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 My Review of the tune-bot
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Rudi
Excellent Contributer

United Kingdom
278 Posts

Posted - 19/05/2012 :  10:15:42  Show Profile  Visit Rudi's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Tune-bot

I received my tune-bot earlier this week. Since then I have had a few days to play with it. These are my thoughts and experience.

What is it?

Tune-bot is a new tuner designed specifically for drums. It lets you measure the frequency at which your drums are tuned to.

If you are interested I have included an overview of the particular challenges of drum tuning at the end of my review.

Tune-bot

Tune-bot is a new arrival on the scene. Its main aim is to provide a user friendly yet precise way to measure the frequency or pitch of your drums. It takes the form of a small hardware gadget that clips onto your drums and works out the main frequency of a drum whilst rejecting distracting overtones. If offers several ways to achieve this. You can tune by frequency (e.g 226Hz) or musical note (e.g G3). As well as displaying the absolute frequency or note, it can also operate in difference mode where you store a pitch you like and the display then indicates whether the note you hit is higher or lower than the pitch you chose and by how much. Finally, it also provides a filter mode that lets you ignore overtones that are outside the current range of notes. This is particularly useful to filter out variations caused by uneven lug tensions, hitting the drum head in a different place, or with a different strength.

Physical description

The tune-bot takes the form of small plastic case, with a display at the front, a few buttons, a clip at the back, an LED and a built-in microphone. It is well made, feels strong, and is light. The package comes with a small paper leaflet to get you started, but a version of the manual and a comprehensive tuning table are also available on the manufacturer's website: http://www.tune-bot.com

The unit is powered by two aaa batteries. Simply rotate the clip on the back of the unit 90 degrees. This reveals a small battery compartment. Open it, insert the batteries and you are nearly ready to go.

Using the tune-bot

Clip the tune-bot between any two lugs on the hoop of your drum, it doesn't matter which one. For best results it is probably a good idea to remove the drum from the drum kit and rest it on a soft surface to mute the bottom head. You can tune them in situ, but the other head might make it harder to pick-up the correct pitch (more of this later). Press the Power button and the display will switch on. All the elements of the display are set to 0 by default. Hit the drum about one inch from the lug you want to tune. The small LED will lit red to let you know it has registered the hit, and the display will show the frequency that lug is tuned to. You can switch between frequency and note by pressing the Note button. The current mode is displayed on the screen. When in note mode, a small needle will appear to show you how sharp of flat relative to the current note the pitch is.

Difference mode

You can also use a difference mode. When you find a pitch you like, press the diff button and it will be displayed above the main frequency display and used as a reference. The display will now display a + or - figure to show how flat or sharp the current pitch is compared to the reference one. This is a good way to fine tune your drum and makes it easy to bring all the lugs to the same pitch.

Continue tuning all the lugs until they are all at the desired tuning. You should follow the usual tuning steps all drum tuning involves. Tune using the star pattern, as tuning one lug affects the one opposite. Use small increments. Tune up rather than tune down. Hit the drum evenly and consistently in the same place.

Repeat for the other head. As mentioned earlier, the tune-bot manual and website contain a list of values to get your started.I found them to be really helpful starting point, giving me a clear idea of how to achieve certain intervals for a given drum size and number of drums. It also contains guidelines for useful intervals and tunings between the top and bottom heads. It is a very useful guide, and is recommended, even if you don't have a tune-bot.

Trouble shooting

As mentioned previously, there are times when the lug pitch can be hard to read, owing to how in tune the head is, how hard it is hit and where it is struck, or if the drum was left on the stand and the other head resonates. To help you out, you can use filter mode. Find a lug to use as a reference, and press the filter button. What this will do is to ignore stray overtones and readings.

If you still have a problem with stray readings, you can either reposition the tune-bot, or place your finger lightly in the centre of the drum head to mute it slightly, or gently mute the lug at 90 degrees to the one giving the stray readings.

Saving tunings

Finally, once you have found your ideal tuning, you can store the values in slots 1-9 of the tune-bot. This lets you select a kit number, the drum (bass, snare, toms) the top, bottom or open tuning. These can be recalled when tuning your drum again. Slot 0 is reserved for the default mode when you turn the tune-bot on.

Conclusion

I used the tune-bot for a week and these are my findings. A great tool, which as well as helping me to tune my drums really well, also gave me a much greater understanding of the mechanics of drum tuning. I always had problems achieving a nice feel at both the edges of the drums and at the centre. This has helped me to achieve the right balance (I was tuning my resonant head too low). It has also helped me to achieve consistent and musical intervals between my toms, and experiment with pitch-bend and attack, something I always found hard to achieve before. It is also a great tool for retuning your toms to avoid sympathetic buzz snare. I have also found that by using the recommended settings I no longer need to use tape or moongel (unless I want a very dead sound).

I have also found the ideal spots for each of my three snares, and I am looking forward to trying the other suggestions from the manual and websites. I now feel much freer to play with different intervals and tensions, knowing I can go back to the ones I like at any time. For fun I also tried to get my 12" high tom top and bottom heads in near-perfect tune with each other - the purity and length of the tone was quite a revelation, they simply sang and went on and on. Not so practical for playing fills but a satisfying experiment.

Normal tuning practices still apply - start at finger tight, sit and stretch new heads, tune lugs in a star pattern, use small increments, but having the actual frequency displayed is a real help. It has also helped me to achieve certain specific note tunings for the overall pitch of the drums, knowing that if I tune top lugs a X and bottom lugs at Y, I'll get an overall pitch of Z for the drum.

One gratifying thing is that when I checked my main snare drum the first time I used the tune-bot, I found it to be perfectly tuned at each lug (269hz).

As mentioned earlier you can use the tune-bot whilst your drums are mounted, but your mileage may vary from mine.

Any downsides? Well, it is quite expensive, but it is quite unique and new technology, especially in such a compact form. As the technology develops no doubt prices will go lower. Many drummers also are perfectly happy with their tuning skills and will not feel the need for this. To me, as well as a tuning aid, it has also opened the portal to experimenting with interval and top and bottom head tuning. Simply hearing what a perfectly tuned head sounds like is a great way to develop your ear.

I have also found that occasionally there are times when the pitch reading is way off because of overtones, and it can take a little experimentation to get a proper reading. Once again read the manual and use filter mode and selective muting.

For me it works and is proof that a good drum is a well-tuned drum.

Rudi

Pros
Compact and accurate
Simple to use
Repeatable tunings
Nice, clear display
Well written manual
Comprehensive tuning table
Useful tuning modes
Store reference tunings
No need to move the tune-bot round
Auto switch-off to save battery

Cons
Price
Occasional stray readings



And now a more detailed look into the physics of tuning drums.

Tuning drums

Tuners have been around for a long time. Virtually all of them are designed for instruments that produce a clear, identifiable musical pitch. Drums however are a more complicated matter. Unlike a guitar player who has only to contend with six strings, all tuned to specific notes, drummers have far more factors to take into account.

Because drums generate so many overtones, it can be hard for ordinary tuners, or indeed the human ear to pick out a dominant pitch.

Factors that affect tuning

By their very nature of physics of drum head vibrations are complex. You are looking at a circular membrane stretched over a cylinder. It is then tensioned by several lugs arranged around its periphery. To complicate things even more most drums possess another head on the other end of the drum, creating an even more complex relationship. If you look at a single head and ignore the drums shells for a moment, all the following factors come into play when producing a sound: diameter, thickness, stiffness, material, number of plys, tension, frequency and evenness of tuning. This results in a very complex sound generation. Add a second head and you greatly multiply the number of factors at play.

If you look at the loudness spectrum a drum being hit, you'll find that the there is a peak during the attack followed by a decay period until the heads stop vibrating. If you look at the frequency spectrum, you will see several peaks and a lot lot of inter-modulation taking place during the decay phase. This shows pitch, harmonic content and overtones shifting throughout the entire decay of the drum hit.

Pitch

Concentrating on the pitch element, you will also discover that the pitch a the lugs is higher than that at the centre of the drum head (the ratio is based on the diameter of the drum, and how it is tensioned). Add a second head and the overall pitch of the drum (the sound you hear when striking the drum at its centre)will be the result of interplay between the pitches of the top and bottom heads. This is particularly apparent when the two heads are tuned to different intervals.

All the above results in a near infinite number of ways to tune your drums, although in practice drums have a sweet spot and a range of pitches at which they sound at their best.

Intervals

Drums also need to be tuned to complement each other. This is down to personal preference. Once again there are specific intervals that sound better than others. This adds another layer of complexity.

Finally, you also tune drums for pitch bend, response and decay. This is normally achieved by tuning the top and bottom heads at specific intervals and tensions to achieve the desired effect.

With so many factors it would seenm impossible to tune (or tension) drums... but all drummers do it on a regular basis. Many drummers, including myself, develop some form of strategy. Some go purely by tension, some by number of turns on each lugs, some use specific pitches or intervals, other rely on tension and head response.

Unless you possess an excellent set of ears, good pitch recognition, or plenty of experience, tuning drums can be a very fraught, not to mention a hit and miss affair. It can also be very time consuming and frustrating. If you want to experiment with alternate tunings it can take even longer. Personally I tend to stick to a set of tried and tested tuning method which achieve pleasing or safe results, and are easily repeatable.

Other tuning aids for the drummer

Over time a few tuning aids have been developed to ease the drummer's life. These include tensioning tools, such as drum dials, torque keys, and even pneumatic rings. They are all used to achieve equalised tuning, i.e when the head is in tune with itself, and also for repeatability so that you can make a note of a setting you like and return to it when needed. There is even a tuner that makes the drums resonate to work out which frequencies they are at. Some people use ordinary tuners, but I found these to be too sensitive to overtones, changes in pitch as the drum decays which makes it hard to work out what the main pitch of my drums are.



<My Tiki snare - built on the two days course>

Steevo114
Advanced Contributer

United Kingdom
367 Posts

Posted - 19/05/2012 :  10:35:16  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Thanks for posting that Rudi'm going to put one of these on my (non urgent but fun) list to buy.

I suppose what it won't do though is tell you how to compensate when you set up in a room that instantly kills say, your snare tone, and you need to mess with the tuning to get it singing again.
That said, I can't always achieve that to my satisfaction anyway (last week!!GRRR)

thanks again.

Perception is all
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Rudi
Excellent Contributer

United Kingdom
278 Posts

Posted - 19/05/2012 :  10:44:50  Show Profile  Visit Rudi's Homepage  Reply with Quote
No, it's not magic, if the room kills the tuning, then it you still have to experiment to find the "right" tuning for that that space's sweet psot. Having said that the website gives you a list of suggested tunings especially for the toms for max resonance, high, medium and low resonance, and also suggested settings for the snare, but the result will depend on how the room nodes resonate http://www.tune-bot.com/tuningguide.html
However once you find a good setting it should help to get back to it.

Thanks,

Rudi

<My Tiki snare - built on the two days course>
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Prog
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United Kingdom
21638 Posts

Posted - 19/05/2012 :  10:47:58  Show Profile  Visit Prog's Homepage  Reply with Quote
100 is a lot of money. I think I'll stick to using my ears.
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Rudi
Excellent Contributer

United Kingdom
278 Posts

Posted - 19/05/2012 :  11:02:40  Show Profile  Visit Rudi's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Agreed, and drummers have have tuned for centuries without using one :)
I looked at it on the same way as buying a new snare, or some stands or cymbals (except it's very small and made of plastic), something to be weighed-out and the cost and benefit taken into account.


Rudi

<My Tiki snare - built on the two days course>
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OriginalAnimal
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United Kingdom
19362 Posts

Posted - 19/05/2012 :  11:34:38  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Prog

100 is a lot of money. I think I'll stick to using my ears.



I tried using my ears, but kept hitting my head instead of the drum's!!

I'll be tuning by hand

I have no time to practice, I'm gigging. Dr X..NOT a function band, but real musicians!! #17 of the 582 & 17 0f the 798 World Record Holders.
Jobeky, 2Box Drumit 5, Premier, Highwood/DM drums Paul Brook Snare, Matt Nolan cymbals, Silverstone Drum (seats) Thrones. Los Cabos drumsticks
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Rudi
Excellent Contributer

United Kingdom
278 Posts

Posted - 19/05/2012 :  12:38:05  Show Profile  Visit Rudi's Homepage  Reply with Quote

<My Tiki snare - built on the two days course>
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Bewdy
Advanced Contributer

United Kingdom
970 Posts

Posted - 19/05/2012 :  14:21:20  Show Profile  Visit Bewdy's Homepage  Reply with Quote
I've been tuning drums for years now and it still feels like a completely black art to me. I have very good ears for picking out pitch but I still just get frustrated by the quality of the sounds from my drums. I'm constantly torn between buying a new drum kit and believing that perhaps I am not getting the very best out of my drums because of my tuning, particularly the toms (i've had the same yamaha kit for a long time now), and because people are always going on about how the head choice and tuning has so much more to contribute to the sound of a drum than say the shell, I'm starting to doubt my skills as a tuner, it can't be that hard to make a drum 'sing' surely?

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thebeaver
Advanced Contributer

United Kingdom
2150 Posts

Posted - 19/05/2012 :  15:17:57  Show Profile  Visit thebeaver's Homepage  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Rudi

Agreed, and drummers have have tuned for centuries without using one :)



I know you were being light hearted there but thats such a bullshiayte statement. How would anything ever progress with that basis?

"Na don't waste your time inventing the areoplane, we've managed to get from country to country by boat just fine for years".

"Cars? Na dont need em, I've been able to walk places all my life!"

If it's gonna make it faster, easier and more accessable to understand for some people it HAS to be a good thing!

Great review btw, thanks for that!

Tunbridge Wells Music School
www.twmusicschool.com
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Rudi
Excellent Contributer

United Kingdom
278 Posts

Posted - 19/05/2012 :  15:44:54  Show Profile  Visit Rudi's Homepage  Reply with Quote
quote:

I know you were being light hearted there but thats such a bullshiayte statement. How would anything ever progress with that basis?



I am all for progress, which is why I bought one in the first place. But I am also aware that some people will be just as happy to tune by ear. To me it's analoguous to electronic tuners for guitars. Some people welcome them and some are quite happy to rely on their skills.

Rudi

<My Tiki snare - built on the two days course>
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Rudi
Excellent Contributer

United Kingdom
278 Posts

Posted - 19/05/2012 :  15:48:40  Show Profile  Visit Rudi's Homepage  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Bewdy

I've been tuning drums for years now and it still feels like a completely black art to me. I have very good ears for picking out pitch but I still just get frustrated by the quality of the sounds from my drums. I'm constantly torn between buying a new drum kit and believing that perhaps I am not getting the very best out of my drums because of my tuning, particularly the toms (i've had the same yamaha kit for a long time now), and because people are always going on about how the head choice and tuning has so much more to contribute to the sound of a drum than say the shell, I'm starting to doubt my skills as a tuner, it can't be that hard to make a drum 'sing' surely?



I've had a similar experience to you. I've got a fairly good ear, but felt that drum tuning was very much of a black art. I could get the drums in tune to themselves, and generally pick nice intervals between the toms etc. After my short time with this I now feel I have more of a handle on it.

Rudi

<My Tiki snare - built on the two days course>
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Rudi
Excellent Contributer

United Kingdom
278 Posts

Posted - 19/05/2012 :  15:49:42  Show Profile  Visit Rudi's Homepage  Reply with Quote
The reason I posted this review is because there's a dearth of info on the web as of yet, it's such a new product. I just wanted to share my personal experience and initial impressions. I know other people on this forum I've bought one as well, which helped me decide to go ahead. Hopefully people will post their experiences too.

Rudi

<My Tiki snare - built on the two days course>
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OriginalAnimal
Advanced Contributer

United Kingdom
19362 Posts

Posted - 19/05/2012 :  16:09:31  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Congrats on a really good review.

As said, I don't use tuners on drums, which is my choice, for tuned percussion timps etc, then I would use a tuner as I need to fit with the band, and there I can see the point, though a chromatic tuner works just as well with a vibration clip

I have no time to practice, I'm gigging. Dr X..NOT a function band, but real musicians!! #17 of the 582 & 17 0f the 798 World Record Holders.
Jobeky, 2Box Drumit 5, Premier, Highwood/DM drums Paul Brook Snare, Matt Nolan cymbals, Silverstone Drum (seats) Thrones. Los Cabos drumsticks
Re Cycling drums is the future.
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rytenuff
Advanced Contributer

United Kingdom
3651 Posts

Posted - 19/05/2012 :  17:59:13  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I imagine when electronic guitar tuners were first introduced they were very expensive. 100 say? They are now standard equipment and have thus become reasonably priced. If a drum tuner became standard equipment, the price would likewise decrease to an acceptable level to the point where one may even be included with every new kit, much like a drum key is now. Don't hold you breath just yet!
Price is the only drawback I see. I can tune a guitar by ear given an E to start with, I don't have perfect pitch, which would sound to the majority of people, "in tune". However, when measured against an electronic tuner, it would most probably be out by a smidgen.
That is to say, tuning by ear is fine, but don't expect to achieve perfection no matter how good you think you are.

Regards
George Mac

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rytenuff
Advanced Contributer

United Kingdom
3651 Posts

Posted - 19/05/2012 :  18:19:45  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
...no matter your opinion of drum tuners, this review must have taken some considerable time, thought and effort and was submitted in the interests of others. This is laudable and the intentions hopefully appreciated by all.

Regards
George Mac

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Rudi
Excellent Contributer

United Kingdom
278 Posts

Posted - 19/05/2012 :  18:41:57  Show Profile  Visit Rudi's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Thanks Ryteneuff. I think you hit the head on the nail with your comments.

Cheers,

Rudi

<My Tiki snare - built on the two days course>
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beezerk
Advanced Contributer

United Kingdom
29796 Posts

Posted - 19/05/2012 :  19:06:34  Show Profile  Visit beezerk's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Excellent review, well put together.

http://photobucket.com/albums/c41/beezerkdrums/

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christianmurphy
Advanced Contributer

United Kingdom
539 Posts

Posted - 19/05/2012 :  19:30:39  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Great review. Nice work.
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Drumheduk
Excellent Contributer

United Kingdom
292 Posts

Posted - 19/05/2012 :  20:10:15  Show Profile  Visit Drumheduk's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Massively helpful, thank you, better than you'd get in most mags! Now to save up.

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mike dolbear
Administrator

1910 Posts

Posted - 19/05/2012 :  20:44:00  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
We featured this back in January at the Namm show
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GiFO-J67_Bc&list=UUlBatoeq486yrf07dcJrnCw&index=107&feature=plcp
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Rudi
Excellent Contributer

United Kingdom
278 Posts

Posted - 19/05/2012 :  20:48:22  Show Profile  Visit Rudi's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Thanks, good video!

Rudi

<My Tiki snare - built on the two days course>
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blueasajewel
Very Active Contributer

Canada
110 Posts

Posted - 23/05/2012 :  23:06:37  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Excellent and thorough review -thanks for taking the time to carry it out and post it. I've been sitting on the sidelines waiting for a good user experienced feedback - I don't think I have particularly good tuning skills and it looks like this may be of help.

- Ravi
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CDen
New Contributer

United Kingdom
33 Posts

Posted - 25/05/2012 :  13:44:43  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Hi Rudi,

You should flag up your (rather good!) review with Mr Dolbear himself. I am sure there was a time when website and forum users had thier own reviews put up 'officially' on the main website (rather than in the forum buried amongst all other threads etc).

Might get you some more readers, and in turn help out a wider group of drummers considering the 'bot!

Just a thought...

And a-1, a-2, a-1,2 3.... Eh? Wot repeat section?
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thebeaver
Advanced Contributer

United Kingdom
2150 Posts

Posted - 25/05/2012 :  15:22:38  Show Profile  Visit thebeaver's Homepage  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by CDen

Hi Rudi,

You should flag up your (rather good!) review with Mr Dolbear himself.



I think he's already seen it... you know... seen as though he commented 3 posts above yours

Tunbridge Wells Music School
www.twmusicschool.com
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Gapwedge
Advanced Contributer

United Kingdom
1015 Posts

Posted - 05/06/2012 :  10:17:26  Show Profile  Visit Gapwedge's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Having thought I struggled with tuning, I bought one of these when I stumbled across Sam Ash's store in New York on Saturday. It was $99 plus tax, so worked out at about 70 and a decent saving on the uk price.

Having had a play with it, I think I might have been a bit harsh on myself and my tuning ability in that having checked the tuning of my Mapex m- birch toms, virtually all of them where tuned more or less to the suggested values in the TB pamphlet and all lugs were to within a couple of hz of each other. So some fine tuning, but nothing much wrong to start with.

What I am looking forward to trying it with is my DW toms to try and match the pitch to the note stamped on the shells. Having only got back yesterday I've only had time to try it on the 10" Tom which is stamped as an 'A' and when I got the heads to that 'A' the drum really did sing.

So, my verdict. A handy little tool, but to those who think that they need it to make up for their own lack of tuning ability, perhaps give yourself some credit, you're probably better at it than you think.

Hanging is too good for a man who makes puns. He should be drawn and quoted

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Rudi
Excellent Contributer

United Kingdom
278 Posts

Posted - 06/06/2012 :  09:01:10  Show Profile  Visit Rudi's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Thanks for sharing your experience. I too was pleased to find out that my snare drum batter was tuned pretty well - it's nice to get a confirmation. It's also made me more adventurous with my tuning.

<My Tiki snare - built on the two days course>
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thebeaver
Advanced Contributer

United Kingdom
2150 Posts

Posted - 06/06/2012 :  09:38:34  Show Profile  Visit thebeaver's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Gapwedge - any chance you can maybe film some before and after, before you make a start on those DW toms? I'm really interested to hear the difference it can make. This would be the best review I feel!

Tunbridge Wells Music School
www.twmusicschool.com
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thebeaver
Advanced Contributer

United Kingdom
2150 Posts

Posted - 07/06/2012 :  01:40:54  Show Profile  Visit thebeaver's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Gah, ok I couldnt hold out! I have to see what this puppy can do. Been thinking I could be getting more sound out of my drums with a bit more know how for a while now, I just gotta know! Ordered mine two mins ago!

Tunbridge Wells Music School
www.twmusicschool.com
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drumtuningworkshops
Advanced Contributer

United Kingdom
441 Posts

Posted - 07/06/2012 :  08:30:49  Show Profile  Visit drumtuningworkshops's Homepage  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Gapwedge



So, my verdict. A handy little tool, but to those who think that they need it to make up for their own lack of tuning ability, perhaps give yourself some credit, you're probably better at it than you think.



Totally agree!


Remo DrumTuning Helpdesks - 10-5pm @ Sheehans, Leicester UK 14/06/14 https://www.facebook.com/drum.tuningworkshops
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thebeaver
Advanced Contributer

United Kingdom
2150 Posts

Posted - 07/06/2012 :  10:29:03  Show Profile  Visit thebeaver's Homepage  Reply with Quote
They really should tell you they're out of stock BEFORE they take your money ...

Tunbridge Wells Music School
www.twmusicschool.com
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StormBlast
Advanced Contributer

United Kingdom
1555 Posts

Posted - 07/06/2012 :  12:27:49  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Bet this is good for drum techs, if you have pre-agreed tunings!
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scottser
Advanced Contributer

Ireland
361 Posts

Posted - 19/11/2013 :  17:43:34  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
i appreciate this thread is 18 months old but it's actually funny - i was at a music shop with the missis on saturday and walked by the tunebots with her and i ended up clearing my throat into my hand 'christmas..cough...tunebot..cough'
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Shaggi
Advanced Contributer

United Kingdom
1166 Posts

Posted - 20/11/2013 :  12:02:44  Show Profile  Visit Shaggi's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Great review Rudi, I didn't notice it first time around - cheers for that :-)

Shaggi.uk
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Rudi
Excellent Contributer

United Kingdom
278 Posts

Posted - 04/12/2013 :  21:20:46  Show Profile  Visit Rudi's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Thanks Shaggi, very glad you enjoyed it!
Thank you :-)

<My Tiki snare - built on the two days course>
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