How to Tune Your Bass Drum – Quick & EASY w/Rob Brown

How to Tune Your Bass Drum – Quick & EASY w/Rob Brown

I’ve recently been getting quite a few requests to do a bass drum tuning video. Those of you guys that have seen my snare tuning and my tom tuning videos First of all, thanks for all of the e-mails that I’ve been getting. I’m really happy to hear that the videos have been helping you guys out and that your drums sound awesome now. But I guess a lot of you want to find out how I get my bass drum sound. So I’m going to go through this just like I went through the other ones. I’m going to show you step-by-step what’s going on. I’m going to teach you the relationship between the batter head and the resonate head. And hopefully by the end you’ll be able to get the exact bass drum sound that you’re looking for, whether you’re playing an 18″ or a 26″. Hopefully the tips that I show you will help you get that sound that you’re looking for. Okay? So, let’s get into this. I’ll show you how I do it and we’ll go from there. Okay, so a couple of things that you just need to know before we get started because it’s always a good idea to sort of understand the relationship between the batter head and the resonate head. Now, most of us that play most common styles of popular music pop, rock, jazz, funk, country, all of that stuff, We’re all generally trying to get the same generic bass drum sound out of our kick. We just want a nice, fat, [punches fist] tight, punch coming out of the bass drum. We’re not really trying to get any specific type of tone or tune it to any specific note or anything like that. You can if you want. Most of us don’t care because we know nobody’s really going to hear it anyways. We just want a nice [punches fist] fat [punches fist] punch when we hit our bass drum. So the one thing to remember as far as the batter head goes I guess, the 2 things I guess to remember is that the looser your batter head is, the more punch you’re going to get out of it. The tighter your batter head is, the more tone you’ll get. So, if you’re one of those guys that plays a lot of bebop jazz on smaller bass drums, you’re generally probably going to want to tune your batter head a little bit tighter because that’s just how to get that jazz tuning. And as far as the resonate head goes, or the logo head, the tighter your logo head is, again the more tone you’re going to get, the more sustain you’re going to get. And the looser your resonate head is, the less sustain you’re going to get. It’s just like a tom. It’s the same principle. If your front head is a lot looser, then what’s going to happen is it’s going to resonate a lot slower. And you won’t get the same amount of sustain. It’s just like when you’re tuning a tom, if you want to get more sustain out of a tom you tune the bottom head tighter It’s the same principle on the bass drum. The bass drum is basically just a tom turned sideways. It’s the same kind of tuning principles that apply to the bass drum when you think of it that way. So, keeping all that in mind if you’re going for a nice, tight [punches fist] bass drum sound. Like the ideal bass drum sound for me is an equal combination of punch and tone. I don’t want it to be just all dead slap. I like to get a little bit of a tone out of it. Like a low end kind of a tone out of it. And it really comes out you know, when it’s on stage and you put a mic in front of it. The mic will really pick up that low end. So you want to have that on there. At least, I do. So, I’m going to show you how I get that just by using a really simple sort of tuning method here. So, I guess we can start with [hits head] this top head. Now, whether you’re starting with a head that’s already on there and you’re just loosening it off and starting from scratch, or if you’re pulling a brand new head out of the box you want to start out the same way, basically. So stick the head on the shell. Put your hoop on. Put your claws on. And then, all the way around just go finger tight. Just so that you know that you’re starting at the same spot. And do that on both sides. Loosen everything off, and start at the same spot. Ok? The next thing you want to do that’s really important, especially if you’re starting with a new head, once you get it on there, you’re going to want to stretch it out. So, stick it on there. Give it a little CPR for a couple of seconds. Give it a nice stretch. You know you don’t have to do this for an hour, a couple of seconds is good to go. But just put some good pressure on that. on that head Stretch it out a little bit and just to make sure you’re starting out at the right spot. So the same method that I used to tune my batter head on the bass drum is much the same as as the method that I used to tune the toms. And, that I’m going to be using wrinkles to help me set this head where I want it to sit. Now as far as how to do that there’s a little rhyme that you can sort of say to yourself when you’re tuning this top head. All you got to remember is that you’re going to tune it flat, and turn it back. That’s it. Tune it flat and turn it back. I’m going to show you exactly what I mean. I’m going to take a drum key and we’re going to apply pressure to that head so we can create our wrinkles here. And here’s what you’re going to do: You’re going to take your drum key and while you’re keeping the pressure on there you’re going to take that, you’re going to turn it until that wrinkle goes flat and then you’re going to turn it slightly back just to bring a little bit of that wrinkle back. We’ll do that with another one. Turn it, tune it flat, and then turn it back. So while you’re keeping pressure on there you’re going to be able to see, when you turn that back, which is probably not going to amount to anymore then like a 1/4 turn, When you turn it back you’re going to see a little bit of that wrinkle pop back up And then just do that all the way around. Tune it flat, and turn it back. Just like that there. So it’s just a really slight wrinkle appearance that you’re basically going to create all the way around. So now I’m pressing down real hard on this head here and as I’m doing that I can see just a slight wrinkle all the way around the drum. Once you do that, this is done. Ok? It’s that quick. Again: Apply pressure, you’re going to see all your wrinkles around, Turn ’em flat and then turn it back about a 1/4 turn just to bring a little of that wrinkle back. Once you set that head here you have achieved what I call Maximum Thumpification The way this head is sitting right now you’re going to get the most thump that you can out of this top head. And you’d be surprised how loose this thing is. By the time you turn these back, I’m telling you these tension rods are going to be barely just a hair past finger tight. And that’s exactly where you want it. Ok? Remember that. MT Maximum Thumpification Remember that. I just made it up but it’s important anyway. Remember that, ok? So the top head’s done. What we can do now is flip it over and incidentally this is how I tune my bass drum. Like it’s never on it’s side like that. I always like to put it on its end and tune each head that way. It’s just easier to do. So now we’re going to do the front head. The front head is going to be a little different than the back. The resonate head what you’re going to end up doing is for those of y’all that remember the snare tuning video when I talked about keeping that resonate head nice and tight? It’s almost the same thing with the bass drum. Ok? A lot of people don’t know that if you tighten that resonate head of yours that’s where you’re going to get your tone from. You can actually, you can tune that tone up or tune it down to where you want Remember that mix I was saying earlier? When I talked about how my ideal bass drum sound is a good mix between thump and tone? Your tone comes from tightening your resonate head If it’s loose, if it’s too loose it’s just going to flap and stop. And you’re just not going to have a nice, full bass drum sound. And again, if you want that, that’s cool. Me? I like a good combination of both because it’s sounds really good when you stick a mic in there. You can hear that nice sort of full tone. So we’re going to do basically the same thing with the front head We’re going to start by applying pressure but the method is going to be different with this one because we’re going to tune it higher. So first, we just go all the way around and tune all of our wrinkles flat. Just like that there until they disappear. So now that they’re all flat and then from here, I’m just going to go around and with each one probably give it another good 2 1/2 to 3 turns And tune this front head right up. Again, not too tight. But, you got to remember that this thing is 20″ in diameter and if you’re working with a 22″ it’s going to be even better. Don’t worry about tuning it too tight. Ok? Because it’s a huge drum. It’s not going to end up sounding like a piccolo or nothing like that. You’re just going to end up getting a little more tone out of it. And don’t forget the batter head is really loose. So it’s not really going to affect the pitch so much of the drum because you’re still going to get that massive slap from that batter head. This is just going to help you get a little more of that full tone out of it. So…BOOM! That was it. I’m done the front one. If I take this now just let me tap a little bit Oh yeah! Grab me a little mallet And here we go OH! OH my gosh! Ridiculous. Ridiculous. OK, let’s talk about head selection for a second if you want to take full advantage of this particular tuning method It might be necessary for you to go out and spend at least 50 bucks on a good batter head. Preferably something with a built in either foam or felt muffle ring around the edge So the one that I have on here this is an Aquarian Super Kick 1 a Super Kick 2 would work just as fine. I find a Super Kick 1 resonates a little bit better because it’s a single ply as opposed to 2. So it take a little further advantage of the tone and the resonation. I used that on here. The Evans EMAD is fantastic for this particular type of tuning method. If you got a 22″ base drum with an Evans EMAD on it and you do this thing? Man, Sound guys are going to be asking you for your autograph after a sound check. It’s ridiculous. It’s a great, wicked sounding head. You can interchange the rings put a thicker one on there, put a thinner one on there to control the amount of muffling. If you’re a Remo guy, Remo has this head called the Power Stroke Pro which I this is really cool It also has a removable foam ring on there. So anyone of those will work just fine. If you got a high-end kit or if you got a really good quality intermediate kit which most of them are these days Ideally… the reason why I’m recommending these heads is because ideally in my opinion bass drums sound at their best when they’re empty. This particular drum here has nothing in it. My main kit, I’ve got nothing in the bass drum at all. I always try to achieve the best possible bass drum sound that I can get without putting anything inside the shell. Ok? If it’s necessary, and you need to use some kind of muffling try to use as little as possible. Pick up one of those little EMAD pillows or whatever, or get yourself a blanket and just fold it and lay it across the bottom. I’ve seen some kits for some reason, especially with the younger guys, they’ll take like 19 blankets and just stuff the bass drum with it. You don’t want to do that. You’re completely defeating the purpose of the drum. It’s just my little opinion just try to use as little dampening as possible inside the bass drum. And again, if you have to use some try to use as little as possible. Just so that you can get the most that you possibly can out of your bass drum. So, other than that, that’s about it. I mean this hopefully will help you out. If you’ve been having trouble tuning your bass drum, this method from start to finish you know, I was doing a lot of talking through there, but from start to finish on your own, shouldn’t take you any longer than 2 1/2 minutes to get a really great sound out of your bass drum. So, yeah, that’s about it. If you have any other questions Hit me up on the website or send me a message on here on my YouTube Channel And just let me know, let me know how you work out. Hopefully this works for you. And yeah, that’s about it. Good luck.

100 thoughts to “How to Tune Your Bass Drum – Quick & EASY w/Rob Brown”

  1. Got a Ludwig 1972 model 22 head with front cover with Mic hole ……..Mic'ing into a Peavey 1600w Pa into a pair of 400w each Peavey subs & the bass sounds like Plastic & sustains way too long to where the following kick is crappy sounding, as if the sound is just echoing around inside the head.

  2. Rob Brown – Thank you soo much for this video. I have just finished putting together a kit after a 20 year break from playing ( financial reasons not lack of passion ) and I used your method to tune my bass drum, in fact I actually played your video and did what you did at the same time. My kit is just a Pearl vision VBL birch in ruby fade and like I said I haven't touched a kit in 20 years but……….my bass drum sounds like it was tuned by a professional drum tech, thanks to you Rob Brown. Thank you very much for your help that your video gave me, I should note that my bass drum does not have ANY muffling at all and I'm using stock heads – my last kit 20 years ago used to have pillows and blankets stuffed in it. Much appreciation and many thanks again. Nicholas McClintock ( Subscriber ) .

  3. Awesome awesome awesome! Thanks for sharing this information. You are definitely a drummer I will be following closely.

  4. Holy shit!!!! It works. I will have my pencil ready for autographs 🤘
    Next in line Will be my snare(S) 👍
    Thanks, Rob.

  5. Before watching this vid, I had a pillow and two fleece blankets in my kick drum (I object to the stereotype of poor drum tuning allocated to the "young kids," as I'm old, but I saw a bunch of vids with kids with whole treehouses in their bass & followed suit … I shoulda known better) … I followed your tutorial, and advanced the resonant head by 1/2 turns – the Gretsch Energy kit sounds AOK (to me) at 3 one-half turns, but then again I have super-studly strong hands and "finger tight" is a relative term. Many thanks for this awesome tutorial – I'm off to experience maximum thumpification, and then maybe I'll play the drums for a while.

  6. I use precisely the same method with my 24×20" kick, with one exception. Because I hit harder with my foot in a heel up position, I give the bottom two lugs on the batter side an extra half turn, just to avoid the lugs shaking loose with vibration. The lugs are, as he says in his video, very very loose. No muffling is added to the drum internally, with the exception of a very small towel folded neatly in the bottom, not touching either of the heads, as I use a resonant head with no sound hole in it. In my experience, this causes a sound inside the drum that sounds like bouncing a basketball in a gymnasium. The towel absorbs those standing waves, and also is a great spot to lay a boundary mic.
    He is not joking when he says maximum thumpification.
    Really solid slap from the batter with a perfect amount of growl and sustain afterwards.

  7. Can confirm this works, even in studio environments. Mic up inside and outside, and you'll need a change of pants when you hear the playback!


  9. "They'll take like 19 blankets and stuff the bass drum with it" had me rofl. Thank you, it made my day!

  10. I tried the techniques you've discussed in this video, and the results definitely show! My kick drum has never sounded this good!!! Thanks 🙂

  11. #MaximumThumpification <3 Rob, I do not only find your videos miraculously helpful, but I really like your vibe and personality. I wish I could be your friend xD .

    I used to hate tuning my drums, it made me frustrated and angry, but thanks to you I actually enjoy it.


  12. This worked well with an Evans EMAD I just got for my Gretch Catalina Club 18" Kick. Good mix of thump and tone.

  13. Some methods tell you to get each lug to the same pitch. What they have never said is that once you change the pitch if one lug , you change them all. Of course I was doomed to failure using this method. Your way of doing things is practical, doable and ideal. Your drums sound great. Your explanation on how the reso and batter heads work together is clear and easily understood. Using your method will help me get the most out of my kit. Thank you.

  14. As always Rob your video's on youtube are very helpfull, I wanna thank you for this because your tuning methods really work well for me👍.

  15. This video was a tremendous help and is illuminating if you know little about tuning a bass drum or want to know how you may have accidentally gotten your kick to sound good at one point. Basically, I went from relying on pillows and other large dampening devices to get a passable tone to now having a wide open kick drum that has both attack and TONS of energy at 60hz. Before this video I had one….maybe two spots where I could mic the kick and get something that worked. Now, because of this video, I have a hard time choosing which great sounding mic position I like best! Thank you Rob

  16. Okay. So i was thinking this is not gonna help me, its still gonna be a shitty sound. Then use my pedal en its was so full of bass it blew me away!! Dude u are a wizard!

  17. really doesn't matter how you tune your drums, what does matter is getting the sound you want, if you like what your hear then stick with that, thier are no secrets.

  18. Hi Rob, I've been watching this video for a couple of years now and I keep enjoying it! One little question though: which mics were you using to capture the sound we hear at 12:30? I'm trying to get the same low end out of my 22" kick but either my Zoom H4n isn't picking up the low frequencies or you have done some kind of processing on the low end in this video. Thanks and cheers from Belgium!

  19. OMG. I just tuned my kick. The pillow is out. The blanket is out. Absolutely wide open. And guess what? MAXIMUM THUMPIFICATION! I've have never had my kick sound good, until now!! And my toms…same thing. I used your techniques and it worked perfectly. Unbelievable. I didn't think it would be that easy but it was. All this time…experimenting with heads and never happy. Amazing. My snares need a little more attention but I'll get there. Thank you for sharing with us.

  20. "Finger tight"… is that "as right as you can get it with your fingers" or "just until it stops turning freely"?

  21. Man thank you so much. I tuned my bass last night for church this morning and it is the best sound I have ever gotten out of this drum. Awesome tutorial bruh. I appreciate that thanks!!

  22. Rob Brown I want to thank you for this video👍 I just got my new Remo Powerstroke Pro drumhead and I did your tuning method. My bass drum
    Sound is awesome now thanks to you.
    Have a nice day and greetings from The Netherlands👍

  23. THANK YOU, ROB. I just got back from a promising audition. When we were finished, they guys commented that my drums "sounded great" and "what kind are they?". All I could think of was MAXIMUM THUMPIFICATION!. They do sound great especially the bass drum. It just might get me into band. Thank you again.

  24. Hey Rob, might be a good idea to redo some of your old videos with your new quality. could get you more views and would be great for new subscribers like myself. great content, though!

  25. Found it, thanks Rob, dig you're work bro, just moved to Arizona from Cal, the fires destroyed all my gear, starting from scratch now and having to piece together another kit, doing things I haven't had to do is years and forgot ow to do lol, thanks got your help.

  26. Worked for me!!!!
    Wow does my kit sound amazing now. I learned so much from you rob thank you! I will continue to share every one of your videos

  27. Just got done using you're method on all my drums and I gotta say YOU NAILED IT!! very well explained and very easily done. I appreciate ya, Now on to re-doing the Snare from top to bottom including the wire…..any vids on that? 🙂

  28. Went home yesterday and tuned my bass drum with this method and got rid of the pillow, HOLY CRAP it sounds like a huge subwoofer now. I loved it and my band complimented on it. Thanks Rob!

  29. thanks Rob this is very helpful! i play the drums for 30 years, and th kick drum to me it's a tabu thing, a misterious universe than i can't knew nothing about it.. thank you again, man! 🙂

  30. I’m lucky enough to have a PA system so I stuff my bass drum like a turkey and then mic it so you get a great thump sound without sacrificing volume.

  31. Out of the 3 tuning videos I've watched, this is the one that makes the most sense. Most people tune kicks JAW and its a happy tuning for most stuff. I appreciate the tighter reso, it'll give you a tone but still – those lugs have got to be even brother. Reaaalllly shouldn't give more than a turn on one lug at a time and use the opposite lug star pattern to ensure that head is on evenly. If you want tone dude, make sure that head is even. You don't change a car tire tightening each bolt super tight one at a time, so why do it with a drum head?

  32. The problem with my 20" bass drum is that when I use this method, with time my tension rods start to loosen up to the point I can finger tighten them. Any tip?

  33. I wish I had found your vids first. Is it really this easy? I've seen all those vids about how the lugs have to be so exact and all that. I'm trying to set up my kids set but I play "Gitar". I'm so confused. LOL

  34. Thanks for your simple, straightforward, tuning tips. I have a new pack of pinstripes coming in tomorrow for my inexpensive Mapex kit and I can't wait to give this a shot. I'll report back! – not a drummer

  35. Today I applied your teachings, best tuning ever, my kits never sounded the way it does
    Thanks 👍👍

  36. What about hole placement? I've noticed that hole at the 4 – 4:30 position gives a good balance of low to mid sound.

  37. Yo Rob, if you haven't make some Maximum Thumpification t shirt. I would love to rock one with your name on it.

  38. Maximum Thumpification! I expected nothing less from a man called Beatdown Brown. Awesome content, man. Most helpful. I'm also tossing in my vote for a t-shirt.

  39. 'Sound guy will be asking for your autograph' haha. Absolute classic. Cheers for the vids Mr Brown. I've been playing for years and got bogged down with all the conflicting info on tuning and general drum matters. I've learnt so much off your vids in the last few weeks. Sincerely, thanks man!

  40. There's nothing better than a sound guy asking for your autograph – fantastic tutorial man. Keep 'em coming!

  41. I foolishly tuned all my drums like this at my gig tonight because I was waiting for the rest of the band to show. I used the method on all my drums and they sounded… great. I didn't even check. I turned them flat and they were in a great range with good reverberation and tone. I had to drop my second tom a little because it was similar pitch to my high Tom but that was easy because it was all balanced. Thanks for teaching this method, Rob.

  42. Just finished assembling my bass drum after having painted/sealed it. New heads & followed this video; worked first time! Got a great thump, with good punch. & no muffling!! Thanks Rob Beatdown for the videos (followed the snare & tom videos too). My kit is ready for recording !

  43. Would the same apply on a radiator size bass drum? Perfect timing; being almost 70, last week I decided to stop shlepping my 22” X 18” and lighten up using the 8”X18” as my kick drum. Do your tuning guidelines stay the same for different sizes?

  44. I have been drumming since I was a kid forty years ago, and havw nwver been able to guarantee a good drum sound. Your tuning videos are fantastic, and my drums have never sounded as awesome. Big thanks

  45. would really like your thoughts on this mr brown.. the pushing down on the head part will be different for every person based on weight and strength .. the harder you push = more wrinkles there are 2 ranges for wrinkle tuning .. med pressure = low tuning .. high pressure = med tuning .. i have to mess with using weights .. maybe pressing a bit less hard on the head would negate the whole need to turn back ? just a thought… I hope for a response

  46. Hi Rob… Just wanted to give you a quick shout and chime in with my testimonial on your tuning technique. I helped a friend of mine install a new, digital sound board in his church a few days ago, and when we got it hooked up and started to EQ the instruments, everything sounded incredible! Everything, that is… EXCEPT the kick drum. Once we got it MICed up and ran it through the system, it sounded like a trainwreck of mud, noise, and competing tones. The sound guys at the church spent nearly a half hour trying to change the EQ to make it sound better, but to no avail. They asked me what I thought, and I told them to "get me a drum key!" Long story short, I pulled the kit out, flipped the kick drum on it's side and followed the simple formula you lay out in the video and BAM! MAXIMUM THUMPIFICATION ACHIEVED! I put the kit back together and MICed up the kick again, and the guys all looked on in awe as they marveled at how less than 10 minutes of tuning time could make such a huge difference in the sound. Thanks for the great info! ヅ

  47. Rob when you have free time, please update this video like others in tuning series. This is pure gold. I'm selling my drum dial now. 😊

  48. getting a concept 7 pdp for rock metal druming what heads would you suggest I replace the remos once I'm ready buying cymbals too so heads have to wait a bit

  49. I've watched a serious shitload of kick drum tuning videos but none of these so-called experts made it so easy or produced the sound I wanted. Just brilliant – thanks Rob.

  50. I have a 22×16 Beechwood (spelling?) With 2 coats of Tung Oil using a EMAD2 (big muffle ring) and a black 1ply kickported Remo reso… It now sounds amazing.. I have that Evans pillow and I put the small side up on the reso since my batter is already muffled. My 16×16 floor tom used to sound "boomier" than my bass.. Now my kit sounds how it should. Thank you.

  51. It's weird, because I can see all the acoustic treatments on the walls, but I can't hear them. That is to say, I can hear your voice bouncing off all the walls like crazy. Maybe thicker bass traps in the corners, maybe some panels on the ceiling, but really it just sounds like the walls. Maybe you just happen to be sitting in the most reflective spot left, idk.

  52. Yo! It works blood. I'm good with it. Took me a lot less time too and my drums sound very good. Just a practice set, but they sound nice.

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