Get The Best Sound From Your Bass Drum
Every drummer I know has had troubles getting a proper sound out of their bass drum at some point of time. There are a lot or reasons for receiving poor sound out of your bass drum, all that can be easily fixed. Tuning your bass drum is definitely one of these things that can be the most difficult thing to master. This includes everything from your batter skin to placing a hole in your resonant skin. Adjusting the height of your bass pedal beater can also affect the sound of your bass drum. Lastly, muffling your drum can soften the resonance, and offer more punch to your sound. All these things must be taken into account when trying to achieve the best sound out of your bass drum.
Tuning your Bass Drum
Tuning your bass drum should be no different than tuning your any of your other drums. You want to use the same methods as you would when you are tuning your snare or your toms. This method can be found on my article on tuning your drums. Basically, you want to keep the tension on the skin uniform. By doing this, you get an even sound throughout the whole bass drum. This I vital when you use double bass pedals, as you will notice both beaters do not hit in the same spot. For the batter head, you do not want to tune it too tight, or you will get a slapping sound, and the skin will be more susceptible to tearing. In general, you want to tune your skin looser than you would you other drums. The bass drum head can usually take more abuse then the other heads. Do not tune it too loose, or you will puncture your skin quite easily. Loose enough to be able to push it in, but tight enough so it will not make a dent when you kick.
Now for the resonant side. Some drummers will not even put a resonant skin on their bass drum. If you get a better sound doing this, by all means, continue! However, resonant heads provide air control within the bass drum, and will usually help the sound. Tuning this is not as important as the batter side; however do not over look it. A good rule of thumb is to tighten it up enough to take out any wrinkles on the skin. This will give you the best sounding low frequencies you can get out of your bass drum.
Adjusting Your Bass Drum Pedal
A simple fix like the bass drum beater height can throw off the sound of the whole drum. Adjusting this is very easy, and usually only requires a bit of time, and a drum key. Hitting your bass drum off center will cause an uneven sound from your kick drum. The way a bass drum works is all about moving air inside the drum itself. If you are hitting the drum in the wrong place, you will not be getting the maximum air flow, which will cause a weaker sound. The ideal place to set your beater is right in the center of the bass drum. This is the most efficient place to set your pedal up. If you are using double bass pedals, try setting them up so you have both as close to the center as you can.
Adding Pillows And Other Muffling Systems
A lot of drummers do not like the sound an empty bass drum makes, thinking it has too much resonance and tone. Others do not like the feel of the skin with empty bass drums. The quick solution to this is to place a pillow or other muffling piece in there. There are products out there specifically designed for bass drum muffling. These work great for controlling the resonance on the skins and trapping the air within the drum. If you cannot afford to buy these, a simple pillow will work fine. Simply take off the resonant skin and place your pillow inside the drum. Place the resonant skin back on, and play! Placement of this pillow is very important and should be experimented with. Having too big a pillow will take away any low sound the drum was making in the first place, while having too small a pillow will do the contrast. Try different sizes in different places of the drum.
Adjusting And Adding Accessories To your Pedal
There are a few last minute adjustments and accessories you can add to your bass drum to tweak your sound even more. The first thing you must get is the beater patch. This is a small adhesive patch that you stick on the batter head right where your pedal hits the skin. This not only reinforces the strength of the skin, it also helps control the vibrations on the head itself. Most bass drum skins come with one of these, but if you do not have one, they are very cheap to buy at any local music store.
The next thing you can do is more of a modification to your resonant head. If your skin doesn’t already have one, try cutting a hole in it. There are a few pluses to doing this. One, you will be able to move your muffler inside the drum a lot easier, and two, this will allow for more air flow within your drum. Make sure your hole is perfectly circle by using a tracer and a sharp knife. The hole should be no bigger than 5 inches, and no smaller than 3 inches.
If you have tried all these things and still cannot get a good sound from your drum, do not get down on yourself! More times than not it is the room you are playing in. Believe it or not, every room carries different acoustics that can cancel certain frequencies. Before you throw your bass drum off a cliff, try placing a microphone in front of it and listening to it through headphones. Better yet, try playing it in a different room. You may be surprised! Whichever you do, try all of these tips in getting the best sound out of your bass drum, even if your drum already sounds good. It will not hurt to make your drum sound even better!
Great sounding bass drums help clean up the tone and make your kick drum sound less muddy. Having a clear, crisp bass drum sound is important if you want to highlight your kick drum in a drum solo, or maybe you just want your heel-toe technique to sound more crisp. If you don’t know the heel-toe technique already, be sure to check out Jared Falk’s Bass Drum Secrets DVD.
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