The following is reproduced from a questionnaire I recently received from an English drum magazine " DRUMS UK " - I hope the answers prove interesting!

Photo Credit: Sam Finnegan

[Q1] Which drum do you start with & why?
[A1] The Snare . For my style, it's the drum that gets played the most.

[Q2] Do you seat the drum head ? How?

[A2] "Seating" the head is very important because unless it is sitting evenly on the shell to start with, getting the drum to resonate properly is hampered. I slacken then depress the centre of the head with either my knee or heel of my hand & then gradually increase the tension by turning the key on the rods a measured amount until the wrinkles at the edge disappear. I then slacken the head - say two or three turns on each rod - & repeat the process a couple of times.

[Q3] Is there a valid reason for working around the drum in a 12 (o'clock), 6, 3, 9 etc., position - or is circular (12, 1, 2 etc.,) a better method?
[A3] I personally prefer the " 12/6/3/9/ " method, but it's the final "seating" to ensure even tension that I feel is more important.

[Q4] Do you use any muffling? If so, explain drum by drum.
[A4] This depends on the musical situation, acoustics & the drum itself. Generally speaking - aside from the bass drum - I use masking tape (usually a couple of pieces approx. 1" long on top of each other) either in the six or twelve o' clock position. This is not so much to dampen but more to subtly change the sound & remove a little of the high-end "clack" I sometimes hear, especially off of new heads. "Gaffer" tape is too severe for me most times; "Moongel" is a good product, though do use it judiciously.
SNARE: I rarely use "O" rings - either the drum is wide open or I employ the method described above.
TOMS: See snare!
BASS DRUM: This really changes depending on the music, where I am, the drum (shell & head type), the head tension, if the front head has a hole, & whether I'm mic'd or not - all those factors are pertinent. Either [a] an EVANS "pillow" that sits @ the bottom of the shell & touches both heads or [b] a felt strip about a quarter of the way (horizontally) up the batter head - with the front head wide open or with a felt strip in a similar position to the one on the batter head.

[Q5] What heads do you use?
[A5] All "EVANS" .
SNARE: G1 Coated on batter head (sometimes a Genera HD) / 300 Weight Genera Opaque on the snare side (sometimes 200 weight for lighter work)
TOMS: G2 Clears or G1 Coated on batter head / UNO 1000 Clear on bottom heads (on rack toms) .... UNO 1000 Coated on bottom heads of floor toms
BASS DRUM: EQ1 or UNO 1000 Coated on Batter / UNO 1000 on Front head.

[Q6] Do you tune the top head tighter than the bottom or vice versa?
[A6] SNARE: Bottom head very tight / top head medium
TOMS: Bottom head slightly tighter than top
BASS DRUM: Batter head slacker than front
I MUST stress this is only a general practise - there are many situations where the above could be reversed - even on an odd tom!

[Q7] What is your overall aim when tuning?
[A7] Certain exceptions apart, [a] to create a uniform sound - i.e., that the drums all belong to the same set / family & [b] that there is sufficient disparity between the voices - clearly defined musical sounding intervals between the drums.

[Q8] Regarding tuning - is there anything peculiar to you that you regard as a "trick"?
[A8] I sometimes do what could be construed as an unusual thing to the batter head of the snare drum.
Assuming the rod nearest you is the six o'clock position & the one furthest away (closest to the rack tom) the twelve o'clock, I tension the "12" a couple of turns tighter, the "11" & "1" positions x 1.5 tighter, & the "10" & "2" x I turn tighter. The "3" & "9" remain as-is ; then the "4" & "8" x 1.5 looser, the "5" & "7" x 1 looser & finally the "6" x two turns looser. This is all relative whether you've a 10 or 8 lug drum & has several effects. [1] It still gives a good playing response centre-head [2] it dampens the drum slightly & finally [3] most importantly - because the head tension is at it's lowest near you - it gives depth to rimshots.

[Q9] Does your tuning differ for live vs. studio?
[A9] It used to, but these days I adjust more depending on the musical situation & the room. Studios - like venues (my local heavily carpeted pub vs. the Albert Hall for example!) - vary a lot. I do tend to use thinner / lighter cymbals in the studio though.

[Q10] How important is a drum's bearing edge?
[A10] Very important. First off, if it's not straight, it can make tuning very difficult. Second, the SHAPE of the edge can change the sound enormously. If I need a drums' edge "trued" or even changed, I highly recommend you employ someone skilled - Gary Noonan (U.K. Tel. # : 01 474 / 535 169) is excellent - rather than attempt it yourself.

[Q11] If you're tapping the head to tune it, where in relation to the lug do you strike the head?
[A11] Usually a spot approx. 1" from the T rod toward the centre of the head .... & of course the centre (& just off) at different levels of dynamics as well.