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How much does bass drum size really matter now?

swarfrat

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Just because it's enharmonic doesn't mean that a 16" kick drum is producing similar low frequency content to a 32" and to suggest that it is is downright fraudulent
 

bpaluzzi

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larger and deeper bass drums are louder. That is why drummers chose them in first place. Now that we have mic's on stage, volume should not be an issue at all, strangely it is a main subject again and again. Why?

This statement is wrong, and the entirety of your argument falls apart once this statement is removed. An 18" tuned down doesn't sound anything like a 26".
 

Algis Jaras

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For most of my playing life I’ve used mostly 24s some 22s and more recently some 26s.
Back when there was no amplification most of the old sets had 26 and 28 inch bass drums playing with big bands and the like. As people like Krupa moved towards smaller combos, bass drum size went down as everyone knows.
I like playing the larger bass drums just for personal feel. But with today’s milking and processing techniques I feel like any bass drum can be made to sound a certain way both live in the studio.
Why do you prefer your favorite bass drum size? Is it portability? Playability? Feel? Or something else?
For most of my playing life I’ve used mostly 24s some 22s and more recently some 26s.
Back when there was no amplification most of the old sets had 26 and 28 inch bass drums playing with big bands and the like. As people like Krupa moved towards smaller combos, bass drum size went down as everyone knows.
I like playing the larger bass drums just for personal feel. But with today’s milking and processing techniques I feel like any bass drum can be made to sound a certain way both live in the studio.
Why do you prefer your favorite bass drum size? Is it portability? Playability? Feel? Or something else?
I Agree with everything that people are saying on this thread. In the end, it's all about what works best for you and what you are trying to achieve. One thing I wanted to add... is the size of the drummer. I am 6'5' and 230 lbs. . My first kit was a Ludwig w a 20" kick. It was perfectly fine. But as the years went on I started to feel just a lot more "at Home" behind a bigger drum set. They say your posture, your comfort, and your relaxed attitude are all keys to successful drumming. Bigger kits are harder to transport, but a bigger kit w 24" or 26" kicks are just where I naturally go. I live in a house w tall ceilings, my car has max headroom and I love the feel of a big kick. thump thump
 

varatrodder

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I really like having a 20 and a 24. Honestly I love the sound of a 24, but there are plenty of times when that size is overkill, or I just need something a little more portable.
 
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I love the sound and feel of 26" bass drums, but had to retire my Ludwig Classic kit with its two 26s for two reasons:

1) They no longer fit in my vehicle of choice, so I can't gig with them.

2) They force my rack toms to be too high for my playing comfort. And if I lower the rack toms I have to spread the bass drums too far apart for my playing comfort.

So for the rest of my playing days it's two (Legacy Maple) 14x22s. And you know what? They kick plenty butt!
EXACTLY higher kick = higher toms for most. Reason Ill only own 20" kicks only now due to injuries from car crashes. Actually makes a huge difference for those sweet spot fluidity of motion.
 

1988fxlr

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can someone enlighten me - what the heck are the people writing about here? I do not get it. I understand that drummers like certain drum sizes bc they "feel" more like a real drum set. But it makes no physical sense what many write here.

larger and deeper bass drums are louder. That is why drummers chose them in first place. Now that we have mic's on stage, volume should not be an issue at all, strangely it is a main subject again and again. Why?

Bass drums are getting mic'd, and thus the sound is subject to how you mic them, what mic you use, how you process the sound etc. I fear that despite what drummers think and feel about their kick sound, sound engineers see the instrument not much different than an electric guitar in the influence on the sound - sure it has some, but literally everything that comes after that in the signal chain has more influence in the sound, and to make things worse, the way you play, the heads you use, and the way you tune also have a bigger impact in the sound than the actual instrument.

And then the size... sorry, many claim that a small kick does not have so much low end, or is not possible to tune as low. This is so much "common sense" that people just nod to it - but it makes no sense either. This is simply not true. A 16" kick can produce pretty low frequencies already, and you'd be surprised to find out how little you can tell from a recording if a kick was 16, 20 or 26" large. What actually changes is the sound character, but not as most drummers expect.

So this is getting really funny: while drummers tend to claim larger BD sizes sound better to them when they play them live, they tend to chose way smaller kick drums when asked for their preference in sound in a blindfold test. And the more rock orientated the sound, the smaller the kick! We are talking about drummers hearing an 18 or even 16" kick, liking the sound a lot, and guessing it it 22 or larger.

I have a theory why the drummers, even though they usually want the kick to sound like an 18" one, chose larger sizes: Volume beats sound. Every time. Well, nearly every time.

Don't get me wrong, I have a 24' kick as well and had some 26'" ones and liked them, but when drummers actually explain what they like in a kick sound, and volume is no issue (mic's, remember?!?) why else do they generally pick the larger diameters? And to make things worse, claim it to sound different than it actually sounds, acoustically? Don't they have ears? Don't they recognize that their kick usually is not being mic'ed but triggered? Seriously, when you move your mic inside the instrument, use 2-3 mic's on the same instrument, and mix it together to create a kick sound, this is NOT how you faithfully reproduce an acoustic instrument in first place, this is more like triggering, and in fact we give each instrument a seperate chanel on the mixing console, we could use the mics to actually trigger our drums today.

When mixing an acoustic instrument you respect, your minimum distance is 20-30cm. When you get closer, you already change the sound, and the way we mic drums, we already use proximity effect as part of the sound, adding bass and low mids where was none or little.

sorry for this rant, but I am really confused. How am i to take a drummer serious when most do not recognize that their drum sound, acoustically, is not what you hear either on recording nor live through the PA?

Is there any percussionist who can explain to drummers that volume does not matter? Heck, they even play instruments with hands, and use small sized instruments like 14" - 18" bodhrans which reach deeper than most kick drums we hear...

rant over...
To take your assertion to the logical extreme, make up a kit with 6” hanging tom, 6” floor tom, and a 6” bass drum and see if tuning, heads, technique, and audio reinforcement short of sound replacement can make it sound satisfactory
 

michaelocalypse

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I've mostly had 22 drums, 14, 16, 18 depths. I did have a 24x18, and I had a couple 20x18.

I liked the 20" because it let me place the toms lower, and it can be tuned lower than a 22" with still having some decent tension in it. The 24" just physically shoved the position of everything else around where I didn't like it.
 

Trev

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I Agree with everything that people are saying on this thread. In the end, it's all about what works best for you and what you are trying to achieve. One thing I wanted to add... is the size of the drummer. I am 6'5' and 230 lbs. . My first kit was a Ludwig w a 20" kick. It was perfectly fine. But as the years went on I started to feel just a lot more "at Home" behind a bigger drum set. They say your posture, your comfort, and your relaxed attitude are all keys to successful drumming. Bigger kits are harder to transport, but a bigger kit w 24" or 26" kicks are just where I naturally go. I live in a house w tall ceilings, my car has max headroom and I love the feel of a big kick. thump thump
This is a very good point. I myself am not a big guy, 5'9", and I've always preferred a bass drum 20" or lower. My first kit (yawn with your mouth closed) was a 70s Maxwin, and had a 22", and I hated it. Strangely, not because of the size or sound, but because of the look! The drummer in my dad's band (when I was a kid in the early 70s) had a Ludwig set, which I know now to have been a Downbeat, and that's what I always wanted to have, purely because the BD was the size I liked. But I used that bloody 22" for years and didn't really enjoy it.
I was playing in a high energy swing/rockabilly band about twenty odd years ago and the band leader bought, specifically for the band and because he thought it looked sexy, a Gretsch Catalina Club kit with a 26" for me to play. I found it hard work - apart from playing it (it sounded huge, by the way), but lugging the bloody thing around! It barely fit in my car. I dubbed it an Official "Pain In The Arse", although oddly I did enjoy playing it. I finally got myself a Downbeat and also put together a mongrel Ludwig kit with an 18" BD (big shout out to forum brother burgundy who supplied parts - Hi Mike!), and these have been (and still are) my two working kits for the past ten years.
Plus, looking back, I realise that the more playing experience I got over the years - gigs all over the place, different kits, new purchases, large house drums, borrowed gear, change of car etc, really emphasised how well a 20" or 18" works for me, both in comfort and ease of playing, but also just getting it from venue to venue. Like Algis says above - whatever floats your boat. If it works for you then it's a Good Thing.
 

aindiparse

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In a miked up situation, it probably doesn't matter at all. I mainly have 22" bass drums, which mike up brilliantly. But I also have a 16" bass drum which also mikes up brilliantly. I've also had 20" and 24" bass drums at various times, and they miked up well too. The main difference is, you can hear and "feel" a larger bass drum acoustically in miked up situations. With smaller bass drums in the same situations, you are at the mercy of the sound person. If they are not all that knowledgeable, good luck. Also, the on stage volume of your band mates could also be an issue with hearing and feeling your bass drum clearly. Once again, a little bit of your control of your sound is surrendered to the sound mixer with a smaller bass drum.
 

cruddola

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Tony would have agreed with you.

View attachment 552764


10/12/13/16/18/26/14

Massive!
My last tour were with a 10,12,14 &16 toms, 18 and 20 floor toms all Tama 1st generation Artstars and a 26 Yamaha Rock Tour Custom Bass. The tour before that was Sonor Signatures in 8,10,12,14, &15 toms with a 16 &18 floor toms. The 18X26 Rock Tour Custom was my bass drum. Supras were my snares of choice. Everything was on a Yamaha HexRack system. The bigger, the better!
 

MillerMav

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I play a 18 diameter x 16 deep INDe bass drum, it's currently my only bass drum that I own. Why? Because it can do EVERYTHING!. It have it internally mic'd with a Audix D6 and a small port on the front head. That's it....

Now, it NEEDS to be mic'd in a band. Mine is always running through a nice big QSC sub woofer. Awesome.

If I got into a situation where I wasn't mic'd and playing in a R&B/Rock cover band like I do now I would have to go to a 24" I'm sure.
 

gra7

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One thing I wanted to add... is the size of the drummer.
Yes, this. I edited my post in this thread because you raised a very valid point. While I love the feel of playing a 24" kick, I can't get comfortable behind it without compromising my throne height and rack tom position.
 

CC Cirillo

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Horses for courses.

20 x 14 for rock/pop/soul/ funk. Mic’d up it can command. In a unmic’d situation, say a smaller venue, it still has presence.

For rehearsals, I like an 18 x 14. This situation is typically quieter, certainly unmic’d, and we are closer, in a circle, so I just need the low end to have tone and definition. I’m not driving the band in the same way as on stage in that the thump isn’t coming from behind my comrades needing to go through them, blow up some skirts if you will, and then hit the audience in the rib cage.
 

JimmyM

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Nothing wrong with any of them, but the absolute lowest I'm willing to go is 20", I prefer 24", but I'm going to split the difference and get a 22" since they've always done just fine for me and don't force me to have my rack tom a foot above the snare. Does it matter? It does to me, but I've never walked out of a gig because the drummer used an 18".
 

Madmarian

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To take your assertion to the logical extreme, make up a kit with 6” hanging tom, 6” floor tom, and a 6” bass drum and see if tuning, heads, technique, and audio reinforcement short of sound replacement can make it sound satisfactory
i expected this level of intellect.

Given that a drummer playing a 20" kick often already feels like playing a toy drum set - i just recently was questioned if I am still sane equiping a main stage at a festival with a set sized 20/10/12/14/16 (the toms were not the issue...) - i think going up and down 2-4 inch in size already does the trick.

Nobody claims a 6" Tom gives you the same depth as a 26" kick. Though, physically, it would be possible when the heads were thinner as well. You might know that a 6" speaker is actually capable of pretty low frequencies too. The only reason why a tom does not go that low is that to do so, the head would have to be way thinner. Bringing me to the next issue many drummers have - thinking that thicker drum heads reach deeper. Nope. They usualy just sound more muffled, thus appear lower, while being considerably higher in pitch. Gosh how often did I have to prove this to drummers who would not believe such a basic physical concept. If still doubting, ask youself: what does sound lower, the fairly thin front of a cajon, or the thick sides? See.


As instrument builder, to give some context, there are certain sizes which define your instrument, and you would be surprised how strict these are. Build a violine an inch deeper, you got a new instrument. These sizes are defined by the sound you want to archieve with your instrument. Now, with a drum set, it is getting really weird, because the sound people want, and here you have to trust me than I know my profession, is usually that of a drum set which is 2-4" smaller (or even more) and way differently contructed than what they end up describing to "need". It is pretty common that drummers want the sound our smallest "sweet Sixteen kit has (with 16" kick, that is) and demand the size to be 22x18 and such. As if the size can be chosen randomly, and I have to somehow use superpowers to make it sound that way. I came to learn that you cannot trust most drummers in this regard. If they say "i need these sizes", it is rather that they would not feel comfortable, for whatever reason, to play anything smaller. Exeptions there are, else I would starve. But only few, so few in fact, until recently most stores would not want to stock any of my drums for being "too small". Retailers only stock what they think drummers would buy, and for some reason they seem to think that sound does not matter, if the size is too small. Lucky that during the pandemic this changed a bit, small drums are now en vouge...
 
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Madmarian

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Horses for courses.

20 x 14 for rock/pop/soul/ funk. Mic’d up it can command. In a unmic’d situation, say a smaller venue, it still has presence.

For rehearsals, I like an 18 x 14. This situation is typically quieter, certainly unmic’d, and we are closer, in a circle, so I just need the low end to have tone and definition. I’m not driving the band in the same way as on stage in that the thump isn’t coming from behind my comrades needing to go through them, blow up some skirts if you will, and then hit the audience in the rib cage.
may I ask, when you play live, mic'd, why do you think you need a larger kick than the 18" you use for rehersal and acoustic drumming? I think we aggree that the volume is being controlled by the mixing guy, you mic'd it...
 

Madmarian

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This statement is wrong, and the entirety of your argument falls apart once this statement is removed. An 18" tuned down doesn't sound anything like a 26".
where did I state that an 18" sounds like a 26" kick? Huh? I said the oposite, most drummers alter the sound massively to get whatever drum to sound like whatever they want, which quite often is, getting a 26" to sound as an 18" kick would naturally sound like. The key word is "alter the sound". Which is why I am confused. Why not play an 18" when this is the sound you want, and mic it when it is not loud enough?

edit: if you refer to the part "bigger and deeper drums are louder, this is why they are chosen", this is a fact. Note that I did not say "bigger drums are only louder, but sound exactly like the smaller ones". Drums got bigger, bc the stage got louder. You had smaller drums on stages until Mashall hit the stage, and suddenly all drummers sized up. Still in studios, where sound should be the first thing you want, drums stayed smaller, shallower for quite a while, until these new drum sizes became synonym for the drum set, and drummers started to feel uneasy playing anything smaller.

now, i should say rock drummers, as the largest drum sets were originally being played by jazz drummers, commanding the until marshall loudest bands on stage - ever played with a full blwon horn section?! - now as rock rose, and jazz became something for small clubs, you see them jazz drummers play smaller kits today, so that the 18" kick became synonym for "jazz kick". Not because of its sound - that is subject to tuning and choices of head as most know - but simply because, well, which rock drummer would head a stage with a tiny 18" kick?

I happen to know David Keith who plays drums at Rainbow. Richy Blackmore asked him to play his Ayotte drum set because it sounds so good, and he wanted a good sound on stage. David told me how much hate he got from people up to even questioning his skills just because the kick happened to be 2 inch smaller than usual - he plays a 20" Kick.

he still does today - but he used a trick: 1) he got a second 20" kick for a double kick setup 2) he is pretty good at welding, so he built a kick riser which would lift up the bass drum so that it appears to be larger. He said, since he has never been questioned about his drumming skills again. And gosh, he is a good drummer, let's not forget Cozy Powell was a former member at Rainbow.

So it is not just my guts. Drummers do get judged by the size of their drums a lot, so I get that they are afraid in certain music styles to play a smaller kit. I get it, I am not stupid. But what makes me upset is when they claim that it is due to sound reason. No. Drums got bigger for volume reason. Soundwise, drums got a lot worse since, and it takes a lot of effort to get a modern drum set to sound like a good drum set on a record. Did you know that especially kick drums are quite often simply and quietly replaced by samples in mixes when the original kick does not sound good at all? why bother telling the drummer, when it can be exchanged without him noticing...

Another true story: The band Royal Blood used for their first double platinum selling selftitled album (and the two after that) one of my small drum sets with - you guessed it - a 20" kick. But when the stages got bigger, drummer Ben Thather demanded a larger kick, for visual reasons. He was being endorsed by me back then, but his label warner was afraid small drums are not rock'n Roll enough and insisted in him playing a DW (which they gave to him) (oh, side note: if a label gives you anything "for free", guess again. it was not for free, he had to pay it in full. and he hated it.). Quickly after, he got endorsed by Gretsch, and Ben, still 19 years old, was so blown away he could not refuse, and you will never anywhere find any hint of him other than by me saying so that he ever used our drums on his recordings. Even though I actually built the drums for this very recording, he would delete all hints in social media where he was seen with my drum set. (Yes, that is not nice, especially because it kinda defies the purpose of an endorsement, but wha else can I do, other than brag about it...)

Now you have to understand that Warner being the label here is not taking any chances. They invested a lot into them and wanted the band to have a rock and roll image, so they certainly wanted him to play a well recognized drum brand associated with rock, in men-sizes (at LEAST 22").

So while some of you seem to think this is not a thing, it really is. You will have trouble finding a major rock band featuring a small drum set, unless they really are free to do whatever they want (thinking of Manu Katché..)
 
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Seb77

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For acoustic playing I prefer tighter drumheads, so for a low sound I move up in size. I love my 20 and 18 drums, but leave them at home if I want a lower sound. Haven't tuned them loosely for a long time, got a nice 22 for that. Now that one I also use with loose heads, padding, and a port if the mic'ed sound asks for that. Gives me a perfect 50Hz sub sound. The smaller drums to me do not sound as good with that kind of setup.
 

bpaluzzi

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edit: if you refer to the part "bigger and deeper drums are louder, this is why they are chosen", this is a fact.

"fact"

word.jpeg
 


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