Everything You Need to Know About Bass Drums

Bass drums, cymbals, triangles, timpani, xylophones, glockenspiels; pitched and unpitched; aerophones, and membranophones – the percussion world is vast.

Well, it’s true that one doesn’t have to know all the secrets to enjoy the beauty. However, when it comes to bass drums, that’s a different story.

They come from a percussion instrument group used more than five centuries ago and are a part of the drum section in various ensemble types. 

But there’s so much more to tell about this musical instrument, so today, we’ll share everything you need to know about bass drums. Let’s start! (drumroll)

What is a Bass Drum?

A bass drum is a percussion instrument that belongs to the membranophone percussion group because it produces sound when a pedal hits the drum head (membrane).

When it comes to musical function, bass drums are unpitched instruments, meaning the sound they produce doesn’t have a defined pitch. These instruments are also known as untuned or non-pitched.

Different sizes of bass drums

Although bass drums are unpitched percussion, their pitch can be lower or higher depending on the size. Logically, the drums used in drum set are smaller in diameter than those used in symphonic orchestras.

Still, drum sets can include bass drums of various sizes, ranging from 18 to 26 inches in diameter. The average depth goes from 14 to 18 inches.

Now, size matters. That’s why drummers in bands or ensembles use drum sets suitable for the genre. For most music genres, bass drums with 22-24 shell diameters will work.

You may hear that some heavy metal drummers use 26-inch drums. Don’t be surprised since they’re interested in a low-end, which is why they need larger diameters. On the other hand, 18 and 20 inches are popular for jazzers.

How to Tune a Bass Drum

You’re probably wondering what we mean by tuning when we say that bass drums are non-pitched or unturned. Well, tuning a bass drum is different from tuning other instruments.

To put it simply – you’ll not tune the drum to a specific tone, but you’ll adjust it to obtain the wanted sound.

For instance, the sound becomes unclear after a while, so tuning is necessary to get a clearer and sharper sound. Also, you have to tune it if you replace a head.

Tune the resonant head

  1. First, you have to position your kick for tuning. Place it face up.
  2. Tighten the bolts around the drum’s face to the point of light resistance with your fingers.
  3. You’ll need a drum key to tighten the bolts after you finish the second step.

It’s very important to remember that you have to tighten the bolts directly opposite each other. For example, imagine a clock; if you tighten a bolt at 12:00, you should tighten a bolt at 6:00 next. Always move this way.

  1. After you’re done with step three, press your thumb around one inch from each bolt to test the tightness and make sure it’s even. The resonant shouldn’t have wrinkles.

Tune the batter’s head

  1. Position the drum with the batter head facing up.
  2. Loosen the rods. Make sure they’re still installed, but don’t press the drum head.
  3. In cases where you have a new head, position it and press it with your hand.
  4. Tighten the bolts by hand (remember to tighten the bolts in opposing pairs).
  5. Use a drum key to tighten the bolts. 

After you tune the head, you can test the sound. Take a drumstick and hit the head near each tension rod. Again, use the drum key to adjust the sound according to your preferences. Keep in mind that tightening gives a higher sound.

Famous Brands

While their purpose it’s obvious, bass drums can make a lot of a difference in the end sound. That’s why drummers choose sets according to the genre they’re playing or the sound they need to produce depending on the place of the event (outdoor concert, small pub, concert hall, etc.)

Now, jazz is something different, of course. The drummer typically needs a higher sound and a smaller bass drum. Logically, it all depends on the drummer’s skills. However, some drum sets are better than others.

Ludwig NeuSonic 3-piece drum set

These sets have been popular ever since the beginning of time (jazz). They include a rack tom, floor tom, and a kick drum of 20 inches. The set is made of high-grade maple and cherry wood, producing a rich but warm sound.

Ludwig NeuSonic is perfectly built and provides excellent performance. However, it’s worth mentioning that the kit doesn’t include a snare drum.

Tama Club Jam 4-piece set

Here we have one of the smallest sets on the market. Tama Club Jam is perfect for, well, club jams. It’s compact, easy to set, and perfect for gigs in pubs or small venues. Obviously, the kit is suitable for travel.

Tama Club Jam kit includes a snare, tom, floor tom, and a bass drum of 18 inches. Its shells are made of poplar, and mersawa wood, meaning the kit produces something like a vintage sound with warm tones.

Sonor AQ2 kits

Sonor offers various AQ2 kits, each suitable for transport and playing in small places. The Sonor AQ2 Martini, in particular, is a 4-piece kit with a rack tom, floor tom, snare drum, and a kick drum of 14 inches. The shells in this kit are made of maple wood, meaning they’re responsive.

Gretsch Renown kit

The Gretsch Renown kit is versatile because it can be used in small places and for big band settings. The kit includes rack toms, a floor tom, and a kick drum of 20 inches.

With shells made of maple, the set can produce a balanced sound with a vintage tone. However, the kit is a bit expensive.


Well, that’s it. We hope our article answered your questions about the rhythmic base of all genres, the bass drum. If you’re interested in buying, consider some of the options we included above, and do thorough research.

Whether you’re an experienced drummer or you’re here to learn more about drums, don’t forget to leave a comment below. We’ll be more than happy to hear from you.

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