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Drum keys are essential tools that every drummer needs to have. They’re crucial in the process of tuning drumheads and removing them to put new ones in their place.
Many pieces of drum hardware also have tightening lugs that only a drum key can be used on. For example, memory locks on cymbal stands and kick drum pedals that are tightened to the bass drum hoop with the use of a drum key.
Drum keys are generally inexpensive pieces of gear, but there are high-quality drum keys that have added features such as magnetic connectors and torque dials that make drummers’ lives easier.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at the best drum keys for fast tuning and changing drumheads. I’ve compared design, features, ease of use, and cost to give you my top recommendations.
In a Rush Round-Up
Drum Keys Reviews
This Evans Magnetic Head Drum Key is a super practical drum tool. It features a magnetic head that stays in place whilst tuning – how useful is that! I can’t tell you how many times drum keys slip when I’m tuning, so this is honestly a lifesaver.
The overall design is excellent. It is drop-forged for extreme durability and it’s rattle-free. This means it fits tightly over the tension rod and it won’t fall out or make noise whilst you play.
I also love that this drum key has a knurled knob on the top that is easy to spin for fast head-changes. This combined with the magnetic head makes this the perfect drum key for serious drummers, and it would be an awesome gift for a drummer in your life, too.
- Magnetic head stays in place whist playing or tuning
- Knurled knob for fast head changes
- Rattle free over the tension rod
- Doesn’t offer high torque
Up next we have the Revolution FF2 Firefly Dynamic Tuning Drum Key for review. It’s is a solid drum key that feels great to hold – it’s perfectly balanced and weighted.
This impressive Firefly drum key is so easy to tune with. It has a simple yet thoughtful design and it just feels so good to hold. The unique silent and smooth ratcheting system offers ultra-precise tuning too.
This drum key is perfect for making drum head adjustments or fast head changes with the knurled top, which you use to spin the key for fast tuning. It’s a little more expensive, but it’s totally worth it!
- Perfectly weighted and balanced
- Very good build quality
- Wide comfortable ergonomic handle
- Very little negatives!
The Evans Torque Key is one of the most popular drum keys around. It has a bunch of great features that make this a really useful drum tool.
The best feature is its torque handle that can be set to the desired tension – meaning each lug around the drum can be tuned with the exact same tension.
It also has a magnetic head that helps prevent slipping, and it stays firmly in place on the tension rod whilst you play and tune drums.
Additionally, the Evans Torque Key also features a knurled knob allowing you to spin it fast for quick head changes. All of these features make this the best drum key to helping you achieve fast and accurate tuning.
- Tune drums with an even desired tension
- Magnetic head stays firmly put and won’t slip
- Knurled knob for fast head changes
- A little pricey
This DW Hi Torque Drum Key has a large, oversized rubber handle that allows you to apply much more torque than a standard drum key. It’s robust, ergonomic, and built to last.
This is one of the best drum keys for setting up hardware such as cymbal stands and drum thrones. It has more leverage and grip than a conventional key and is much easier to hold.
- Perfect for applying extra tension where needed
- Rubber handle for good grip
- Good value for money
- No negatives besides it’s slightly large
The Ahead Speed Torque Ratchet Drum Tool is a great quality drum tuner key that has the advantage of fitting in places most standard drum keys don’t. The ratchet action is comfortable and ergonomic to use, whilst saving your knuckles from knocking against the hoop of the drum!
This really is a must-have drum key that makes tuning faster, easier, and more precise. It’s perfect for adjusting hard to reach places such as drum thrones, drum hardware, and resonant drum heads.
Overall this is a fantastic drum tuner key that offers amazing value for money and is very well built.
- Perfect for hard to reach places
- Solid build quality
- Not very compact
The Pearl Tech Tool is an awesome piece of kit. It’s a compact drum tool that contains 13 individual tools specifically designed for all types of drums and hardware. This drum tuning tool has you covered for every situation possible!
Each tool is forged to exact tolerances using heat-treated alloy, completed with an anodized black finish. The TechTool includes 6 hex keys, 5 screwdrivers, a drum key, and a bottle opener too!
If you’re a serious gigging drummer then the Pearl TechTool is a vital addition for your drumstick bag. It’s compact and practical – the perfect drumming accessory.
- 13 Useful tools in one
- Excellent design and build quality
- Guaranteed to come in handy!
- Not ideal for changing drumheads
Not exactly a drum key, but nonetheless a perfect accessory for changing drum heads fast! The Gibraltar Drill Bit Drum Key attaches onto most screwdrivers and drills allowing you to change drum heads at lightning speed.
This drill bit drum tool saves a lot of time and effort when changing drum heads on a complete drum set, which can sometimes take as long as an hour when you take into account both the top and bottom heads on each drum.
The Gibraltar Drill Bit tool is super affordable and it’s one of the most useful accessories out there for changing drum heads.
- Fastest way to change drum heads
- Very cheap accessory
- Incredibly practical
- Careful whilst tuning drums with power tools!
Drum Key Buyer’s Guide
As a drummer, you know that having a good drum key in your stick bag is essential for keeping your drums in tune and sounding great.
Drum keys feature a small square head designed to fit over tension rods, and they are used to either increase or decrease tension, allowing you to tune drums and re-skin them.
They are also useful for setting the tension on drum hardware such as drum thrones, cymbal stands, and bass drums.
The best drum keys for use on hardware feature a ratchet design or oversized handles, which are ideal for tightening drum hardware that needs to stay as tight as possible.
Classic drum keys are cheap. You still see them everywhere, and often they will come included with a drum set or piece of drumming hardware.
When I bought my newest DW cymbal stands, I had four more drum keys to add to my collection.
But whilst these drum keys do the job per se, there are better quality and more innovative products like the ones featured in this guide.
Features such as magnetic heads and knurled tops really make tuning drums and changing drum heads much easier.
All of the drum tuner keys featured in this guide will help save a lot of time and effort when tuning drums, giving you more time to focus on playing.
How Much Should You Spend on a Drum Key?
Drum keys come in all shapes and sizes, with a wide range of prices to match. But is it worth spending more on an expensive drum key over a cheaper option?
Most budget-friendly options will do the job just fine. However, they will lack the extra features and ease of use of the more expensive drum keys available on the market.
Premium drum keys often have enhanced features like a built-in torque wrench or ratchet system. So, you may want to consider spending a bit more money on your purchase.
These types of innovative designs make removing heads and tuning much easier and faster. Plus, you can often achieve more consistent tuning and better sounding results when tuning your drums with them.
Drum keys cost anywhere from $2 to $40. Most innovative drum keys with higher torque and unique features cost $15 and upward.
I recommend buying one of those and then buying several cheaper ones to keep as spares.
You can never have too many drum keys, and you can keep spares in your stick bag, on your key chain, and anywhere else where you can easily find one when needed.
Drum Key FAQs
Are Drum Keys a Standard Size?
Drum keys are a standard 6mm square slot type, and this is designed to fit nearly all types of acoustic drums, electronic drums, and drum hardware. All drum keys featured in this guide are the same size.
How Do You Use a Drum Key?
Tuning drums is somewhat of fine art, and different drummers swear by their own methods and techniques. All drummers will agree to tune lugs incrementally across the drum with even turns to keep tensions even between each lug.
Where Do You Put a Drum Key?
Most drummers like to store their drum keys in their stick bag, and I personally also like to have one attached to my key ring.
Drum keys are compact and easy to be carried, but this also means they can be lost easily! You don’t want to get to a gig or rehearsal and not have a single drum key to hand, so be sure to keep one safe and accessible when playing shows.