What Key are the Drum Sets in?

It occurred to me the other day that no where on the BB display does it say what key the patterns are in. Is this information in the software? I’m thinking the sound and tone of percussion is more important than it’s actual tuning, but I’m betting someone made a conscious decision to record the samples in A, or E. Just curious.

:? Either a stupid question or nobody knows the answer. Anyone, anyone, Bueller?

No I don’t think this is a stupid question.

Simply put,

  • I am not aware of the answer,
  • I have no idea what is the usual key that drums are usually tuned in
  • I have never seen how a drum set is tuned (though Goran’s video shed some light to me on that),
  • it simply doesn’t make any sense to me - what if I change the tone of my song from the key of A to the key of C, will that mean my (imaginary) drummer will have to retune his whole drum set?
  • I would actually like to have an answer myself to learn something new and interesting!

In my somewhat limited experience, modern drums are usually tuned to fit the resonant quality of a cornerstone drum – often a “favorite” tom – and the rest are tuned to be full- or semi- tones above or below that. I am also aware that some drum aficionados tune drums to a relative tension based on the diameter and the depth of the shells.

As far as I am aware, tuning to a key went out of fashion in the '80s, when drummers began removing the bottom skin of their toms, so that the fundamental tone of any tom was “THWACK!!!” thus making tuning to a pitch a much less important part of their sound.

Been wrong before, but that’s what I THINK

Your mileage may vary.


I am a drummer turned guitarist (But still play drums). Drums don’t tune to a key like other musical instruments. When tuning a kit, it is usually involving making sure the toms are tuned in descending pitches, and then most importantly tuning involves making sure the head resonates correctly and also is consistent all around the lugs. You can tune a kit higher or lower but its just in relation to itself.