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Thread: Unreliable heads, edges, or drummer?

  1. #1

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    Unhappy Unreliable heads, edges, or drummer?

    Hi all,

    I have a Mapex Mars birch kit with Aquarian Performance II heads on the toms. I've had both the kit and heads for months now, but for some reason:

    a. Tuning them is extremely difficult
    b. When I get them sounding okay, they detune within a week.

    I can tune other heads fairly quickly and accurately by ear (though I'm no expert) and I don't play more than once a week—and lightly—since they usually sound bad. The kit is by a sliding glass door, so they're somewhat exposed to thermal fluctuations but the issue still occurred when they were in a closed closet.

    Does anyone know why this is happening? Is it because the kit's lugs are hard to finger-tighten? Did MusiciansFriend rip me off and send me defective heads? Am I awful at tuning my own kit? Are the bearing edges poor? I've had it for three months and still haven't had a fun session on it. What can I do?

  2. #2

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    Default Re: Unreliable heads, edges, or drummer?

    First, finger tightening is not the end stage of tuning. If you can't do it without difficulty, your lugs are not aligned with your hoop's tension rod holes= bad hoops or bad lug placement.
    Check your bearing edges by examining them by eye and sitting the headless drum on a flat surface and see if there's any high or low spots on the edges.
    Heads can be warped so lay them on a flat surface to check for any bowing, etc.

    If none of these tests show a problem, it may be your tuning method.
    You're not a hard hitter you say, so your tension rods aren't loosening due to your playing.
    Maybe they're too loose to begin with?
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  3. #3

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    Default Re: Unreliable heads, edges, or drummer?

    All I can say is experiment every available option described by Slinglander. I have never had issues with heads de-tuning before but then I use Die Cast Hoops and they hold their tune for a long time.

  4. #4

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    Default Re: Unreliable heads, edges, or drummer?

    Maybe its your room acoustics that make it sound bad, but there is concern about the tension rods becoming loose, that's weird.. do you have a local music store with a drummer working there, maybe you could take a tom into the store, maybe they could cast an opinion on what is going on.

  5. #5

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    Default Re: Unreliable heads, edges, or drummer?

    Not being too sure as to what "sound" you are expecting to hear, start with the basics.

    Here's what I do. Not that there aren't many different ways to approach this but this works for me. I remove the batter head altogether. I work with the resonant head by loosening all the lugs, finger tighten and then about a half turn. Then tune each lug to the others until they are all at the same pitch and your drum resonates. It doesn't require much tuning above finger tight. No more than a full and 1 half turn, at least for me.

    Now that you have the reso head resonating, put the batter head back on and repeat the process.

    That should get you close. I'd also start with the largest floor tom to get it as deep and low as you like. Then work up from there with the next largest drum until you complete the set.

    Please let us know if this was helpful.
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  6. #6

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    Default Re: Unreliable heads, edges, or drummer?

    Check for lug splay if you're still having issues. Some drummer's pet peeve is to have the tension lugs tip at the top of the rod (splay) due to QC issues. Others claim lug splay has a negligible effect on tuning but could pre-maturely wear out the threads if the rods don't recede into the lug housing deep enough. The Pork Pie snare pictured below has lug splay and you can clearly see the differences at the top and bottom of the gap against the white background.

    Lug Splay:




    Lug splay plane:

    The red line is the plane of the top tension rod, and the green line is the plane of the bottom tension rod.



    Last edited by late8; 07-06-2016 at 02:51 PM.

  7. #7

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    Default Re: Unreliable heads, edges, or drummer?

    If you still have the original heads, throw one on it to see if it's easier to tune and stays in tune. The new Mars kits should have a bearing edge (Sonic Clear) that sits more to the inside of the shell. The heads should sit flat on the edges and thus should be VERY easy to tune. If you have the same issues with ALL the toms, chances are it's not the drums but the heads.
    -Brian

    "Too many crappy used drum stuff to list"

    Play the SONG......not the DRUMS!!!

    "I think that feeling is a lot more important than technique. It's all very well doing a triple paradiddle - but who's going to know you've done it? If you play technically you sound like everybody else. It's being original that counts." ~ John Bonham

  8. #8

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    Default Re: Unreliable heads, edges, or drummer?

    Quote Originally Posted by N2Bluz View Post
    If you still have the original heads, throw one on it to see if it's easier to tune and stays in tune. The new Mars kits should have a bearing edge (Sonic Clear) that sits more to the inside of the shell. The heads should sit flat on the edges and thus should be VERY easy to tune. If you have the same issues with ALL the toms, chances are it's not the drums but the heads.
    If the heads aren't the issue, do a quick bearing edge test. You don't have to go out and buy a special piece of glass as Brian (aka N2Bluz) did since we all know he can cut his own bearing edges, with a wood file no less, but you will need a few simple things found around the house:

    • Portable light source
    • Level




    Find a flat surface (preferable a granite counter top) and set the level on it just to double check to see if the surface is level relative to the floor. Again, as a disclaimer, it won't be as accurate as Brian's special piece of glass he uses to check his own custom modifications or "one off" vintage drum restorations, but it will get you in the ballpark.



    Shine the light at the outside edge of the shell and look on the inside of the for any inconsistencies as you move the light around the perimeter of the shell.



    If you see a large gap(s) of light shining through the bearing edge, the shell could possibly be out-of-round (warped), like the shell pictured below in which I found the bottom bearing edge to be damaged due to careless handling by the previous owner of the kit.

    Last edited by late8; 07-06-2016 at 04:14 PM.

  9. #9

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    Default Re: Unreliable heads, edges, or drummer?

    continued...

    A more detailed outline of the damaged bearing edge as a result from the test.



    I located the damaged area and confirmed it was the shell that made it a challenge to tune as the bearing edge and plies had separated upon impact.


  10. #10

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    Default Re: Unreliable heads, edges, or drummer?

    To check for shell warp, you can use anything that is reasonably flat. Every surface will have waves, so the trick is to rotate the shell in place (like a steering wheel). That way, you have a common, static reference point on the surface to which compare the bearing edge to as it passes over that point. For example, there may be a low spot or valley in the counter top (think like a dry creek bed) that runs under the shell. If you simply leave the shell sitting still and walk around the shell, you'll see light under the shell on two sides (where the creek bed runs under it) and no light everywhere else. This would cause you to think the shell is warped. If you stand in one spot and turn the shell, you may or may not see light under it...BUT it should be consistent as the shell turns. If you see widely varying amounts of light as the shell turns, then the shell is warped. Sounds complicated, but it's really not.
    -Brian

    "Too many crappy used drum stuff to list"

    Play the SONG......not the DRUMS!!!

    "I think that feeling is a lot more important than technique. It's all very well doing a triple paradiddle - but who's going to know you've done it? If you play technically you sound like everybody else. It's being original that counts." ~ John Bonham

  11. #11

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    Default Re: Unreliable heads, edges, or drummer?

    Quote Originally Posted by N2Bluz View Post
    To check for shell warp, you can use anything that is reasonably flat. Every surface will have waves, so the trick is to rotate the shell in place (like a steering wheel). That way, you have a common, static reference point on the surface to which compare the bearing edge to as it passes over that point. For example, there may be a low spot or valley in the counter top (think like a dry creek bed) that runs under the shell. If you simply leave the shell sitting still and walk around the shell, you'll see light under the shell on two sides (where the creek bed runs under it) and no light everywhere else. This would cause you to think the shell is warped. If you stand in one spot and turn the shell, you may or may not see light under it...BUT it should be consistent as the shell turns. If you see widely varying amounts of light as the shell turns, then the shell is warped. Sounds complicated, but it's really not.
    Watch this, it's cued up to the point where a DW drum maker is checking the bearing edges that were cut. You'll see him rotate the drum over the granite slab with a infra-red light above the shell to check for gaps. EZ PZ!

    https://youtu.be/QPighlLYd2c?t=433
    Last edited by late8; 07-06-2016 at 05:26 PM.

  12. #12

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    Default Re: Unreliable heads, edges, or drummer?

    Quote Originally Posted by late8 View Post
    Check for lug splay if you're still having issues. Some drummer's pet peeve is to have the tension lugs tip at the top of the rod (splay) due to QC issues. Others claim lug splay has a negligible effect on tuning but could pre-maturely wear out the threads if the rods don't recede into the lug housing deep enough. The Pork Pie snare pictured below has lug splay and you can clearly see the differences at the top and bottom of the gap against the white background.

    Lug Splay:




    Lug splay plane:

    The red line is the plane of the top tension rod, and the green line is the plane of the bottom tension rod.



    So that's what splay means!
    Quote Originally Posted by rickthedrummer View Post
    There is intelligent life out there. The problem is that there isn't any here.

    -Mike

  13. #13

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    Default Re: Unreliable heads, edges, or drummer?

    Common word (splay) If you made the "five" sign to someone with your hand, your fingers are splayed.

    all the best...

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by FlyByNight View Post
    So that's what splay means!
    I didn't know how the word splay pertained to the world of drumming until I read it being used repeatedly on other drum forums from drummers who were very OCD about their gear. Those who argued stated that splay had no bearing on load tension as in the case of tension rods, verses sheer tension, in which case, having any amount of splay may have detrimental consequences for structural integrity.

    Lug splay: tension rod tipped in at the top hoop and tipped out at the bottom hoop:



    Typical: Tension rods at equal distances from top and bottom hoop:

    Last edited by late8; 07-07-2016 at 04:19 PM.

  15. #15

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    Default Re: Unreliable heads, edges, or drummer?

    I can't see how it should even be a problem if the right lugs and hoops are used.

    all the best...

  16. #16

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    Default Re: Unreliable heads, edges, or drummer?

    Quote Originally Posted by kay-gee View Post
    I can't see how it should even be a problem if the right lugs and hoops are used.

    all the best...
    I think you're on to something. If you notice the two Ludwig BBs pictured below, one has a triple flange hoop and noticeable tension rod splay.



    This one has die-cast hoops instead of the triple flange and looks like the holes in the die-cast hoop line up better with the lugs.


  17. #17

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    Default Re: Unreliable heads, edges, or drummer?

    Quote Originally Posted by late8 View Post
    I think you're on to something. If you notice the two Ludwig BBs pictured below, one has a triple flange hoop and noticeable tension rod splay.
    Actually, what I've read in most peoples opinions on the subject is the lack of or too much thickness with the lug gaskets that should be used to isolate the lug from the shell.

    Not taking that into consideration upon building or customizing your drum will increase the possibility of a splay condition.

    It is easily resolvable if you are proactive in determining if splay is a factor.
    Signature here

  18. #18

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    Default Re: Unreliable heads, edges, or drummer?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bish View Post
    Actually, what I've read in most peoples opinions on the subject is the lack of or too much thickness with the lug gaskets that should be used to isolate the lug from the shell.

    Not taking that into consideration upon building or customizing your drum will increase the possibility of a splay condition.

    It is easily resolvable if you are proactive in determining if splay is a factor.
    Still no excuse for something as simplistic as a drum to not be made correctly. You wouldn't except a car with splaying wheels. Salesman says..." We don't have the tire rims that exactly fit the wheel drums but no worries, the wheels just slant out a bit."

    LOL

    all the best...

  19. #19

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    Default Re: Unreliable heads, edges, or drummer?

    Well the Aquarian PII's were made for loose tuning for the big fat tom sound from the 70's 80's. They may not sound right for the small tom kits of today. Aquarian has lots of other good heads to use though for the teeny bopper sets jus kidding
    Last edited by slinky; 01-10-2017 at 11:29 PM.
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  20. #20

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    i am 99% certain that its just the room you're playing in.
    Too Much Stuff.

  21. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by kay-gee View Post
    "[...]the wheels just slant out a bit."

    LOL
    This is comically a real thing that people do. It's called "stance". It's as every bit as silly as you can imagine.
    A simple, elegant design is good engineering.

    Axis | Ayotte | Evans | Gibraltar | Ludwig | Pro-Mark | Remo | Roc-N-Soc | SKB | Taye | Vic Firth | Whitney| Yamaha | Zildjian

  22. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by late8 View Post
    I didn't know how the word splay pertained to the world of drumming until I read it being used repeatedly on other drum forums from drummers who were very OCD about their gear. Those who argued stated that splay had no bearing on load tension as in the case of tension rods, verses sheer tension, in which case, having any amount of splay may have detrimental consequences for structural integrity.
    Typical: Tension rods at equal distances from top and bottom hoop:

    No thread on those tension rods?
    Quote Originally Posted by rickthedrummer View Post
    There is intelligent life out there. The problem is that there isn't any here.

    -Mike

  23. #23

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    Default Re: Unreliable heads, edges, or drummer?

    Quote Originally Posted by FlyByNight View Post
    No thread on those tension rods?
    Quote~

    "As an engineer, I can say that tension members (which is what we are talking about here, hence the name) do not have to be plumb, or even straight in some cases, to serve their purpose.

    The cables in the Golden Gate Bridge are tension members, as is any rope-like structural element. They certainly aren't straight or plumb. Bolts can take more than tension, however. Many are designed to take shear too, in which case, out-of-plumb or curvature is a problem. Then again, tension rods aren't designed to take shear, only tension.

    As a structural engineer, my assessment is that it's just cosmetic. As a drummer, I have a lot of Ludwig drums and I can't see any of my own drums with splay. I know the problem is limited to certain models and eras, but mine look pretty straight."


    End of quote~

  24. #24

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    Default Re: Unreliable heads, edges, or drummer?

    This is a response to a post by Bish from July of last year.

    "I'd also start with the largest floor tom to get it as deep and low as you like. Then work up from there with the next largest drum until you complete the set."


    I don't like to disagree with Bish because the man knows his stuff, but I do disagree with starting at the largest FT and working your way up. I think it's easier to start with the smallest up tom and work you way down.

    If you start with the large FT, you may find yourself at the up tom(s) where, to keep a balance, you might have to tune higher or lower than what you want. IMHO, it's easier to go high to low than low to high.

    On another note. Splayed fingers. If you spread your 5 fingers apart, they are indeed splayed, HOWEVER, if you are giving the " I can't stand your driving" finger (singular), they are not splayed. If, on occasion, you are called on by some moron to have to give the 2 handed "I really can't stand your driving", while 2 fingers are being used, it does not qualify as "splayed".

    At times in Jersey, I wished I had 3 middle fingers on at least 1 hand, would have come in handy on the NJ Turnpike. Splayed and point across at the same time.

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