Tech Tip:TECH TIP – Taming the wild kick
Better kick drum sound in 3 easy steps
By Mike Fitch, Musician's Friend Staff Writer
You've just purchased the new drum set of your dreams, assembled it, and tuned it up. You play a few rolls around the toms and snare, lay down a simple groove, and everything sounds great with the notable exception of the kick drum, which produces huge, roaring sound that overwhelms all the other drums in your set. Don't fret, getting a fat-yet-controlled kick drum sound takes just a few simple steps.
The first step is to make sure your kick drum is well tuned. When installing the batter head (the head you play with the kick pedal) on the drum, turn the tension rods just past the point where the heads still show wrinkles. Then, tune to even tension all around the head (tapping just the head about an inch in from each tuning lug to match the fundamental note) until you get a musical sound that integrates well with the rest of your set. Ensure that the front (resonant) head is tuned up to the same pitch, or to a pitch that resonates well with the timbre of the batter head. Drum tuning is very subjective, and the tuning you prefer will likely reflect the kind of music you like to play. In general, rock and funk drummers tune the heads lower for a lower, more muffled or "dead" tone with a strong attack. Jazz and soul drummers often tune the kick drum higher for a more musical sound. Again, there are no hard-and-fast rules here, let your ears be your guide.
The next step that most drummers find essential for getting a focused, controlled kick drum sound is to either cut a hole in the front kick drum resonant head (there are kick drum hole-cutting kits available that allow you to do this easily and cleanly), or buy a front drumhead with the hole pre-cut. This allows you to put a pillow or padding against the batter head and to customize the amount of dampening that you desire by adjusting how much of the pillow comes into contact with the head. Having a hole in the front kick drumhead also makes it easier to effectively mic the kick by placing a drum mic directly in front of the hole. For a kick drum sound that retains its openness and musicality yet is somewhat attenuated, there are felt strips available specially designed for the. The strip is placed against the batter head when you put the head on, and runs across the diameter of the head. There are also many kick drumheads that have dampening rings or adjustable mufflers built into the head design, such as the and , , and .
The final step to killer kick sound is to attach a kick pad (a small, flat adhesive pad) to the batter head at the point where the kick beater meets the head. This rounds the tone out a bit and also prolongs the life of the drumhead. A piece of "mole-skin" (the adhesive pad used for blister protection on feet, available at drugstores) also works well for this. Another consideration is what kind of beater you use in your kick pedal. A wood or plastic beater will obviously have a harder-edged sound, and a felt beater will provide a mellower sound. So whether you like your kick drum sound huge and Bonham-esque, or tight and punchy, the solution is close at hand.