iDrum TuneReview by Rich "Doc Spoons" Spooner // July 17 2012
iPhone App: iDrumTune (iPhone 3Gs, iPhone 4/4s, iPod Touch 3rd & 4th Gen, iPad - iOS 5.0 or later)
The iDrumTune does exactly what it says on the tin; it helps you tune your drums using your iPhone—easy as that! Just think about the chromatic tuner that your guitarist or bass player routinely use to keep themselves (hopefully) in tune during the gig and you are along the right lines.
Once you have downloaded the app from the iTunes store, your phone "analyses the sound of a drum and provides a measurement of the drumhead vibration frequency." Simply start the app and hold your phone a few inches above the drum you wish to tune. Strike the head (you don't need to hit hard). After a few seconds the data will be displayed as a waveform which shows the fundamental frequency of your drum, or if you wish, you can also have the display read the data relative to a musical note.
The app was designed by UK audio engineer/producer and academic Rob Toulson who has vast experience in music technology and also leads the Masters in Audio and Video Production at Anglia Ruskin University in the UK, amongst a plethora of other things. He has done a great job putting the iDrumTune together. It's easy to use and easy to understand, has an uncomplicated interface, and comes with a very informative and well written information guide on drum tuning, which also references the various frequencies in hertz and their respective musical notes.
After using iDrumTune a number of times to completely alter the tuning on three of my kits I can confirm it is a superb, fast, accurate and usable tool, really great for keeping all your drum tunings in key relative to each other or tuning them to the key of a song if you are working in the studio. It also allowed me to note down, for quick reference, the frequency of my favorite tuning on each of my individual drums.
For me the app is first class, five star material. But I have gained a fair amount of experience tuning drums over the years, mainly by trial and error and hours and practice fine tuning both my ears and my drums, and no tool or app is a magic fix or substitute for using your ears.
And so, as a real acid test, I decided to try the iDrumTune app with one of my students who is always getting flustered with tuning his kit—a good opportunity to see how a novice found it in use and if it made any difference to his tuning experiences. André is 13 and has a Yamaha Stage Custom with coated ambassador batters and clear resos. We have done some tuning sessions in the past and he is very careful to make small adjustments and tunes using opposite lugs etc. but generally reverts to using reams of gaffs and moon gel when they start to sound a bit ropey.
After removing the aforementioned gaffa and moogel and cleaning off the residue, I gave André the iPhone and fired up the iDrumTune App. He started with the Floor Tom which is the one drum he is really happy with in his setup, and tapped the drum with the stick. The App showed the drum was tuned almost exactly to an A2 (110Hz) and with a bit of fine tuning with the drum key and a re-check he was able to get it exact. Then using the keyboard in the room he chose the intervals for the 2x rack toms that he liked the sound of—those being for the mid tom B2 (123.5Hz) and the hi tom E3 (164.8Hz).
From his initial reading on the hi tom he was able to see he needed to go up in pitch a bit from where he was, so after making small adjustments on each lug he remeasured using the App and found he'd gone too far—repeating the process in reverse. Checking again he was within a hairbreadth of his chosen frequency, and so we moved onto the mid tom. This drum proved to be a bit more tricky with a couple of stick pits in around the centre which seemed to throw the readings a bit making a consistent reference harder to establish. But, after three or four attempts André had again tuned the drum to almost exactly where he wanted it.
Putting the kit back together and hearing the results was a great moment, André was thrilled with the result. I must confess it sounded superb. The app really helped him get a good sound on his kit, something which has eluded him for a while when working by himself with just his ears and a drum key. Having a reference point and a target made such a difference to his tuning ability. Despite the fact he couldn't quite achieve the exact readings on every drum, the result was great, and I am sure had we been using new heads we would have achieved a better result. The only problem is I now have to convince his parents that he needs an iPhone (I tried my best, mate, but I don't think they bought it!).
Overall you can't go wrong with this app, priced at the moment at an introductory one dollar, but that won't be around for ever and it will revert to a regular two dollars (still great value whichever way you look at it). The iDrumTune app still relies on your skills with a drum key but gives you the security of a reference point and a target to tune to.
Please note you can't spend your one dollar and expect a miracle out of your drums if you are using pitted old heads covered in reams of gaffa tape, but if you've got some time to add to your existing skills and your drums are looked after then this app will help you achieve great results with your tuning.
Five Stars. Go Buy It! www.idrumtune.com or search the Apple App Store for idrumtune.
About the Author
Richard “Doc Spoons” Spooner is a British professional drummer and educator, based out of Switzerland. Currently touring and recording with acclaimed Swiss Blues/Roots singer Yvonne Moore, Pop/Rock Artist Toby May and indie rockers The Jamborines. Doc proudly endorses Ludwig drums, Paiste cymbals, Vater drumsticks, Baskey Drumruggs & Luggs, Hardcase Cases,Protection Racket Bags & Tour Luggage,Porter & Davies Monitoring. Visit Doc online at www.docspoons.com or follow him on Twitter@DocSpoons
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