14/16/18 bass drum (depth size)

Sticks Of Fury

Senior Member
Hello.
I've got questions about bass drum depths. I know early on that bass drums were 14 inches deep, then in the early 80's when power sizes came out they added two more inches. Years later, they add another two inches, to make it 18.

I've heard that the 14 inch depth produces the most punch. While I guess the 18 inch depth for for live performances to move the sound more toward the audience? Don't know anything about the 16 depth, other than my cheap kit has a 16x22 and it sounds pretty good.

Basically, what are your opinions on the different depth sizes? Any comments will be greatly appreciated. Thanks. Take care.
 
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Matt Bo Eder

Guest
If you did a clinical study of all three bass drums in the same room with full front reso heads, you will hear a difference between the three. Yes, 14 depth will give you more punch, and 18 depth will give a more elongated sound - provided all three drums are tuned the same, have the same heads, and the same amount of muffling.

In reality, long bass drums just look cool. Personally, I prefer the shallower bass drum because on the bandstand you end up taking less space front-to-back. But once the whole band starts playing, and/or if you're mic'ed up, bass drum depth doesn't make a difference.
 

Captain Bash

Silver Member
All things being equal (diameter, shell construction, bearing edge style, hoops, hardware, heads, beater) then a 14" drum will speak very quickly and by that I mean the front head will respond almost immediately. A 16"and 17"depths respond fairly quickly but have a little more depth to the sound, the response isn't as fast as a 14" depth. 18 depth kicks just take this further, slower response but a fuller sound.

If you are playing small stages then 18 and 20" depth kicks are a huge pain, too boomy and take up too much floor space. Everyone, I know with a 22" x 18 has to dampen the thing down, especially with d112 or d6.

I really haven't found much volume difference between 16 and 17 depth drums, but this all depends on your playing style and technique. I like a dynamic kick drum, (lots of drummers especially modern metal and rock players prefer a kick with no dynamic). For me the way to achieve a bigger sound is not via depth but diameter, a 24 x 14 or 16 kick sounds like a far more interesting proposition.

As usual there is no better or worse but some sizes work for some styles better than others.

Good luck
 
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The SunDog

Guest
Punchy is one of those ambiguous words that drummers use. Amorphous words that are open to interpretation. A shallower shell should sustain less, but shell mass also plays a part in sustain/decay. Generally, thinner shells have less mass, take less energy to excite, and lose that energy faster than a a thicker shell. So if "punch" is sustain/decay time then both shallower shells and thinner shells should be "punchier". I've owned two maple 20" kick drums one 16" deep and 7.5 mm thick the other 18" deep and 4.3 mm thick. The deeper thinner shell was by far the better sounding and definitely had more "punch". It also weighed half as much.
 
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Matt Bo Eder

Guest
Punchy is one of those ambiguous words that drummers use. Amorphous words that are open to interpretation. A shallower shell should sustain less, but shell mass also plays a part in sustain/decay. Generally, thinner shells have less mass, take less energy to excite, and lose that energy faster than a a thicker shell. So if "punch" is sustain/decay time then both shallower shells and thinner shells should be "punchier". I've owned two maple 20" kick drums one 16" deep and 7.5 mm thick the other 18" deep and 4.3 mm thick. The deeper thinner shell was by far the better sounding and definitely had more "punch". It also weighed half as much.
I agree about the mass. My Ludwig Signet 20 is thin and light and totally trounces my Pearl Vision 18x20 which is much heavier. The Vision lacks all the resonance and punch of the lighter Signet, which is a 15x20.
 
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Matt Bo Eder

Guest
This is something I've always disagreed with. I think they look ridiculous.
Well, I was thinking in terms of using long bass drums with a rack. I used a rack when I had a 14x22 years ago and the drum just disappeared under all the forwarded hardware. Everytime you saw an ad with all the heavy hardware, shallow bass drums just looked wrong in the picture. So that's probably what made deeper bass drums cool ;)
 

keep it simple

Platinum Member
First of all, there's a huge difference between a bass drum that's designed to be a specific depth rather than simply a deeper or more shallow version with identical construction as is usually the case. In other words, a deep or shallow bass drum can go against the default if all of it's construction details are aligned to do so (= rare).

Ok, here's the difference that matters, assigned purely to depth, with no other variables (in other words, all elements being equal). The big one is overtones. Speed of air column & other factors play into this, but overtones are by far the biggest determining factor (again, all other elements being equal).

A more shallow drum produces less overtones, both the ones you want (lower), & the ones you don't want in a bass drum (higher). Less overtones means that the fundamental is more audible. In other words, closer to a discernible "note". A better defined fundamental offers an apparently more immediate audible response & also greater definition in a mix (it's own sonic "space"). However, it's the lower overtones that can add the perception of depth & richness.

A deeper drum produces more overtones, & therefore a less dominant fundamental. Think of the lower overtones as enriching the sound in a similar way to adding chorus to low notes on a bass guitar. Not the same, but similar. It doesn't actually produce more bottom end, just a wider spread of frequencies that add richness, but also make it less defined.

Optimising bass drum design in terms of depths is all about managing overtones, & there are multiple mechanisms for doing that.
 
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