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Studio Class 2

Bass Drum

Dr. Jason Kihle, Associate Professor of Percussion

Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Bass Drum


  • 36” is good for most schools
  • 40” is too big for middle school
  • 40” is not really necessary but can be nice to have


  • Fibreskyn heads are the industry standard, give a less harsh sound
  • When putting heads on, if there is a rattle, it may be the tension rod clamp on the rim; one solution to this is to put felt between the clamp and the rim
  • BD heads are not set to a specific pitch
  • Striking head should be higher than resonating head
    • 4th to a 5th difference; however, there are other tuning possibilities
  • Don’t want to hear a pitch with a concert bass drum; if it’s too low it will have a plastic quality

Changing Heads

  • Mount the new head and finger-tighten all lugs to equal tension
  • Use the appropriate sequential tuning method and begin with ½ key-turns on each lug until the drum begins to resonate.
  • Seat the head by applying open palm hand pressure to head center and pressing with firm, short bursts.  After doing so, you may need to clear the head of overtones.
  • Continue raising pitch in ½ turn increments until the drum is within its accepted range.  
  • Recommended batter (playing) head pitch: C-E
  • Recommended resonant side head pitch:
    • ½ step higher than Batter Head.  Achieves a full round sound and maximizes sustain and articulation.
    • Sam pitch as Batter head.  Achieves a moderately full sound and articulation.
  • Using a reference pitch from a chromatic tuner, fine tune the drum by tapping in front of each lug to ensure the head is clear of excess overtones.


  • The stroke is produced by the forearm and the wrist; soft strokes are produced mostly by the wrist; loud strokes are produced by adding the upper arm to the general stroke
  • Play slightly off center and leave mallet “into” head; this is done with a “flicking” of the wrist to terminate the stroke; this produces maximum vibration and overtones from the drum
  • Be careful of playing too low on the head, this will not give a characteristic sound
  • Car waxing glove will dampen nicely for marches and still maintains a depth of sound
  • Never dampen resonating head without also dampening batter head, because you get overtones and no bass
  • Some players use the edge for soft rolls and special effects (thin sound and higher overtones)