Proper Kick Drum Dampening And Tuning Measures

correct tuningYour snare drum and your bass drum are the two pieces of your drum set that might rather seem like a challenge if you have only tuned toms so far. The kick drum is, unquestionably, the most versatile member of the drum kit when it comes to tuning.


Well, one of the reasons being that muffling the kick drum is something that could well be the subject of an entire book. On the other hand, the kick drum might be the only place where you need a pair of scissors during the tuning process. And we have not even talked about the different sound characteristics you can achieve by making small changes to your beater.

Muffling Your Bass Drum

Muffling is not the easiest topic when we are talking about drum tuning. Even more, when it comes to tuning the bass drum, muffling becomes one of the most serious issues to deal with. Some people swear for professional muffling sponges, and they know what they are talking about for sure. However, if you need basic muffling, throwing your childhood blanket inside the drum can do wonders to your strident bass drum.

A basic description of the muffling process would say that using less muffling causes longer sustain, warmer tone and a weaker beat, while applying heavier muffling shortens the sustain, produces a more solid tone and gives the kick drum a powerful punchy feeling. For recording purposes you should always keep in mind how sensitive microphones are and muffle your drum carefully.

Only Drummers Are Crazy Enough to Cut Expensive Gear Into Pieces

Yes, the subtitle refers to literally cutting the drumhead. No matter how insane it may sound, cutting a hole in the resonant head of your kick drum can produce various results. Without a hole, the resonant head is given a role almost as important as the batter head in the production of the sound. Pressure inside the drum is a lot larger, thus resonance becomes very high.

Cutting a hole – or multiple holes – in your resonant head reduces the pressure inside the drum. That lowers resonance, changing the sound of the drum and the response of the beater at the same time. Also, with a hole on the back of the drum setting up a microphone becomes a lot more plausible.

Many things might motivate you to cut a hole in your drumhead. Maybe you are using your drum for recording purposes and it is easier to record with a hole; maybe you like the different feel when the resonant head is cut. However, chances are that you only want to cut a hole in the drum head because you like the way it looks like, because it seems cool.

If the latter is the case, you are advised to observe a few different drumsets, try them out if you have the chance, and compare them, hearing the differences between cut and uncut resonant heads. You might or might not like the differences a hole produces in the sound of the kick drum, but in case you do not like it: sound quality should never be sacrificed for a plus in looks.

So, How Do We Actually Tune the Kick Drum?

The basic process of tuning the drum is very similar to tuning the other members of the kit. While tuning the batter head you should pay attention to how the attack of the drum changes; while tuning the resonant head you should pay attention to the changes in sustain. The rest is nothing different from tuning a tom, for example.

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