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chorizo

Getting Key from drums

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chorizo    0

Bit of a strange question but i reckon i can sometimes get the key of a song, or narrow it down often to two possible keys from a drum intro (professionally recorded songs with enough of an intro. that is). My wife thinks i'm talking rubbish and that I must be hearing the bass too. Can i get any backup here?

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Dewy    0

I'm going to have to agree with your wife on this one...

Drums are percussive... not musical. There is no musical note to drums... when they are "tuned" its just a reference to tension of the head and balancing out the overall drum set.

If there was some musical "Key" to drums... they would have to change drum sets when we changed songs.

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Mike8307    0

Is it possible that you know the upcoming song just from drum intro. Upon hearing the intro your mind subconsciously hears the key of the song you already know.

Otherwise I'd have to agree with your wife and Dewy on this.

Michael

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Fretsource    3

On the face of it, I'd have to agree with your wife and Dewy and Mike. I can't think of any reason why hearing the drums should trigger the correct pitch in your mind (unless maybe you have some degree of perfect pitch and the drums trigger your memory of the song, as Mike suggested)

But whatever theories we come up with to explain why it can't be done, if you can actually do it then all our theories are useless.

Test yourself some more and let us know.

By the way, as you're from London, DON'T use the drum intro to Eastenders theme tune as a test. I believe those are electronically processed with a bit of bass tone added, which would let you pitch the tune correctly,(as your wife suspected).

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chorizo    0

LoL Eastenders - I wish i could say i don't know that tune but unfortunately it is deeply etched into my brain, and I hate to say that I often find myself joining in on the guitar too :brickwall: .

Thanks for your honest opinions (you guys don't take any prisoners do you! :hammers: ).

So I would score that:

WIFE 3 - ME 0.25 (thanks Fret! I like the way you think :winkthumb:)

But despite Dewys seemingly watertight argument about having to change drumsets to play songs in different keys which left me feeling somewhat deflated, i intend to test my theory further. I know that some of the tracks that i was playing over were electronic and other were not so in order do a fair test.

Does anyone know of any good long drum intros or drum sections which are

a) not from an electronic source

B) studio recordings as opposed to live versions

c) not Led Zepplin - too familiar (to test Michael's and Fret's theory of subconcious key familiarity :dunno: )

d) not just tapping a high hat! - a range of different sounds would be better

The only possible one I can think of right now (its getting late) is Just Go Ahead Now by the Spin Doctors - :isaynothing:. I will play just the drum part over and over on A-B repeat and try to see what i can pick out (if anything at all) and report back with my findings. Just humour(humor) me OK!

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Fretsource    3

Ok - but you must be sure not to hear the music after the drum intro on the same day that you do the test. It has to be next day so that you wake up with no memory of the actual pitch still in your mind.

I mean, play the whole song as often as you like today but tomorrow, isolate the drums and listen to only them - then try to guess the correct pitch of the music that follows. You've still got a 1 in 12 chance, of getting it right by guessing alone so you'll need at least 2 or 3 more songs to impress the wife.:D

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solidwalnut    5
Bit of a strange question but i reckon i can sometimes get the key of a song, or narrow it down often to two possible keys from a drum intro (professionally recorded songs with enough of an intro. that is). My wife thinks i'm talking rubbish and that I must be hearing the bass too. Can i get any backup here?

Well, it's certainly a tough thing to do, but I think it can be done.

A drummer that I work with in the studio always (well, probably 75% of the time and depending on the song) tunes his snare to either the root note or the 5th of the key of the song. If it's not the root or the 5th, it's a deliberate pitch within the key. First time I ever saw that one...but I think it can make a difference.

The problem is that there's no guarantee that the drummer of the song you're listening to went to that kind of extreme in the studio. But if you're familiar with a song, it's very possible. The other thing is that it would be a fairly hard thing to hear I would think. It's still going to be a suggestive thing, 'cause like Dewy says, the drums are a percussive thing...

Steve

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Dewy    0

A test tune could be Van Halen's Pretty Woman, the intro is often called "Intruder". It starts out with just Kick, hi-hat and snare, followed by a synth line. .opening note is an Eb progressing to an A.

Van Halen also plays with an Eb tuning, so the tune we hear recorded will be lower pitched than our efforts to reproduce it at standard tuning. Time and time again we bounced back and forth from recording to band mates trying the tune at standard, with no noticeable effect on the drums of the tune... yet a noticeable disorientation for the strings. Vocals seem to adjust very quickly. (to my ear)

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chorizo    0

Thanks Dewy. I will have a listen to that and try it out over the weekend.

The reason i got onto the subject in the first place was from hearing a band practicing and thinking the drums sound particularly awful. Not only did they sound like they were not "tuned" to work together (almost as if the "intervals" in changing between the types of drum were all wrong), they also sounded out of tune with music the rest of the band was playing and I was wondering why because they are percussive after all, and wondered why other drum sounded so right or "in tune".

For me the effect was more noticable with the toms and Bass although to snare can definitely sound "off" too. I then just assumed that drums were tuned somehow (as you can tell i know nothing about drum kit).

I will try to find an example of where toms seem to me to be "in tune" with the song. Perhaps you cannot necessarily find the key from their sound alone but maybe some idea of the notes contained in the key whether it be the root, fifth or whatever as Steve suggested (if i'm understanding correctly).

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Dewy    0

Here's some interesting reading...

http://www.drummingweb.com/tuning.htm

And the most telling statement I see in the article is

" The pitch of the head will depend on the pitch of the shell, the pitch of the opposing head, the relative pitches of the other drums in your kit, and your taste (the acoustics of the room you are playing in usually doesn't affect pitch - it affects tone)."

All over the thread they talk about different techniques and intervals... but no where do they discussing using a reference pitch.

And same as you, I have noticed bands with drums "out of tune" but never in reference to the band... just to itself.

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Tekker    1

Very intersting theory.

As Fretsource mentioned, there's no way to tell what kind of extent they went to when tuning the drums in the studio. You can tune drums to the key of the song, but unless you hear the drums in context you'll have no way of knowing whether they did that or not just based off the drum intro.

I think most of the time the drums are tuned relative to each other and not necessarily to a specific key though. There are many methods to finding the "sweet spot" in terms of tuning the drum to sound its best which depends on the size and type of shell, drum heads, etc. So the chances of the drums sweat spot matching a specific key are probably not to likely and you wouldn't want to tune the drums to pitches where they don't sound their best. DW drums actually come with notes printed on the inside of the shell that specify the resonant frequency of the shell.

So while it may be possible, the odds of picking the key for any random song just based off the drums are probably not too good. ;)

-tkr

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DemoEtc    0

I don't know about getting a starting note or key from a drum intro, but I hear pitches in certain drum parts; that's why you can sometimes sing along with a drum roll or part. I think it's the fundamental I'm hearing.

But as far as getting the key - maybe just on that one song because that particular drummer had his kit tuned that certain way. Like with tympani, you can hear pitches. Another drum kit might throw you off though.

Found this article on wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drum_set_tuning#Drum_set_tuning_intervals

Where, toward the bottom, it talks about drummers tuning in intervals; maybe not specific pitches you could check with a tuner, but relative intervals that suit their ear and make the drum heads neither too loose nor too tight. And the idea of intervals would assume some way of differentiating pitches, which would also hint that there are basic pitches/frequencies being brought into the equation.

So over all, I think it's very possible to get a starting note from a drum intro, all conditions being right. :)

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chorizo    0

Thanks Demo. I think we're getting close to the answer that is; it all depends.

(my terminology might be all wrong but hopefully you get the jist)

The drums may be set up at certain preferred pitch intervals and sometimes it happens to be that these pitch frequencies relate to the notes/key more and other times less so, but in general it wouldn't be a reliable way to gain clues/information about the key or notes.

however

That also leads me to another question: How much will the pitches/frequencies chosen by the drummer's setup influence (either subconsciously or not) the other members of the band in choosing how to play? and in what keys I think it has a larger effect than i first thought - possibly leading to the relationship between all instruments being closer. There are to many songs where i think the relationship can't just be a lucky accident.

(I will still try my test with intros this weekend anyway. If I go quiet after that you know what that means).

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chorizo    0

Update:

Tried a few intros to songs this with drum intos weekend with A-B repeat funtion on my player.

Songs never heard before:

Painkiller - Judas Priest - couldn't tell what key even when the intro finished

Intruder - Van Halen - Not enough to go by before other instruments joined in.

The The Rover - Led Zeppelin - on key first attempt. Repeated again next day.

Songs I'd heard before

Two Princes - Spin Doctors - could'nt get key but some notes sounded more right than others.

Couldn't find any others to try out but after a few attempts i think some songs have enough information in the drum parts to give you clues to the notes others don't. (I don't think my wife will be impressed :nono: ).

It was easier to spot the notes which didn't fit in with the drum sounds and rule them out. Why don't you try A-B repeat with first 4 secs of The The Rover - Led Zeppelin and see if it works for you?

:escape:

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Stratrat    0

I asked a friend of mine about it tonight - he's been a drummer for over 30 years (formally taught) and has played in several bands. He said that he has never tuned his drums to any certain note/pitch/interval - he just tunes them to get the sound he likes. In his opinion it would be pretty near impossible to be able to figure out the key from drums alone.

His take on it is that percussion doesn't have a "key", and you're pretty limited in how much tuning you can do. He confirmed what Tekker and Dewy said above - tuning drums has to do with the composition of the shell, the size of the drums and the type of drum head.

Just one more opinion for the thread........ :)

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chorizo    0

Thanks Strat, you opinions are all welcome! :winkthumb:

I've changed my mind about finding the key, I don't think there's enough information there, to do it with any consistency.

But I still think (in certain circumstances in certain tracks), just listening to the drum parts you can get clues to some of the possible notes and some not playable notes by trial and error (and occasionally get the key with a bit of luck) - he says trying to dig himself out...:D

Listen to Led Zepp in the car today. If you listen to the tom(?) sound which starts at around 30sec into "Houses of the Holy", surely it is related to the notes being played at the time (it just fits in too well or is that just a concidence?), this together with the other sounds would give you clues to the "not playable" notes and narrow down the possibilities of playable notes. Or am i hugely deluded? Help!

I won't keep on about this coz i don't want sound to be repetitive or seems like I'm not listening to reason. So i think i'll just say try it for yourself (if you're bored) and see if you can discount notes which sound least playable. You might find it works (occasionally). Good luck!

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Dewy    0

I think its a very neat concept, to add drums to a song that were "tuned" to the song... would certainly have its place in a band looking for a unique sound.

As well, some songs like Come to Papa have a Drum added (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timpani) that is tuned to the note being hit. So your not entirely wrong on the concept drums being tuned to pitches... but its unlikely that your going to find many songs out of the field of popular music that conform to your theory.

I would like to say... I learned a lot from researching this question... so it certainly proves there are no stupid questions.

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Mike8307    0

After giving this more thought.. the whole idea of tuning drums isn't too far fetched. After all they are percussion instruments, so is a xylophone or glochenspiel. People consider the piano a percussion instrument as it is the hammer that hits the string. Lets not forget those wonderful steel drum bands that tell you right off that you are in the Caribean

Here's a link to a tuned Gong set

http://www.percussionsource.com/ProductDetails.aspx?id=257&prodid=200843

So, maybe having a drum set tuned to a particular pitch and intervals isn't too wild of an idea. After all, its just physics of a vibrating surface, isn't it?

Michael

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Dewy    0

"Percussion instruments are sometimes classified as being "pitched" or "unpitched." While valid, this classification is widely seen as inadequate. " http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Percussion

So while you are right... some percussion instruments are tuned to pitch, others are not... and are tuned to intervals according to their shell or frame.

In this article they also refer to dulcimers as a "percussion" instrument... so all of that train of thought doesn't apply here to the concept of "tuning" a basic drum kit to match the key of a song.

Some of it does...

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chorizo    0

"I would like to say... I learned a lot from researching this question... so it certainly proves there are no stupid questions."

Glad somebody did! :laughingg:

I'm glad to have somewhere where I can ask the strange questions floating around in the vast emptiness of my mind :huh: and have clever people with different backgrounds respond and attempt to make sense of them.

I will go on my way now, trying to pick out notes that are probably not even there...

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Kirk Lorange    128

Hi, chorizo.

Is it possible that you're just remembering the key? I know I can listen to big band albums my dad used to play day in and day out, and I know the key of the next tune when one is fading out. I just put it down to memory. I think you're hearing the drum intro, and you're remembering what comes next, right down to the key.

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Fretsource    3
Hi, chorizo.

Is it possible that you're just remembering the key? I know I can listen to big band albums my dad used to play day in and day out, and I know the key of the next tune when one is fading out. I just put it down to memory. I think you're hearing the drum intro, and you're remembering what comes next, right down to the key.

I don't think so, Kirk. I had exactly the same experience with my dad's 'reel to reel' tapes. I think what's happening there is that we are anticipating the next song just like it's part of the same song and we remember the key change.

It's relative pitch and the key of the first song lets us anticipate the key of the next - but with just pitchless drums to go on, it's harder to see how that can happen.

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chorizo    0

Kirk, I know exactly what you’re describing and I’m sure it is coming into play sometimes and that my memory is taking over (that's why i didn't even bother trying "Walk This Way" – Run DMC/Aerosmith) cos i knew i would get it straight away lol.

But i have been able to land on the key for songs i have NEVER heard before just from the drums sounds in the intro - on continuous repeating loop of the first few seconds (such as The Rover - Led Zeppelin) i won't get it immediately but only after discounting notes which don't feel right, once I’ve discounted a note or two I try to work out where the semitones in the scale are more likely to be from the "clues" in the drum sound, this will lead me either to the root or to the 4th (I hope that makes sense), so sometimes I end up on the 4th note instead of the root.

I realise this shouldn’t work because bands change keys without having to change drum kits etc...etc. I really don't know, maybe a particular drum setup will lend itself to a range of keys and not so well to other keys while another setup will work with any key, or maybe its all a figment of my imagination. Who knows? :dunno:

If you get a chance why don’t you give it a go for the intro for the song I mentioned because the drums (like other Led Zeppelin drum parts) seem to somehow more expressive or contain more information (more scientific if you don’t know the song beforehand of course). Get somebody else to isolate the drum intro and get a loop of it for you so you don’t hear any notes and give it a whirl. See if you can discount less likely notes and narrow down on either the key or a range of more suitable keys. (It may not be possible to get the key but just to discount some notes shows there might be something in it).

Kirk, if you try this and you say it absolutely can’t be done then I will (after some initial sobbing/sulking) stop spouting my crazy theory and keep it all to myself (and you will be saving lots of unfortunate people having to hear my wild theory again and again …...add nauseum in the future). On the other hand if you agree that there maybe something in it, well I won’t stop going on about it for ages. Ciao!

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Stratrat    0
....I realise this shouldn’t work because bands change keys without having to change drum kits etc...etc. I really don't know, maybe a particular drum setup will lend itself to a range of keys and not so well to other keys while another setup will work with any key, or maybe its all a figment of my imagination. Who knows? :dunno:....

That topic was part of my discussion with my drummer friend. He made the point that bands do songs in various keys and the drummer doesn't stop in between songs to tune his drums to match those keys, so the premise would only work for as many songs as they did in a given key...as soon as they performed a song in a different key, the premise would be invalid. In a studio environment I could see where they would have plenty of time to do it (if they were so inclined), but they'd certainly have a hard time replicating it in a live performance.

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