Do you tune the pitch of your (digital) percussions?

I’m working on this track using sampled kick and snare, and I am wondering whether I should care bout checking whether their pitch is tuned to the key of the track. Do you regularly pitch your percussion instruments or samples?

Many traditional percussion instruments are used without being concerned about its pitch. If you got a kick or a cowbell, they have their natural pitch and they are not expected to be tuned for each song.

Now, in the context of a DAW all electronic and sampled instruments have the possibility of being tuned to specific pitches and it is quite simple to do so. I do see the point of pitching them when you want a specific note, but do you pitch them “only” to be inm tune with the song key?

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I will often tune toms or cymbal samples to get them to fit better with my track, but I do it by ear rather than trying to pick a specific pitch. Mostly I transpose the toms/cymbals/snare down to given them a darker sound, which fits my music better.

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I tend to make a pass at tuning everything, but I also do it by ear. My workflow often involves soloing my drums and a single instrument track so that I can check rhythmic interactions, and I’ll usually identify at that point whether any of the percussion is hitting wrong from a tonality standpoint.

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I don’t normally tune in the sense that I tune the fundamental of, say, kicks to the key of the music, but I do tend to listen to how the fundamental sits in relation to the rest of the mix. It’s pretty normal in some of the music I write that a doubled sub or some portion of the bass will fight the kick, or that the fundamental of the snare gets stepped on by some portion of the bass.

Typically this happens because I’m writing drum and bass or breakcore, where the kickdrum and bass don’t sit opposite each other in time (See: bass stabs on upbeats and rolling basslines in techno and house, there’s a lot on my last record), so in those situations, I typically tune my kickdrums and snares up anywhere from 100-400 cents to cram them into various pockets in the mix.

Mucking with your drum tuning throughout a song is also useful; it’s not uncommon to hear drums tuned differently or brightened/darkened in different parts of a song to increase the impact or to make room to spotlight certain parts in breaks or verses.

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