Kenny Sharretts
Drum Technician - Drummer - Educator
by Kenny Sharretts on June 12th, 2012

Hello to everyone who has asked me how I tuned drums for Stanley Randolph in the recording of Stevie Wonder’s Live At Last DVD.  I was blessed to have Pearl’s engineer’s test this method in their sound lab. I was quite humbled to have received glowing revues. Thank you to Pearl Drums. Do note that while Stanley likes his drum tuned a bit lower these days, the template works in any key. So here are the details . . .
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As we begin this discussion let me say that when I first speak of “tuning” a drum to a specific note, I am speaking about the top head. Top head = pitch. Bottom head = tone. Because venues vary, and sometimes we use a kit other than Stanley’s, the deciding factor for the tom tuning range begins w/ the 8". I tune it to where A) it feels right for Stanley, and B) It doesn't sound like a bongo. :-). From there I usually tune the top three toms to a first position inverted major triad. IE 8" – 6th tone of a major scale, 10"- 4th tone of a major scale, 12" –1st tone of a major scale. That's a triad with the 5th in the base. In the key of C Major, for example, that would be an F Major chord (F A C), laid out like this: 8" – A, 10" - F, and 12"- C. I try to tune the snare to sit between the 10" and 12" so as to minimize sympathetic resonance between the snare and the toms. In C, that would be about an E flat. Or, I might go above the 8” in terms of note value. It all depends on where Stanley feels it, and where minimal snare buzz occurs. Most important is that the inverted triad allows him to be able to play the NBC theme on his top 3 toms (yessss)! Lately, however, Stanley has been raising the snare tension of his main snare (a 14" x 6.5" Reference snare). Luckily, Stanley's 8" Pearl Reference tom has been sounding sweet tuned a little lower to a G. Subsequently, I have been tuning his top 3 toms to a minor triad (12" - C, 10" - E flat, 8" - G), and tuning his snare to an F-ish note. Again, I keep the snare settled in between the 8"and 10" to minimize sympathetic snare buzz. From there, Stanley goes to the 16" floor tom next. I tune the 16” to a perfect 5th, with tonic being the 16" and the 12"  being the 5th. So if we have 8"- G, 10" - E flat, and 12" - C, then the 16" would be an F. You can play the intro to "My Girl" between the 12” and 16”. Then I tune the 14" to a A or an A flat. With the 14" on his left at A (or A flat) you get a major (or minor) triad between your 16, 14 and 12. This is the other reason I now tune the snare to F-ish. Avoid sympathetic snare buzz between the 16" and the snare

So to recap in the key of C , for example, 8" - G, 10" - E flat, 12" - C, 16" - F, 14" - A (A flat), Snare 1 around F Then I tune the bottom tom heads to a perfect fourth above the top head. ie if 12" top is C, then the bottom head is an F. Same with his second snare and the bass drum. I tune his main snare to a half step these days because that seems to be where Stanley likes it. So in C if your top snare is an F, then the bottom head is an F#. Also, in order to personify the "old school" vibe of the left side of the kit, I tuned the 14" floor tom to a minor third for that "drop" in pitch sound. So If the floor tom is tuned on the top head to an A, then the bottom head is tuned to a C. 

Tune on my fellow drummers, and please check out the video for the song "Empty" by my band So Called Underground from our CD "How To Paint A Silver Lining" available on iTunes, Reverb Nation, and CD Baby. This song includes some incredible guitar work by Errol Cooney (Stevie Wonder, Christina Aguilera), and some unbelievable keyboards by Lamar Mitchel. Hope you enjoy.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zp0xdNuZwjE
Peace Out, Kenny....