Unlocking the Perfect Metal Drum Sound

Unlocking the perfect metal drum sound – In recent years, metal drum sounds have become highly processed, characterised by thunderous toms, punchy bass drums, and snappy snares. While much of this sonic prowess stems from mic techniques and post-production wizardry, one should never underestimate the power of actually tuning your drums. Let’s dive in…

Tom Toms

When it comes to tuning your toms, aim for a medium to low sound. Some drummers tune their floor toms so low they may display subtle wrinkles. While this isn’t something I’d recommend, in truth, if it sounds good it probably doesn’t matter.

It’s worth mentioning that while matching top and bottom head pitches maximizes tone and sustain, slightly lowering the bottom heads adds a touch of pitch bend and tightens up the sound—a common preference in metal and rock in general.


A metal drummer’s snare drum typically has a sharp, aggressive, and cutting sound that slices through the mix with authority. It should possess a high level of articulation and projection to accentuate the driving rhythms and intense energy characteristic of heavy metal music.

To achieve this sound, metal drummers often opt for snare drums with metal shells, such as steel or brass, which produce a bright and penetrating tone. These drums are commonly tuned high and tight to maximize sensitivity and responsiveness, allowing for rapid and precise snare hits.

Additionally, metal drummers may use a variety of snare drumheads to achieve the desired sound. Coated heads can add warmth and depth to the tone while still maintaining clarity and attack, while clear heads provide a brighter and more focused sound with enhanced stick definition.

Furthermore, metal drummers often utilize snare wires with a higher number of strands, such as 20 or more, to produce a fuller and more resonant snare response. These wires are typically tensioned tightly to provide a crisp and snappy snare sound that cuts through even the densest mix.

Overall, a heavy metal drummer’s snare drum should have a bold and assertive sound that commands attention and drives the music forward with relentless intensity.

Yet, beware—what feels great to play might sound thin under the scrutiny of a microphone. Finding the sweet spot often involves a delicate balance. 

Bass Drum

A metal drummer’s  bass drum should deliver a powerful and thunderous sound that forms the backbone of the music’s rhythmic foundation. It should have a deep, low-end punch that is felt as much as it is heard, providing a sense of weight and aggression to the music.

To achieve this sound, metal drummers often use larger kick drums with diameters ranging from 22 inches to 26 inches or more. These larger drums produce a fuller, more resonant tone with increased low-end presence, perfect for the heavy and dense arrangements typical of metal music.

Dampening may also be beneficial, reducing overtones and elongated sustain for that coveted thud. Some drummers opt for beater impact pads to enhance the click, but fear not—EQ can easily finesse this quality with the right microphone setup.

In terms of tuning, metal drummers often tune their kick drums relatively low to emphasize the deep, booming character of the drum. This tuning allows the drumhead to resonate freely, producing a sustained thud that adds to the overall heaviness of the music.

And Finally...

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