My Thoughts on Tuning your Drums. (Part 4)

In this issue of my tuning guide we will be looking at Bass Drum Tuning and dampening.

But first if you haven’t had a look at my other issues in this Drum Tuning Series please take a look at them first.

Topics we have covered so far are:

  • Drum Anatomy
  • Equipment needed
  • Drum Head Selection.
  • Drum Preparation
  • Drum Key Technique
  • Drum Head Seating and Tuning

There are 2 main types of Bass Drums. The first and optimal bass drum being the un drilled type. Basically it has no mountings for toms. As such no huge metal bars for the sound to escape through the downside being you have to purchase additional racking or boom arms to hold the toms. This can be costly but my preferred choice. The 2nd been the drilled type. Which has a huge hole to mount the toms on. Not great as the vibrations escape up this drying the drum out faster. But it is the cheaper option.

(pictured above is one of my kits and the kit i use for my drum covers. This has a none drilled bass drum)

Some Bass Drums will have what are called spurs on the bottom of the legs sometimes been telescopic and built inside the rubber leg. These are to help the Bass Drum dig into the carpet or wood its mounted on to stop it sliding ( Ive had this at a gig were by a friend had to stand in front of the kit keeping it pushed back). These help position the drum in the optimal way by getting it off the floor. The idea being that no part of the actual drum should touch the floor. The Batter side will of course be cradled by the Bass Drum Peddle, while the front will ideally be elevated as pictured bellow so that none of the sound is lost into the floor.

Your bass drum is fairly easy to tune. Basically all you’re looking for here is a nicely defined and clear low pitched thud. The hard part comes in the form of dampening that thud so you don’t have a huge long decay on it and ultimately it’s not too loud.

There are a 2 main ways of dampening your Bass Drum the first comes in the form of Bass Drum Heads. These tend to have built in dampening systems and again I would go with a well known brand such as EVANS or REMO for the batter heads. As im sure most of you will want to keep the logo’d up resonate head. Most people will also cut a port into the resonance head to allow ease of micing. By having the port in the front its very easy to place a mic inside the Bass Drum close to the batter Head so Mixer can add in some of the attack to the Bass Drum mix. This is very important for a nice sounding Bass Drum on recordings.

The other type of dampening is via a pillow or blanket placed inside the drum. Some Drum Kits like DW’s come with a valcro pillow already fixed inside the Drum so you can place it were you like and it stays put. The placement of the Internal Dampening does make a difference on the tone of the drum. Placed touching the batter head you will reduce the attack of the drum. Where as up by the resonant head you will receive more of the attack and less tone and sustain. As with all this its down to personal preference and up to you to experiment to find what you like and what’s best for your style. But it dose help to have a hole in your bass drum to alter this. As to keep removing the head is very tedious. But any hole larger than 6” will make the resonant head redundant.

Now to Tuning.

The basic technique is the same as for the toms. The process is basically the same except your probably not going to need to tighten the head as much to get the thud we are after. With the resonant head. You only want to tune it until all the wrinkles are out. That should be enough.  So please read back at this point and follow what it stats about seating the head and head Tuning. Once again this is trial and error. You will need to keep upping the tension till you find the sound you like. But as Ive stated its easier to start low and tune up.

A little note just to say that Beater angle, Position and Height will all affect the sustain and tone of the drum. So please experiment with these as well. There are lots of settings on a base drum peddle that can be adjusted. Believe me its worth looking at.

You can also get what are known as patches for your batter heads these not only help preserve the life of your drum head but also add a little more dampening onto the batter head. I would recommend picking one of these up as well.

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About ajbennettdrums

I have been playing drums for over 20 years now and currently have over 9 years of teaching experience. I am comfortable playing all styles and am a proficient sight reader of music. I started playing drums at the tender age of 7 and I vividly remember exactly what it was that got me into drumming. One Sunday afternoon I was watching a documentary on classic 80’s bands, equipped with huge Drum Kits taking up most of the stage. I then proceeded to empty out a tonne of boxes in my room, cut holes in them and sticky-tape bits together to create my first drum kit (using pencils as sticks). At that point, my dad thought it would be a good idea to send me off for Drum Lessons and from that moment on I have never looked back.

Posted on March 13, 2012, in Drumming Bits and Bobs., My Tuning Advice and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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