Gorgeously sounding and easy to master and play, a steel tongue drum is a perfect fit for any beginning and professional musician alike. Whether you are looking for a means to facilitate your spiritual drumming séance, enhance a meditation session, enrich your musical arrangement, or reinvigorate your older melodies, these instruments can come in very handy.

As with any other musical instruments, even the best steel tongue drums need their fair share of tuning and adjusting to sound the way you want them to. The good news is you do not have to be a pro to do that. Follow these tips and tricks carefully, and you will soon get the excellent sound and versatility you crave.

In Search of a Perfect Sound: Beginner’s Guide to Fine-Tuning Your Steel Tongue Drum

One thing everyone loves about steel tongue drums is the fact that many of them come with adjustable tuning, which allows the user to switch between different keys and scales when searching for just the right sound.

Tunable steel tongue drums utilize a simple but effective system of magnetic weights that can be shifted into various positions along the tongues to alter the pitch. By doing so, the user can select a different key and tune to a great many different scales – from the traditional Western ones to the far more exotic Indian, Japanese, Arabic, and Oriental microtones.

The technique is fairly straightforward and can be easily managed even by a person with zero experience in this:

  • To elevate the pitch, users must reach inside the instrument and pull the magnet towards the center of the tongue drum;
  • To lower the pitch the further the magnet needs to be pushed away from the center towards the edge of the instrument;
  • To tune down the drum to even lower pitches, users can opt for an advanced magnet pack. By changing the size and number of magnets on the tongue, one can tweak the pitch further until they achieve the desired tuning.  

Here are a few other essentials you will need to remember when tuning your steel tongue drum:

Practice Makes Perfect 

With the magnet technique, you may not be able to retune your steel tongue drum on the spot. All new magnets will likely be super-tight, so moving them will be jerky and erratic at first. Knowing which small adjustments to make to pinpoint the desired notes takes time. The more you experiment with this, the sooner you will get it just right.

Use Any Extra Help You Can Get

To make sure the magnet on the tongue is placed in a perfect position that will allow you to effortlessly render the note you want to play, get a tuning device or install specialized software onto your smartphone. The majority of modern electronic tuners are reliable, inexpensive, and versatile devices that can also be helpful when you need to retune the frequency.

The three most recommendable and highly trusted devices are Tune-Bot Studio Electronic Drum Tuner, Tune-Bot Gig Electronic Drum Tuner, and DrumDial Digital Drum Tuner. To make your fine-tuning efforts a breeze, you can also check out specialized software and install a Drum Tuner app directly onto your smartphone.

Retune Your Tongue Drum Regularly

The habit of checking the tuning on your tongue drum before you start playing the instrument is a good one indeed. Not only does it help you learn your musical instrument better. It also saves you the frustration of having your sound terribly off just minutes before you need to perform in public.

Tongue Drum Tuning FAQ

Will a Steel Tongue Drum Stay In Tune?

If the magnets are new, strong, and of good quality, the odds of your steel tongue drum suddenly going out of tune are slim. Shifting of the weights over time can happen if you use mallets and tend to hit hard on the tongues, creating a lot of vibration. It is possible to fix the situation by returning the dislocated magnet to its original place.

Why Change The Scale?

Steel tongue drums with a magnet-based tuning system are a much more flexible option compared to fixed-scale instruments. They allow you to change the uplifting D Major scale to the more melancholic B Minor or swing between the happy С Major and the moody С Minor with just a swift movement of your fingers.

Which Tongue Drum Brands Are Tunable?

Even though steel tongue drums are a relatively new addition to the percussion Instrument family, there are already quite a few established and trusted brands that produce premium-grade, versatile products. The best-known tongue drum manufacturers are Idiopan, Satori, ManaStone, and Klanguage.

Why Give Steel Tongue Drums a Try?

Whatever purposes you are using it for – music education, relaxation, yoga, spiritual practices, or other – a well-balanced and perfectly tuned steel tongue drum will not disappoint. Adults, no matter what their musical background is, will doubtlessly find its ethereal sound to have a very mind-healing effect, and since there is a learning aspect to this instrument, steel tongue drums will make a perfect gift for young kids as well.

Tuning an adjustable steel tongue drum is not a complicated task if you give it enough of your time and enthusiasm. Besides, there are plenty of devices and software apps to help you do the job like a pro!

What brand of steel tongue drums do you favor? How often do you have your instrument fine-tuned? Share your drum-tuning tips and tricks in the comment section below! We would love to hear back from you!

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