The original Tune-Bot digital drum tuner was released in 2012 and quickly became a go-to accessory for drummers looking to tune their drums more accurately and consistently. We gave that version high praises in the December 2012 issue, and it’s become a crucial tool for dialing in sounds in every drum review we’ve done since. A simpler version, Tune-Bot Gig, was released a couple years ago for players who wanted a basic option at a lower price point. In 2017, the company revamped its flagship tuner, now called Tune-Bot Studio, to offer more reliable readings, a higher frequency range (for snare drums), a four-color display, and improved kit-saving options. Let’s give this new-and-improved tuner a closer look.
The first thing we noticed when we turned on the Tune-Bot Studio was the new four-color LCD display, which shows the frequency (Hz), note name, kit number, and filter frequency in blue, while the display labels are yellow. There’s also a virtual tuning needle that swivels from left to right, and changes from yellow to red, depending on how flat or sharp the pitch is from the target frequency. When the head is perfectly in tune, the needle points straight up and turns green. It may seem ancillary, but having the color-coding goes a long way to expediting the tuning process. Once you determine the target frequency, simply tweak each tuning rod until the needle turns green. For players who use a lot of different drumsets, you can save up to five separate kits with up to ten drums per kit.
The Tune-Bot Studio borrows the sturdier clip of the Tune-Bot Gig, which clamps firmly and easily on any drum hoop. The new model also comes with a cylindrical plastic case to protect it from damage when it’s thrown in a stick bag or cymbal case.
Akin to an electronic clip-on guitar tuner, the Tune-Bot Studio is designed to take the guesswork out of drum tuning. It can be used to balance top and bottom drumheads by making sure each tension rod is producing the same overtone frequencies. You can also use it to target specific fundamental pitches to get a more cohesive overall drumset sound by tuning the different drums to musical intervals. And the kit-save feature allows you to dial in consistent sounds any time you change heads or play on an unfamiliar setup.
Like anything else, there’s a bit of a learning curve to mastering how to use the Tune-Bot Studio. I’ve found the best results by first tensioning the drumheads close to where I want them pitched, and then sitting the drum on a stool or pillow to mute the bottom head. Then I’ll lightly muffle the center of the head being tuned with a fingertip or a small dampening gel. Dampening the center of the head removes the fundamental pitch, which allows the Tune-Bot to more accurately distinguish the overtone pitches when you strike near each tension rod. Once I determine the target frequency, I press the Filter button so the Tune-Bot can zero in on that pitch as I fine-tune each lug.
It only takes a couple minutes to tweak the rods until each one reads the same frequency. Once one head is balanced, I flip the drum over and repeat the process with the other side. While I can tune a drum by ear and get great results, I’ve never been able to dial in completely pure tones until I started using the Tune-Bot. I can honestly say that my drums have never sounded better. I also love that I don’t have to be afraid of a drum falling out of tune over time and not knowing which tension rods need to be retuned to bring the drum back into balance. There aren’t many accessories that I feel every drummer needs, but the Tune-Bot is one of them. I won’t do any gig or session without it. List price is $99.