Most drummers that play regularly, especially beginners, struggle to find a bass drum sound that they are looking for. There are many factors that affect your bass drum sounds, everything from tuning your drums correctly, to the type of beater that you use with your bass drum pedal. Some people will search high and low to find the correct drum head, and other people will try and apply “patch” style pad on the outside of the drum head where the beater contacts the skin. Most people just try filling the bass drum with blankets, pillows, or anything else they can find around the house that is soft. This article will cover various techniques to get your bass drum sounding the way you want it to!
The tuning your bass drum is a little bit different than the tuning your other drums; however, the main concepts are still the same. Other than your snare drum, your kick drum sound is the most essential sounding voice on your drum kit. It is one of the main factors in defining the sound of your drum kit. When you start to tune your drums, use all the same techniques that I explained in my article on how to tune your drums. Obviously your kick drum is much larger than all of your other drums, so the sound is going to be much deeper. When you are tuning your individual tension rods, you may find it a little bit harder to hear the tone if your drum has any sort of pads/pillows inside of it to dampen the tone. Just listen very closely and you will get better at this over time. Generally speaking, if you are looking for a loud thick kick drum sound, you aren’t going to want to tighten your drumheads very tight. That being said, if you are looking for a jazz sounding kick drum, then you are going to want to tighten all of the tension rods fairly tight.
There are many different styles of bass drum beaters, there are plastic, fiberglass, wood, and fabric. Generally speaking, for most rock or jazz sounding kick drums you are going to want to use beaters with felt on the ends. The felt helps get more tone out of your kick drum. If you are in a band where you want more of a slapping sound on the kick drum then I would suggest experimenting with the harder type of bass drum beater.
There are many ways to muffle your bass drum There are various techniques ranging from buying an Evans EQ3 Bass Pack, or stuffing your bass drum with blankets/pillows. Some people will buy the Danmar Impact Pad, and stick it on the outside of the batter head between the head and the kick drum beater. This will help give a more even distribution of tone throughout your drum, and prolong the skin life.
There are many different types of bass drum heads: Coated drum heads, un-coated drum heads, hydraulic drum heads, drum heads with a power stripe, two ply drum heads, one ply drum heads. Then for the resonant head most drummers generally use a singly ply drum head.
If you want to cut a hole in your head, make sure that you are doing it because you want to do it, not because your favorite drummer does it. Something like this can be extremely personal and will defiantly change your kick drum sound. Generally speaking if you want to cut a hole in your resonant head it should be between three and five inches big. If you cut a hole any bigger than 5 inches you will realize that your bass drum will start sounding flat, and anything smaller than three inches won’t make much of a difference at all.
When you cut the hole in your bass drum head, the positioning of it, and the number of holes actually do change the sound. If the hole is in the middle of the bass drum then you will get too much of a “rush” of air just leaving the kick drum after each stroke, and you will lose a lot of tone. If you place the hole closer to the edge of the bass drum head it will allow the air to bounce around a little bit before exiting the bass drum.
I have given you lots of different options here, and it is important to find a sound that will blend the best with your kit, and the style of music that you play. You should take every opportunity possible to always try new sounds, and even if things sound a little gimmicky at first, you should experiment, because even gimmicks can give you the sound that you are looking for.
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For more information, check out Jared Falk's Bass Drum Secrets training video. It covers the basic method, and it teaches you how to apply the technique in beats, fills, and drum solos.
This instructional DVD is very detailed, and is priced fairly. You could probably pay upwards of a few hundred dollars for private lessons with a teacher that may not even be able to properly teach this method. Therefore, I would definitely recommend that you check out this option for best results.