Tuning the drums can be very tricky when purely relying on your ears. Thankfully, drum tuners are here to help you. They measure the exact tension of each lug so that you can match all of them on a drum to get an even tuning. You can then use that as a baseline setting to achieve your desired sound.
If you don’t have a drum tuner yet, here are our top suggestions for the best tuners on the market. We’ve compared them according to their features, portability, and build qualities.
- 1 Top 3 Drum Tuners
- 2 Best Drum Tuner Reviews
- 3 How to Choose the Best Drum Tuner
- 4 Final Thoughts on the Best Drum Tuners
Top 3 Drum Tuners
The Overtone Labs Tune-Bot Studio is our Top Pick. It’s one of the most popular digital drum tuners on the market, and it’s incredibly intuitive and easy to use. We found it to be extremely reliable, making it a top-tier option.
The DrumDial Precision Tuner is our Best Budget Option. It’s a straightforward mechanical tuner that measures the tension of each lug with a dial. If you don’t want any fancy features, it’s a good choice to go with.
The Tama TW200 Tension Watch is our Editor’s Choice. It’s another mechanical tuner, but it’s designed a lot better than any other mechanical tuner available. It’s designed to be easier to use, and we thought it was one of the most durable tuners as well.
Best Drum Tuner Reviews
The ultimate digital drum tuner. It offers accurate pitch readings with various tuning features.
One of the most loved drum tuners around. You get to save tuning settings for five different drum kits, and it even helps tune your drums to different note intervals. The wide frequency range and hardy exterior make this tuner highly sought-after.
The Tune-Bot tuners are the most popular digital drum tuners on the market, and for very good reasons. The Tune-Bot Studio is the best option of the series, making it our best pick for this list.
This tuner clips onto the rim near each lug and gives you a pitch reading for the tension. It will then help you tune each lug to perfection, giving you an amazing drum tone. While that’s fairly standard for every digital tuner, we just found that this one worked the best. It’s so easy to use, and we loved the extra features that it offered.
The fact that we could save up to five different tuning settings was the big selling point. If you have multiple kits in your practice room, this is the tuner you need.
We also appreciated how solid it felt. Digital tuners can be quite flimsy, but we were impressed with the build quality.
Verdict: The Overtone Labs Tune-Bot Studio is an impressive digital drum tuner. It does a fantastic job of helping you get drum tones that you wouldn’t be able to get with only your ears. It’s easy to use, and the fact that you can save tuning settings is incredibly valuable. This is a tuner that we’d easily recommend to any drummer, and its popularity already proves its quality.
A good affordable mechanical tuner to get even tensions across all your lugs.
A straightforward mechanical tuner that does its job very well. It doesn’t have any fancy features, but it gives incredibly accurate tension readings. It’s especially good to use in loud environments where a digital tuner would have trouble reading frequencies.
The DrumDial Precision Tuner is our suggestion if you don’t want to spend a lot of money on a drum tuner. We love this thing simply due to the fact of how straightforward it is. It had no learning curve, so we just placed it on our drums and started adjusting lug tensions.
We found the best use of a tuner like this to be in a loud environment. It measured pressure around the lugs, so it didn’t matter how much noise there was around us. This made us realize how valuable it would be when trying to tune drums on a noisy stage.
The downside of this tuner was that we needed to angle ourselves to be able to see the readings. With our snare drum and floor tom being below us, we couldn’t see the measurements when sitting upright at the throne.
Verdict: The DrumDial Precision Tuner is a good budget option that is incredibly useful to use in loud settings. It measures tensions around the lugs very accurately, and it feels very stable when you move it around the surface of each drum. While it’s a bit inconvenient to move around to read the tensions, we don’t see that as something to stop you from choosing this tuner.
One of the best and most intuitive mechanical drum tuners on the market.
A decently sized lug tension measurement tool that solves all the frustrations of other mechanical tuners with the way it’s designed. It’s highly accurate, and it even has a removable bumper to get accurate measurements in two different locations near each lug.
The Tama TW200 Tension Watch is brilliantly designed. We didn’t realize how intuitive this tuner was until we used it. The best feature it has is the fact that the measurement dial faces upward. This allows you to easily read all the tension measurements without having to move your head around as you do with other mechanical tuners.
We also loved the detachable bumper. When attached, the round structure made the tuner fit snugly wherever you placed it around the drumhead. Tama states that you’ll get more accurate tuning when using the bumper, but we got good results without it as well.
The obvious downside of this tuner is the high price tag. You should also consider that more affordable digital tuners offer more features. However, if you want a solid mechanical tuner, this is your best option.
Verdict: The Tama TW200 Tension Watch is a very well-designed mechanical drum tuner. It works a lot better for tuning drums than any of the other mechanical tuners on this list, simply due to the fact that the tension reader faces upward from the drumhead. While it’s quite expensive, we highly recommend getting this tuner if you want something reliable and easy to use.
An innovative tool designed to save time and effort when switching out drumheads.
This tuner allows you to tighten or loosen all the tension rods on a drum at the same time. Doing this keeps all the lug tensions even, and that makes tuning the drums very easy.
The Rapid Drumhead Replacement System isn’t a conventional drum tuner, so it got us very interested when we first saw it being advertised. The whole idea behind this tool is that it stops you from needing to track the tensions of each lug when replacing and tuning drumheads.
It took a while to initially set everything up with the keys and dials, but removing drumheads was a breeze after that. It was even easier to put drumheads on and tighten all the lugs. This tool takes all the guesswork out of getting even tensions, and it also stops you from needing any other sort of drum tuner.
It’s not the most attractive drum tuning tool out there, and we wouldn’t recommend taking it to a gig. However, we found it to be incredibly useful for replacing drumheads quickly. Once you put them on with even tensions, you can do fine tuning with a key, and the whole process will only take minutes.
Verdict: The Tru Tuner Rapid Drumhead Replacement System is an interesting tool that lets you adjust all the lugs at the same time. It’s an amazing option for drummers who don’t enjoy the process of trying to match the tension of each rod individually. It also speeds up the drumhead replacement process dramatically. Some drummers may find it a bit gimmicky, though.
A digital version of DrumDial’s popular Precision Tuner.
This version of the DrumDial gives you a digital number as a reading for the tension of the lug. It’s a good option for drummers who prefer reading digital numbers over analog scale readings. The bright screen also makes it easier to read in dark settings.
If you’re someone who prefers reading digital time as opposed to analog time, here’s a drum tuner that may appeal more to you. This DrumDial Tuner performs the exact same task as the mechanical one, but we found that it gives a more accurate tension reading with its wider array of numbers.
We found this to be the one digital tuner available that gives you a tension reading instead of a frequency reading, so you get the best of both worlds when it comes to knowing what tensions are good when tuning the drums.
We loved the LCD screen, as it was very easy to see the tension numbers in dark environments. We think this would be incredibly useful when tuning your drums on a low-lit stage, whereas other tension reading tuners don’t have bright screens as they’re fully mechanical.
However, this tuner has the same downside as the original DrumDial where you need to angle yourself to read the numbers properly.
Verdict: The DrumDial Digital Precision Tuner is an interesting digital version of a tuner that reads lug tensions. It’s a great option for drummers who like the idea of a mechanical tuner but want an easier way of reading the numbers that they measure. The bright orange screen also makes it a great tool for tuning your drums on dark stages. Keep in mind that you won’t like this tuner if you don’t like how standard mechanical tuners are so upright.
Another reliable mechanical drum tuner with immaculate build quality.
Tama’s more affordable take on a mechanical drum tuner. This one is a lot simpler in its design than the TW200, having more of a traditional build. It’s surprisingly heavy-duty.
The TW100 is another straightforward mechanical tuner that is very easy to use. It works similarly to the TW100, but it has the traditional design instead of the intuitive one from that model. While it’s a bit of a downgrade, we still found this tuner to be quite appealing.
The biggest surprise to us was how heavy it was. It had a lot of weight to it, and that made us feel as though it was very durable. It’s the type of drum tuner that you won’t worry about if you drop it.
We also found the readings to be quite quick and responsive. However, we realized that you need to pick the tuner up off the head before placing it at a different lug. If you slide it across, the reading won’t be accurate. Keep that in mind if you decide to get this one.
Verdict: The Tama TW100 Tension Watch is Tama’s more affordable option in the Tension Watch line. It’s a good option to consider if you want something heavy that feels as though it will last decades of good use. It’s still relatively expensive compared to other mechanical tuners, though. So, you’re paying more for durability.
The most portable and lightweight drum tuner on the market.
A compact version of the popular Tune-Bot Studio tuner. This one also reads the pitches near each lug to allow you to match them. It’s ideal for gigging drummers, as it can easily fit in any backpack or stick bag.
Our final suggestion for this list is the most compact drum tuner that we know of. It’s a bit smaller than the Studio version of the Tune-Bot, making it a better option for gigging. We didn’t find the size to be that different. However, we could easily fit the Gig tuner in our pockets.
It clipped onto the rims of each drum very easily, and we found the pitch measuring system to work very well. Unfortunately, this tuner doesn’t allow you to save pitch settings like the larger one, but that’s a feature worth missing, considering that you’ll save a bit of cash by getting this one.
This tuner only has one large button that filters through the frequency and note functions, making the interface very simple to understand.
Overall, we thought it was a good alternative option to the Tune-Bot Studio, especially for drummers who want to save a bit of money.
Verdict: The Overtone Labs Tune-Bot Gig is an excellent compact drum tuner that you can easily fit in your pocket. It’s a great option for gigging drummers who don’t want a tool that takes up a lot of space in their stick bag. Just note that it doesn’t offer as much as what the Tune-Bot Studio tuner offers, but it does cost a bit less.
How to Choose the Best Drum Tuner
Understand How Drum Tuners Work
Before deciding to get a drum tuner, you should know exactly how they work. Many people think that they measure the tones of drums in the same way guitar tuners do. That’s not the case, as they’re designed to measure tensions around the drumheads.
The tension near each lug needs to be similar for a drum to be in tune. So, drum tuners give you a reading so that you can match it around the drum.
Most drummers don’t measure their drums according to tones and scales, so conventional tuners won’t work for the purpose of making your drums sound good. They can, but you’d need to ensure that all the lug tensions are the same first. Using a drum tuner is the easiest way of getting there.
Digital vs Mechanical Drum Tuners
There are two types of drum tuners – digital and mechanical. Mechanical tuners typically have a pointy rod that touches the drumhead and then gives a tension reading. The benefit of mechanical tuners is that they’re usuallymore accurate than digital tuners. They also don’t require batteries to work.
Digital tuners give you a digital reading of the pitch near each lug, and they have the added benefit of electronics. One of the best things about digital tuners is that you can store tuning settings on most of them, allowing you to tune your drums a lot faster when moving around. Digital tuners are also more portable in most cases.
If possible, we suggest you get both. The benefits of each tuner type are too good not to have.
You should take size into consideration if you plan on using a tuner at gigs. As gigging drummers, our goal is to make lugging gear around easy, and a large drum tuner won’t help in that area.
The smaller drum tuners can be placed in the pockets of stick bags, which is incredibly ideal. Larger drum tuners will need to be placed in a backpack, and they could get damaged if they’re not held securely.
Thankfully, drum tuner brands create tuners especially designed for gigging drummers. If you want a small tuner, those are the ones you should choose from.
We’ve found that larger tuners can be more accurate in their readings. So, if you just need a tuner for your home practice space, we suggest getting a larger one for the best results.
Every now and then, you’ll come across a brand that creates a tuner completely different from the rest. Tru Tuner is a good example of an interesting brand that does this. We think Tru Tuner’s products are fantastic, but there are a few other brands that create things that are pure novelty.
When thinking about buying an innovative tuner, just think whether it’s worth the extra money compared to a standard mechanical tuner. That extra money could be spent elsewhere.
Drum tuners are incredibly valuable when you consider how much they’ll help you get a good drum tone. You could use a tuner to make a $300 drum set sound amazing, whereas you may struggle to get a good tone from a $1000 drum set without a tuner.
So, don’t be afraid to invest a bit of cash into a high-quality drum tuner. You’ll thank yourself for it when your drums sound good.
With that being said, most drum tuners do the same job. You’ll just be spending more on certain tuners as they have more features and better build quality.
Final Thoughts on the Best Drum Tuners
There aren’t many tuners available for drums, so making a decision on which one to get is actually quite easy. To recap on our picks, our Top Pick is the Overtone Labs Tune-Bot Studio. Our Budget Option is the DrumDial Precision Tuner. Our Editor’s Choice is the Tama TW200 Tension Watch.
Any one of those drum tuners will serve you very well. However, just remember that drum tuners are tools that help you on the path to getting good drum tones. You still need to use your ears to fine-tune all the drums to really dial in some amazing sounds.