Bass Drum Setup Tips

The bass drum is the center piece of the drum set, upon which much of the hardware rests, and is also essential to driving the beat. Therefore, having a bad bass drum setup can severely harm your ability to play. Assembly instructions should be included with any new drum kit, so this page assumes you already know how to assemble your bass drum, and describes a few important things that are usually omitted.

Bass Drum ‘Creep’

Bass drum creep is the tendency of the drum to move away from you as you step on the kick pedal over and over. (What do you expect… when you hit things repeatedly, they tend to run away!) Setting up your kit on a rug or a carpet will help keep things together, but it’s not enough. If you use a relatively small rug, make sure it is large enough for the throne to be on the rug as well. This is to prevent the whole drum-kit-on-a-rug setup from moving away together.

The next thing to do is use the pointy spikes that should be present on the bottom of the bass drum legs. (If your bass drum legs don’t have spikes, throw them away and get ones that do.) Position your bass drum legs so that the spikes dig into the rug.

If you find that your bass drum still creeps forward as you play, adjust the bass drum legs so that the front of the drum (the side further away from you) is higher up and the drum rests at a slightly steeper angle. You should have at least enough space between the bottom of the front side of the drum and the rug to insert the palm of your hand. If the bass drum creeps, increase this gap. The increased angle will shift more weight onto the front of the drum and therefore make the dug in spikes more effective. Doing this last thing is what will put an end to any bass drum creep in your kit.

Tuning

Tuning a bass drum is much like tuning any other drum, but with a few notable specifics. If you’re unfamiliar with drum tuning see the drum tuning article.

The first thing to remember while tuning a bass drum, is that it’s not going to have a high pitch even if you adjust the heads tightly, so don’t be afraid to tighten things up. Loose heads usually result in ugly overtones.

Some bass drums come with a small pillow or some foam to be placed inside. Some drummers even throw a towel or a sweat-shirt in there. This is done to muffle ringy overtones. Muffling the sound this way certainly helps, but is not always necessary. Tuning the batter head and resonant head to radically different pitches also muffles the ring, and in a good bass drum may be sufficient to produce a nice, ring-less ‘thump’ sound. For example, you may have the bass drum resonant head adjusted very tightly (higher pitch tuning), and the batter head adjusted somewhat more loosely.

Protecting the Batter Head

The bass drum’s batter head is hit, using the strength of a foot, at the exact same spot again and again. It is a big problem for the poor bass drum head. If you play for a while, especially if you play with some volume, first you’ll have a batter head with a small dent where the hammer strikes, then a larger dent, and then the hammer will go straight though. And that’ll be the end of your batter head. You’ll have to buy a new one, take apart the bass drum, and install and tune it.

Therefore, before you start playing your drums, do your batter head a favor and get a bass drum protector pad. This is a special sticker that goes over where the hammer hits and strengthens that spot. Using an impact pad will considerably increase the batter head’s life span.

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