What’s your favorite part of the drum kit? Each of us might have a different answer. Some of us will say the snare or others may say the toms or even the cymbals. But many drummers will say the kick drum is their absolute favorite part of the drum kit, and for good reason! No matter what part is our favorite though, we can all agree that nothing has quite the level of musical authority as the deep, low-end punch of a bass drum.
Along with the snare drum, the kick provides the backbeat and groove for the entire musical landscape. That’s why with modern drums and drumming techniques, the kick is an important building block in the foundation to build the rest of your drumset on.
CHOOSING THE BEST SIZED KICK DRUM
The first obvious thing to think about when considering the perfect kick drum to build your kit around is the size. There are so many available, and the great news is, even the smaller kick drums available today can supply the depth of sound you need. But how does the diameter of the drum affect the sound vs. just the length? That’s a great question we’d love to explore with you.
One good place to start is looking at classic drums. It was very popular with vintage drumsets to have a larger diameter head (like 24”) while the length of the drum (from the front head to the back head) was shorter. This style is a nod to the bass drums used by marching bands and it can still be very effective for rock or similar music. The sound of this style of kick drum will provide a very deep and beefy sound with a lot of air movement. Just look at the 14” x 24” kick included in the WFLIII City Limits Kit. It’s got tone and vibe for days!
The 14” x 24” kick included in the WFLIII City Limits Kit
Another noteworthy bass drum size many would consider a modern classic is 18” x 22”. With the power and depth of an even larger kick but with a slightly tighter response, this size is a great choice for many genres of music. So where does the length come into play? The 18” length of the drum from end to end provides a sort of “cannon” effect for the low end. It provides a deep punch that is slightly more concentrated than shallower drums. The WFLIII Combo 4-Piece Shell Pack or the Headliner 5-Piece Shell Pack both offer this versatile, sought-after bass drum.
Headliner 5-Piece Drum Kit, with 18” x 22” Bass Drum
A smaller option of the 14” x 20” kick drum, offered with the WFLIII Bebop Kit, will provide an even tighter bass drum sound. 20” and smaller kicks are becoming more and more popular especially with custom drums. One advantage they have over larger drums is that the response will feel quicker and with the right tuning and drum miking technique, you can still achieve a nice deep sound. Smaller bass drums that are well designed should offer a pleasant thump that will work well in many types of music, but this kick size works especially well for small settings or smaller ensembles.
The 14” x 20” kick drum, offered with the WFLIII Bebop Kit
THE ADVANTAGES OF MAPLE SHELLS
Like with any other drum, the element with arguably the biggest impact on the sound is the material the shell is made of. While there are several kinds of wood that are popular for building drums, WFLIII cuts to the chase by offering a battle-tested 3-ply configuration of maple-poplar-maple for their kick drums and toms. Maple drums are known for their warm tone and smooth projection throughout the frequency range, and WFLIII’s redesigned fusion of maple with poplar showcases these wonderful qualities even more.
The WFLIII Generations® 3-Ply Maple Shell has been making a big splash in the music scene. Drummers across many genres have been impressed with the musical nuance of these shells, so we can’t help but recommend you try them and find your new favorite kick drum.
MUFFLING AND KICK DRUM HEADS
The concept of muffling your bass drum goes way back. If you’ve ever played drums in an orchestral concert band, maybe in school, your instructor may have taught you the technique of using one hand to slightly mute the drum head while using the other to hit the drum with your mallet. The idea is similar when thinking about the drum kit.
Whether you purchase a specialized product like the KICKPRO weighted kick drum pillow or use the old-fashioned method of filling the inside of your kick drum with a pillow or blanket, an important aspect of your kick drum tone will come from how much you muffle the sound. Your job will be to determine the appropriate amount of muffling that fits your style and serves the music you are playing.
In addition to what you put inside your drum, your choice of batter head will play a role major role in the overall sound of your drum. The Remo Powerstroke 3, standard on all WFLIII Bass Drums, offers focused mid and low tones with well-defined attack. For additional control you may chose the Remo Powersonic, with its subsonic dampening rings and external dampening system.
Okay, but what about the resonant head? The great news is, resonant heads on bass drums are fairly low maintenance. Many drummers will go years without changing them. Run with the head you like best, with the color and design you like best. You can’t go wrong with a clean simple logo like the beautiful “III” featured on WFLIII Drums.
WHAT ABOUT THE PEDAL AND BEATER?
There are so many pedals that will do a great job with your kick. As fellow drummers, our advice is not to place too much priority on having the most expensive pedal out there. If you need a place to start, look into PDP’s SP500 pedal. Even with quality custom drums like WFLIII Drums, a simple, straight-forward pedal that does the job will be a great choice. Of course, the most important thing is that it suits your personal playing technique. The more you practice and get comfortable with your pedal of choice, the quicker and more refined your pedal work will become.
The beater on your pedal is also important. We like to recommend the versatility of a dual-sided beater with felt on one side and rubber on the other. If your pedal doesn’t happen to include this type of beater you can purchase one relatively inexpensively. This allows you to choose what you need for any given scenario– a solid but more neutral hit on the drum head with the felt side for a classic sound, or a more aggressive hit with the rubber side for a more attack that’s popular in many modern drum styles and tones.
TUNING AND TONE TIPS
- Larger diameter bass drums (such as 24”) may feel “slower” when playing, so you can improve the response time by using more tension on the batter head. Because of the size of the drum, you can still get a deep tone even with the head being tighter.
- Smaller bass drum diameters (like 20” or smaller) can be tuned really low to achieve a tight, deep sound, especially when miked.
- When using muffling material like pillows inside your kick drum, allow the material to slightly touch both the batter and resonant head to prevent the heads from making a “flappy” sound if tuned loosely.
- A popular tuning technique to quickly get a tight, punchy, deep sound is to only hand tighten the lugs on the resonant head (easy with the smooth springless lugs included on WFLIII Drums) and then tune the batter head with the drum key, only tight enough for appropriate playing tension.
- If your resonant head has a port hole, position the kick mic inside the drum closer to the batter head for more attack and high end (while still getting plenty of punchy low-end).
- Move the mic closer to the outside of the resonant head (around the middle of the hole if you have a port hole) to capture a warmer tone with lots of air movement.
- When the kick is miked, use EQ to boost frequencies around the 60hz - 80hz range, cut frequencies in the 250hz to 300hz range, and boost frequencies in the 4khz - 8khz range.