I'm starting to get into writing and recording some music and am using synthesized drums for the time being. Do I need to be selecting samples based off drum tuning at all? For example, if I'm writing a song in C major vs G minor, can I (and should I) use the same samples in both tracks?

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    This might be a matter of opinion - plus it might depend on what kind of samples you're using. Normally I tune the drums to a frequency related to the shell's lowest resonant frequency and leave it there, without worrying about what key the song is in, but I've read about engineers and producers having drums tuned differently or using different drums based on the key of the song. Sep 30, 2015 at 17:50

1 Answer 1


There's no correct answer, but I'd weight the argument this way...

If you're recording an entire album over many months, you may choose to pitch the drums specifically for each track, choose to mic the kit differently; even choose to record in a different room or facility.

If you're playing a live gig, no drummer is going to retune to fit each song. The audience will never notice anyway.

Anywhere between those two diametric opposites is the 'right' answer.

If your samples are meant to sound 'electronic' or 'repetitive' then retuning may spoil the final feel.
If it's meant to be reproducing a 'real live' drummer, then having multi-velocity samples & round-robin triggers is going to be far more important inside any given track than the fact that the drummer didn't buy an entire new kit for the next track.

after Todd's apropos comment
If anyone books me for a session, I'd assume it's because they already know what my kit & playing style sound like. If they want me to suddenly pull a Black Beauty out of my traps, rather than my usual piccolo... then they booked the wrong drummer ;-)
If I'm doing a drum track based on samples, I've got most of ToonTracks' Superior to go at & will use the one most appropriate [to either single track or whole album]

I think my TL:DR would be - go with what feels right.

TL:DR part 2 would be
don't just retune because the key changed - drums have natural pitches they sound 'best' at, though also 'fake' pitches you can convince a nice noise from - either is 'correct'.

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    From slightly different angles - tympani get tuned to specific notes, and the advent of Rototoms changed tuning perceptions somewhat.
    – Tim
    Jan 7, 2017 at 9:09

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