Tech Tip:TECH TIP – Taming the wild kick

Musician's Friend Tech Tip

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 kick drum.  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 Evans EMAD and EQ3, Aquarian Regulator, and Remo Powerstroke 3.


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.