tune the other lugs to match it (tighten each tuning lug gradually with a drum key to prevent improper seating of the drum head).

Next, continue to pick up the DrumDial and move it to each tuning point, tightening each tuning lug to achieve identical gage readings. Do this until the drum head is adequately tight and the head is seated properly.

At this point, the drum should be in tune with itself. If you desire a different tone, slowly tighten or loosen each tuning lug to reach your desired tuning point, again matching all gage readings.

You can do this on the bottom head just as well as the top head. Make your way around the entire drum kit until you achieve the drum sound that is right for you.

It shouldn’t take a long time if you’ve placed the drum head evenly on the bearing edges and taken time to ensure you’re tightening all tension rods the same.

It’s also a good idea to continually ensure the drum hoop remains even on the drum head as you’re tightening. Are drum dials worth it, are you still wondering?

DrumDial Digital Tuner
DrumDial Digital Tuner

Another Note About The DrumDial

To achieve identical gage readings, pick up the tuner and place it down in the same spot. However, used heads with dents or scuffs around the edges may give different readings if the tuning tip is placed on a damaged area.

This shouldn’t be a problem unless the drum head is severely worn. When loosening a tuning lug, lift the dial and put it down again to release pressure on the head for an accurate gage reading.

This step is unnecessary when tightening a tuning lug. Typically, most drums are tuned to approximately 75 for the top head and 74 for the bottom resonant head (snare drums are tighter, top 85, bottom 82, and bass drums are slightly looser, ranging from 70 to 72).

Given the wide range of drums available, it’s recommended that you experiment with different gage readings and tuning levels for your specific set-up.

Since the gage is sensitive, store the DrumDial in its case when not in use, and avoid keeping tension on the tuning tip for long periods as it may cause harm to the tuner’s internal mechanism.

Different Types Of Drum Dials

There are currently 2 different versions of the DrumDial drum tuner. They have the original DrumDial which is an analog drum tuner.

The other one they more recently came out with a digital DrumDial. They measure the tension of the head the same, except the digital version has an LCD screen and takes batteries.

It also comes with a calibration glass (literally a piece of glass) and hard case, which the analog one does not come with.

The digital Drum Dial apparently has a decent battery life, but I prefer the tried and true analog version. Are drum dials worth it when you have to worry about changing a battery.

It’s still a cool looking dial though.

Tama Tension Watch
Tama’s Tension Watch is similar to the DrumDial

Alternatives to DrumDial

Even though I think the DrumDial is the best drum tuner, there are other choices out there. They either measure the drum head tension similarly, or the actual tone of the drum.

Overtone Labs makes a couple of tuners called the Tune-bot studio and Tune-bot Gig. They vary in price and function, but they both measure the pitch vs. the tension.

The Tama tension watch is a product by Tama that is pretty much the same thing as a DrumDial as it measures the tension as well. You can read all about these different drum tuners on my previous post by clicking here.

Also, you can always benefit from stopping your tension rods from loosening. Click here and check out over 5 different ways to keep your drums in tune longer! 

My Personal Experience:

I’ve been using DrumDial since 2007 or 2008. There hasn’t been a show I’ve played where I don’t bring this tuner.

I absolutely have to make sure my drums sound as good as they can and within minutes, this gives me that access. It always does a great job.

I’ve had my snare drum detuned at shows before and within seconds I am able to bring back life into that snare and move on with the next song.

New drummers would probably find this tool and a tension rod torque as the best way to tune their set of drums in the fastest time possible. Hell, you can even use this to tune a banjo head. 🪕

2 of my DrumDials (the one in my right hand is broken)

The Choice Is Yours, Mortal

Are Drum Dials worth it? Well, I hope that you can make that decision based off of everything we’ve talked about. It’s a helpful tool and has helped thousands of drummers around the world.

You can use this in conjunction with tuning by ear and be confident that your drums are probably 100% in tune.

Let Me Hear You!

So, what are your thoughts on the DrumDial tuner? Have you used one before and if so how has your experience been? I’d love to hear in the comments below. Please let me know!

Want to know how I DOUBLED my hand speed by just using a few simple techniques?!

Get your hand speed up by clicking here.

Until next time, stay attuned!

-Evan C.

About the author

Hi there, I'm Evan and I love drums.. Also, I love music! I've been playing drums for most of my life and nothing beats the thrill I get from it. I hope to be able to provide you with insightful tips and reviews on things within the drum and music world!

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