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  #1  
Old 11-29-2011, 11:48 AM
AllTheCoolNamesAreTaken AllTheCoolNamesAreTaken is offline
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Default Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

I'm just curious. I know Morello played both a 22" and a 24" kick. A lot of the old, old-school guys played those gigantic parade kicks. But now all the 'jazz' kits come with 18" bass drums.

It seems kind of limiting. I realize the smaller drums are good for intimate settings, but isn't it better to have the ability to go to a 'bigger' sound when necessary, and control dynamics by pressure?

To me an 18" bass drum sounds basically like a tom. But maybe that's just the tuning on the ones I'm looking at.
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Old 11-29-2011, 12:00 PM
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

...

Well, its too much of a generalization but the smaller bass drums work better with upright basses and dont interfere with their sonic range.

...
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Old 11-29-2011, 12:01 PM
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

The apocryphal explanation I'd herd was that during the heyday of the NYC jazz club scene, an 18" kick is what would fit into the trunk of one of the classic yellow cabs with everything else the band was transporting to a gig.
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Old 11-29-2011, 12:08 PM
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

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The apocryphal explanation I'd herd was that during the heyday of the NYC jazz club scene, an 18" kick is what would fit into the trunk of one of the classic yellow cabs with everything else the band was transporting to a gig.
This is what I also heard.

Dennis
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Old 11-29-2011, 12:27 PM
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

gene krupa and other big band guys played a 26" +++

it depends on the kind of jazz. some people use the 18" to get that higher pitched note.
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Old 11-29-2011, 01:42 PM
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

Dave Tough requested smaller bass drum's originally according to a Mel Lewis interview and that began the whole thing.
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Old 11-29-2011, 02:30 PM
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

they're quieter and more controllable.
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Old 11-29-2011, 04:25 PM
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

Marketing!
A 1958 Gretsch catalog shows the Gretsch "Progressive Jazz" kit having a 20x14. Also, the "Bop" kit, has a 20x14. The Broadkaster bass drum came 20x14 and 22x14.
It's the 1966 Catalog that shows (or lists) the 18x14 ... as an option.
A vintage Gretsch kit, 18, 12, 14 configuration. yeah ... slip into one of those, for around $5K http://www.ebay.com/itm/GRETSCH-SSB-...ht_1485wt_1173 Actually, the guy want's almost 6, but there's the "best offer" clause.
Leads me to believe that most Verve and Blue Note sessions were not recorded with 18x14 kick drums. If the 18" kick drum was so popular then ... we'd see more of them today.
But, back to modern times and marketing, some of the drum manufacturers are making a big splash, now, with these "new" jazz kits. Which is kinda funny ... is jazz making a huge renaissance these days ? ... or maybe a 18, 12, 14 drum kit just fits better in someones bedroom ....
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Old 11-29-2011, 04:57 PM
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

I use a 16" converted 1958 ludwig floor tom for jazz gigs, and an 18" for large venues. I just played a theater in a casino with my 18" and got the usual accolades from my bass player and the sound guy on how great that thing sounds (yamaha oak custom 18").

Also, I cannot imagine lugging even a 22" (much less a 26") bass in and out of venues twice a week. Hurts my back just thinking about it ;)
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Old 11-29-2011, 04:59 PM
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

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Originally Posted by aydee View Post
...

Well, its too much of a generalization but the smaller bass drums work better with upright basses and dont interfere with their sonic range.

...
Exactly. I've repeated this story a few times, but during a Ralph Peterson clinic I attended last year, he mentioned this. Ralph played a guest kit and commented that jazz bassists would want the bass drum tuned to the pitch of the floor tom and the floor tom to the pitch of the rack tom. He named Ron Carter as an example of a great bassist who wanted the drums tuned higher, to frequencies that complemented the bass. Also, the 18" bass drum has a dynamic range that fits nicely with the volume requirements of intimate, small-group jazz gigs.

I tried for a long time in vain to get the jazz sound I wanted out of my 22" bass drum and I finally gave up. Now, I have a nice 14x18 that works perfectly. I get the tuning I want effortlessly, it doesn't step all over the frequency of the upright bass and I can feather it comfortably playing with a trio in a small club. I like the bass drum tuning to complement the rest of the kit when I'm playing jazz. I don't want it to sound like a completely different instrument from the toms and snare. A good example is Tony Williams' sound on Miles Davis' Filles de Kilimanjaro record. That punchy, higher-pitched sound is just perfect for that style of music, IMO.

Now, I'm talking about small group jazz. I don't think small bass drums work with big bands. The big band drummers typically use much larger bass drums, and I think they're necessary to get the volume and impact needed for that style. But if you look at all the current great jazz drummers, you will find an overwhelming majority are using 18s in small group settings. Regardless of how we got here or what factors drove it to become so, the small bass drum sound is the sound of jazz.
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  #11  
Old 11-29-2011, 05:26 PM
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

I think the story of guys wanting smaller bass drums to carry around the city is probably accurate. From that point on it just kind of became fashionable and now people are used to that being the sound of jazz bass drums. I remember a segment on NPR a few years ago where they were playing a segment from a live big band back in the day. I can't remember who it was or exactly when, but it was from one of the first recorded newscasts. Some reporter was outside a speakeasy reporting on the drinking, but in the background you could hear the band playing. The commentator was saying that it was the oldest recording of a big band known to exist. The thing that struck me about it was that the bass drum was the loudest thing in the mix. The drummer was not feathering the drum at all. He was pounding it. It was dance music after all. As I said in another gear post, an 18" or 20' floor tom would be considered huge, loud, rock sized drums. Put it on the floor and attach a pedal to it and suddenly it's a small quiet drum for acoustic situations? Play what you like.
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Old 11-29-2011, 06:22 PM
tamadrm tamadrm is offline
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

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Originally Posted by harryconway View Post
Marketing!
A 1958 Gretsch catalog shows the Gretsch "Progressive Jazz" kit having a 20x14. Also, the "Bop" kit, has a 20x14. The Broadkaster bass drum came 20x14 and 22x14.
It's the 1966 Catalog that shows (or lists) the 18x14 ... as an option.
A vintage Gretsch kit, 18, 12, 14 configuration. yeah ... slip into one of those, for around $5K http://www.ebay.com/itm/GRETSCH-SSB-...ht_1485wt_1173 Actually, the guy want's almost 6, but there's the "best offer" clause.
Leads me to believe that most Verve and Blue Note sessions were not recorded with 18x14 kick drums. If the 18" kick drum was so popular then ... we'd see more of them today.
But, back to modern times and marketing, some of the drum manufacturers are making a big splash, now, with these "new" jazz kits. Which is kinda funny ... is jazz making a huge renaissance these days ? ... or maybe a 18, 12, 14 drum kit just fits better in someones bedroom ....
+1.Smaller bass drums didn't start to appear till the late 60's.Ludwig,Gretsch,Rogers and Slingerland offered 18" bass drums,and others followed.

So 18" bass drums are nothing new,and are really an old idea made new by marketing.The only drum kit that was actually designed to fit in the trunk of a taxi,was the Ludwig New Yorker,and Porto Pac kits which had 22 x12" bass drums,which allowed the trunk to fully close.

Steve B

Last edited by tamadrm; 11-29-2011 at 06:36 PM.
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  #13  
Old 11-29-2011, 06:54 PM
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

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Originally Posted by AllTheCoolNamesAreTaken View Post
I'm just curious. I know Morello played both a 22" and a 24" kick. A lot of the old, old-school guys played those gigantic parade kicks. But now all the 'jazz' kits come with 18" bass drums.

It seems kind of limiting. I realize the smaller drums are good for intimate settings, but isn't it better to have the ability to go to a 'bigger' sound when necessary, and control dynamics by pressure?

To me an 18" bass drum sounds basically like a tom. But maybe that's just the tuning on the ones I'm looking at.
As said, it's all about the marketing. But Max told a story of one day being on the road and everyone was in a station wagon too, so there's that practicality of it. But I don't think the 18" is the jazz bass drum, personally I think it sucks as a size because you're limited to that one voice. Bigger bass drums afford you more voices from light feathering to all-out thundering, which I think mixes better with an upright bass anyway.
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Old 11-29-2011, 07:25 PM
tamadrm tamadrm is offline
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

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Originally Posted by Bo Eder View Post
As said, it's all about the marketing. But Max told a story of one day being on the road and everyone was in a station wagon too, so there's that practicality of it. But I don't think the 18" is the jazz bass drum, personally I think it sucks as a size because you're limited to that one voice. Bigger bass drums afford you more voices from light feathering to all-out thundering, which I think mixes better with an upright bass anyway.
+ 1.The consept began as a function of size and portability,not sound.Most clubs that had small 4 or 5 piece jazz bands were pretty limited in space,as they weren't all the size of Birdland,or the Apollo.Drummers began to ask for even smaller bass drums to reduce their footprint in smaller jazz clubs.I though Joe Morello's 22/13/16/14 Ludwigs,with a super 400 COB snare mixed rather well with and upright bass,piano and sax.

Steve B
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Old 11-29-2011, 07:34 PM
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

+1 to the "fit in the back of cabs" reply. That's what Max Roach and Roy Haynes have both said. Because of that, and the concept of the bass drum as another "tom" in jazz playing, and "the greats played on them", the 18 has become popular.

I like the sound, personally. I also like the sound of 16s tuned to sound like a bass drum--you get the "thump" but with more tone and less boom. I still think of the 20" as the ideal bass drum size, though. It has the balls and boom of the 22", with the punch and tone of the 18". I can play a 12/14/20 setup at a rock gig, take it across town just in time for a jazz gig, tune the tom and bass drum batters up a half-turn, and boom!...instant bebop tone.
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  #16  
Old 11-29-2011, 09:07 PM
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

The transporting of the drums in the "City" is a factor also the size of the bandstands is also a key factor. The use of one mic for a feature horn was not always the case so volumn was a part of it too. The people here who have never played a 18" bass drum as their main bass drum are abit off base about the sound from them. Alot of the 18" commonly offered today are not in the brands top of the line shells unless ordered that way. A midline so called "jazz" set that features an 18" drum that has multiply plies and mm's isn't exactly a 3ply Slingerland sound from that era. I played a 16x18 thin 6ply Eames for years and acousticly it sounded great and it mic'ed up with hardly any eq and sounded amazing! It could do amything a 14x20 could do and mic'ed sounded better than any larger bass drum I ever owned. So the size added convience for handling, along with stage area, and sounded great with added control. I knew of band leader that requested that size then because of all the reasons I just stated and I'd guess those reasons would be valid today also. Doc
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Old 11-30-2011, 01:47 AM
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

The sound of an 18 is something some jazz drummers and jazz musicians love. It's not for everyone and it doesn't have to be. Great players have used bigger drums for jazz. Tony was using huge bass drums towards the end of his life, although I never cared for that sound too much.

Still, uou can talk about marketing all you want, but the list of jazz drummers who have used small bass drums in small jazz group settings is epic. Brian Blade, Jeff "Tain" Watts, Herlin Riley, Carl Allen, Rashied Ali, Joey Baron, Cindy Blackman, Clayton Cameron, Jimmy Cobb, Art Blakey, Elvin Jones (who used a 16" sometimes!), Jack DeJohnette, Hamid Drake, Peter Erskine, Al Foster, Jeff Hamilton, Eric Harland, Billy Hart, Billy Higgins, Lewis Nash, Ralph Peterson, John Riley, Steve Smith, Bill Stewart, Ed Thigpen, Kenny Washington... I mean, these guys (of those who are still alive) aren't loading their drums in cabs anymore, as far as I know. They obviously find something appealing about the smaller kick or they wouldn't play it.
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Old 11-30-2011, 02:01 AM
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

The next time you're in a major city (if you don't already live in one) check out the local jazz clubs. There are a lot of old beatnik throwback coffee houses around that have just enough room to book a three piece....that is if the bass player is playing a stand-up and the keyboard player is playing an upright. Maybe a trumpet player or a sax player could be used instead of a keyboard player. That leaves just enough room for a drummer with a teeny tiny kit and if you're lucky, maybe an anorexic vocalist for a fourth.
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Old 11-30-2011, 02:13 AM
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

Here's an excerpt from Steve Maxwell's site.... Starting with the 20" working down to the 18"

Gretsch and the origins of the 20" bass drum. Here is another Gretsch "first". Did you ever wonder how the 20" bass drum got its start? It was Gretsch. Back in the late 40s Dave Tough had decided to settle into a small group rather than traveling with big bands such as Artie Shaw and others. Dave wanted a smaller bass drum for the smaller ensemble work.

Since Dave was a Gretsch endorser he approached Phil Grant with his request. Keep in mind that at this time Gretsch offered sets with 24" bass drums, with an option for a 26" bass drum. So, the idea of a 20" bass drum would seem to be ridiculous to many people.

However, Gretsch built the drum for Dave and he loved it. This size caught on quickly because of its great sound and versatility. The sound was excellent with very little muffling required, and the drum could be used for small ensembles as well as for big band work.

Shelly Manne used one not long afterward, as did Dick Shanahan during his stint with Charlie Barnet. Some other manufacturers of this era scoffed at the idea of a 20" bass drum and felt it would never catch on.

But, as we all know, this was only the beginning of the popularity of this size. Of course, during the 60s this size was extremely popular with Gretsch endorsers and it was very common to see 20s played by the likes of Mel Lewis, Max Roach, Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Charlie Persip, Chico Hamilton and more.

Of course, as time progressed the 18" bass drum also became a very prominent item for many of these players,especially Elvin Jones, and Gretsch lead the way with that drum size as well.

Even today, 20" and 18" bass drums are the standard for jazz players. So, once again, Gretsch's desire and willingness to think beyond current trends enabled them to create a design that had lasting impact on the jazz drumming world.
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Old 11-30-2011, 02:45 AM
AllTheCoolNamesAreTaken AllTheCoolNamesAreTaken is offline
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

Interesting! I didn't expect so much commentary.

Besides general curiosity, I started wondering about this because I'm looking to get a jazz kit and I can't really settle on a bass drum size. I've asked lots of people and they all seem to say that 18" is the magic number. Personally I'm leaning towards a 20" ... just seems like a good compromise (say a 20x16 or 20x18).

And seeing as I'm planning to buy a Gretsch kit, maybe 20 is the magic number after all!
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Old 11-30-2011, 06:05 AM
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

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And seeing as I'm planning to buy a Gretsch kit, maybe 20 is the magic number after all!
Can't go wrong with the 20x14. My round badge, 20. 13, 16.
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Old 11-30-2011, 09:26 AM
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

20 is my magic number. It has enough low end but is small enough to be used for alot of different things. 20's RULE!
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Old 11-30-2011, 06:29 PM
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

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Can't go wrong with the 20x14. My round badge, 20. 13, 16.
SWEET set! :)

You didn't happen to steal that kit from Phil Collins, did you? ;)
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Old 11-30-2011, 10:51 PM
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

There is always lots of talk about bass drum sizes, especially for jazz. I play a 16" Fibes, 18" Mapex, and 20" Ludwig Legacy kick for jazz. The kit I choose depends on the venue size, desired volume, type of jazz, and number of band members I'm playing with. All 3 have a decent tuning range and the 18" and 20" can sound very close to each other. I guess the 18" size would be the most versitile, a 14"x 20" is also a good choice,but the 16" sure is easy to haul around. If you go for a 20" kick forget anything deeper than 14".
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Old 11-30-2011, 11:43 PM
AllTheCoolNamesAreTaken AllTheCoolNamesAreTaken is offline
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

Three kits? I'm hoping to stop at two. :-P

For the 20x14 bass drum, what size toms do you use? I'm thinking either 12x8 and 14x14 or 13x9 and 16x16.
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Old 12-01-2011, 12:30 AM
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

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Three kits? I'm hoping to stop at two. :-P

For the 20x14 bass drum, what size toms do you use? I'm thinking either 12x8 and 14x14 or 13x9 and 16x16.
More than 3 kits at my house! LOL
16,10,13
18,12,14,
20,12,14
22,13,16
various snares
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Old 12-01-2011, 01:03 AM
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

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Originally Posted by Bo Eder View Post
20 is my magic number. It has enough low end but is small enough to be used for alot of different things. 20's RULE!
In hindsight, I would have been happy with one 20" bass drum. Unfortunately, the only way to get the good deal I got on my set, I had to get the 22". Since I had a 22", I decided that if I was going to get a smaller drum, I might as well go for the bigger contrast of an 18". But yeah, the versatility of the 20" is perfect. You can play any gig with that.
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Old 05-04-2012, 04:19 PM
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?



It's the big city kit with an 18" kick, i wouldn't want to trade it for a 20".
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Old 05-04-2012, 07:30 PM
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

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....It's the big city kit with an 18" kick, i wouldn't want to trade it for a 20".


That's a nice set - one of the very few 18" bass kits that comes stock as as a 5 piece.
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Old 05-04-2012, 07:51 PM
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That's a nice set - one of the very few 18" bass kits that comes stock as as a 5 piece.
Thank you! It is indeed quite a rare kit and i must say it sounds great too!
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Old 05-05-2012, 05:07 AM
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

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Originally Posted by Stixnergard2 View Post
There is always lots of talk about bass drum sizes, especially for jazz. I play a 16" Fibes, 18" Mapex, and 20" Ludwig Legacy kick for jazz. The kit I choose depends on the venue size, desired volume, type of jazz, and number of band members I'm playing with. All 3 have a decent tuning range and the 18" and 20" can sound very close to each other. I guess the 18" size would be the most versitile, a 14"x 20" is also a good choice,but the 16" sure is easy to haul around. If you go for a 20" kick forget anything deeper than 14".

Those are 3 gorgeous sets. I'd be happy to own any one of them.

But I'd have to get an extra tom, to set them up as a 5 piece like Piebe's - ha ha.

5 piece feels normal to me. I'd have to really work at it to get comfortable with a 4 piece. From a strictly 'looks' perspective though, you can't beat the 4 by 4.
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Old 05-05-2012, 09:21 AM
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

To me a 4 piece set only makes sense when you play classical grip which makes it impossible to hit the 2nd tom.
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Old 05-05-2012, 11:44 AM
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

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To me a 4 piece set only makes sense when you play classical grip which makes it impossible to hit the 2nd tom.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkbnZ...hannel&list=UL
especially watch the bit at 2:40!
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Old 05-05-2012, 03:29 PM
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

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The apocryphal explanation I'd herd was that during the heyday of the NYC jazz club scene, an 18" kick is what would fit into the trunk of one of the classic yellow cabs with everything else the band was transporting to a gig.
I agree. I think it is mostly a space issue. Any BD will work if you have the room.
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Old 05-06-2012, 09:31 PM
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Well perhaps i should have stated 'nearly' or much less comfortable and for the movie if you look close he only hits the 2nd tom twice during his solo with his left hand, so he proves my point! ;)
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Old 05-06-2012, 11:28 PM
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

He does fly from his left floor to his right floor and back with both hands multiple
times though, which is a lot harder than reaching the middle tom with your left :).
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Old 05-07-2012, 10:26 AM
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

No the 2nd tom is the hardest to reach playing traditional grip because of the awkward edge and if you're still not convinced go and try for yourself. ;)
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  #38  
Old 05-07-2012, 12:59 PM
audiotech
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

Having played traditional grip for over fifty years, I have no problems getting around the kit at all and I'm talking anything from four to seven piece kits. Reaching for the second, or in some cases, the third rack tom is no problem. A lot of it depends on the configuration of the drums and the build of the drummer.

BTW, pictured is a 20" bass drum.



Dennis
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  #39  
Old 05-07-2012, 01:53 PM
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Piebe Piebe is offline
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

Well, if you still couldn't reach the toms after fifty years i would advice trying a different instrument. ;)

But seriously though, i am still studying traditional grip after many years of classical and this is my personal experience. Less control over the left hand and a hard time hitting the 2nd tom. Perhaps practice makes perfect!
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Old 05-07-2012, 05:40 PM
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RevWrona RevWrona is offline
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Default Re: Why is 18" the jazz bass drum size?

This is a story I was told by my drum teacher. Roy Haynes was commonly considered one of the best dressed among the men. Not just within the music scene but just one of the best all around. He used a 18' bass drum as well, and when he was asked why he used a smaller bass drum he said it was the smallest he could go and still have it fit in his sport car.

Very similar to the smaller bass drum for the taxis.
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