Part 8: Tuning Kick Drums

Batter side

Coatings and material type are as described in the section “Tom, Drumheads – Batter side”. There are some similarities here to that which is used for a tom. But there are also some real differences such as the Evan’s EQ and Aquarian Regulator series.

1. Single Ply – No muffling: Any head on par with the likes of REMO Ambassador, Ebony series, FiberSkyn 3 FA, Aquarian Classic, Aquarian Signature Series Jack DeJohnette, Evans EQ1, EQ4, etc.

2. Muffled head, 1-ply: Any head on par with the likes of REMO Ambassador, Ebony series, FiberSkyn 3 FA, Aquarian Classic, Aquarian Signature Series Carmine or Vinny Appice, Studio X, Impact I, SuperKick I, Evans EQ1, EQ4, etc.

3. Muffled head, 2-ply: Any head on par with the likes of REMO Pinstripe, Evan’s EQ2, EQ3 or hydraulic, Aquarian SuperKick II

Kick Drum, Drumheads – Resonant side

1. Single Ply – No muffling: Any head on par with the likes of REMO Ambassador, Ebony series, FiberSkyn 3 FA, Aquarian Classic, Ported Bass Drum Head, Evans EQ1, UNO 58 1000, etc.

2. Single Ply – With muffling: Any head on par with the likes of REMO PowerStroke 3, Aquarian Regulator, Evans EQ2, EQ3, etc. Note that most of these come with a choice of a 4-1/2″, 5″, 7″ or no hole.

See the section “Sounds, Kick Drum Characteristic Pairing”.

Kick Drum, Holes in Your Head or Not

1. Any hole larger than 7″ is like having no head at all on the drum.

2. A 7″ hole creates the feel of a one-headed kick drum, feeds more beater attack direct to an audience and provides some of the tone of the resonant head. Further, it’s easy to position a mic and change internal muffling devices, if used.

3. A 4-1/2″ or 5″ hole, or even 2 such holes, offset, allows some relief for rebound control of the kick beater, contains more of the drums resonance so that the resonant head is more pronounced in the tuning of the drum. A 4-1/2″ hole is difficult to get large mic’s positioned within (but can be done) and/or internal muffling altered.

4. No hole, very resonant, creates more bounce or rebound from the kick beater. It can become difficult to get the “slap” of the beater and resonance of the drum both when miced with one microphone. The muffling remains inside. The resonant head is very predominant in the overall sound.

Kick Drum, Pads and/or Pillows

1. One pad or pillow, or anything that cover a calculated 15-20% coverage against Batter head only: Beater attack accentuated, tone and sustain linger.

2. One pad or pillow, 15-20% coverage against resonant head only: Beater attack will be lessened, tone and sustain develop as a short burst of energy followed by some bright overtones.

2. One pad or pillow, 15-20% coverage against Batter head and Resonant: Beater attack accentuated, overall volume diminished a bit, tone and sustain become focused, overtones diminished.

2. One pad or pillow, 25-30% coverage against Batter head and 15-20% coverage of Resonant: Beater attack becomes much sharper and accentuated, overall volume does not diminished much more than the above, tone and sustain become even more focused, overtones all but gone. When used with a single ply muffled batter head, easy to get very sharp sound. Good choice for mic use.

2. One pad or pillow, 25-30% coverage against Batter and Resonant: A very focused sound, which becomes ideal for close micing of a kick drum. Beater attack becomes as sharp as it gets, overall volume does not diminished much more than the above, tone and sustain become short bursts of energy that when listened to without a mic, seem lifeless. A distinct “punch” sound.

Kick Drum, Sound of Characteristic Pairing of Drumheads

Note all tone and muffling characteristics from the following heads can be altered by the use of pillows/pads described in the section “Pads and/or Pillows” or the use of a hole in the drum head described under the section “Holes in Your Head or Not”. Coatings and material type are as described in the section “Tom, Drumheads – Batter side”. There are some similarities here to that which is used for a tom. But there are also some real differences such as the Evan’s EQ and Aquarian Regulator series.

1. Single ply unmuffled Batter and Resonant: Open tone, bouncy feeling, highly resonant, ringy,

2. Single ply muffled Batter, Single ply unmuffled Resonant: Attack of the beater pops out, open tone, highly resonant, overtones diminished a bit on the initial attack but linger on the sustain

3. Single ply muffled Batter and Resonant: Attack of the beater is heard more, a dense but not quite a focused sound, overtones controlled but still there. Typical combination is the REMO PowerStroke 3 batter and resonant, or for a bit more low end try Evans EQ4 Batter paired with REMO PowerStroke 3, Evans EQ2 or Aquarian Regulator Resonant.

4. Single ply muffled Batter and 2-ply muffled Resonant: Attack of the beater pops out, wide focused sound, overtones controlled. Typical combination is the REMO PowerStroke 3 batter with Pinstripe, Evans EQ3 or Aquarian SuperKick II Resonant.

5. 2-ply muffled Batter and 2-ply muffled Resonant: Very focused and punchy attack, narrow focused sound, overtones very controlled (may need no pillows/pads). Typical combination on both the batter and resonant would be REMO Pinstripe, or Evans EQ3 or Aquarian SuperKick II.

Kick Drum, Tuning Procedure and Tricks

1. The same tuning procedure works on the kick drum as well. Simply follow the procedure listed above under “Tuning and Seating the Heads, All Drums” and take into account the following points as well.

2. A Typical tuning method is to have the batter head control the attack portion of the sound and the resonant head to control the “sustain” portion of the sound.

3. For more punch, tune the resonant side up in pitch 1-2 notes from the batter. Tune entire drum up in pitch.

4. For a “plastic” sound, use single ply batter heads tuned just to a point of the lowest note and detune ½ turn on each lug. A hard felt beater without a patch works well. If you go to wood or plastic beaters, use the patch.

5. A fat kick drum is achieved the same way a “fat” tom sound is achieved. Taking the resonant head and tuning to the lowest note, and then detuning a slight amount (1/16 to 1/8 of a turn) creates a “fat, loose or dark” drum sound. The batter head is then used to alter the pitch. Note that the pitch for a “fat” tuning can be somewhat limited.

6. For a short “open” burst of resonant tone, followed by a muted overtone, try using one of the EQ pads placed loosely against either head so that when the beater strikes the head, the upper portion of the pad (the “hinged” section) floats away from the head yet returns quickly. You can effect the duration of the sound by the positioning of the pad. This also works when using 2 pads where one remains firm against the head while the other on top or against the other head provided the “hinged” sound.

7. Don’t have a pillow or pad? Try using strips of felt or cotton sheet material of varying inches in width placed near the center of the drumhead, these get held on by the head, stretch them tight. As a guide try 4.5″ on a 20″; 5″ on a 22″; 5.5″ on a 24″. Used on 1 head, this is the equivalent of 25-30% coverage or like two EQ pads per head. Also, a towel rolled up and taped to the inside bottom of one or both heads works.

An old feather pillow or folded blanket works equally well. Be creative! Anything that “lightly” touches the head will work, if done in the same percentage of cover given above in “Pads and/or Pillows”. For that “hinged” sound, try a towel or cloth taped to the head on just the upper edge so that it floats on and off the head with the beater strike.

8. Get the drum up off the floor as much as your pedal and spurs will allow for more resonance.