Bass Drum: Pillow, or no pillow?

So I just got my brand new Gretsch Brooklyns (2 months earlier than expected :). It's got a 22 X 18 kick that's got just about the sweetest thump you've ever heard. Right now, it has no pillow or muffling inside, and I think it sounds great.

However, our sound guy wants me to put a small pillow inside. He says the drum sounds great, but its a little too boomy and e-qy through the mic. I have an Aquarian super kick 2 on it.

So...pillow or no pillow?
 

joshvibert

Senior Member
If you're working your band in a bunch of different venues, you need to be easy to work with. A sound man is there to do his job just like you are. Now, you can piss him off and he can make you sound like crap or you can be pleasant to work with and he can make you sound amazing.

The next thing is getting over the whole "my tone" thing a little bit. I'm not saying you can't have your drums tuned like you want to an extent, but kick drums can play havoc, especially when close mic'ing them. I did what you're talking about a few years ago and had the whole "no muffling in my drums" ideology. I played a live outdoor festival where one sound guy was churning through about 10 different bands, all with their own drummers with their own kits. I was running my 18 x 22 Session maple kick wide open with a Superkick I batter and a Regulator reso. Those are muffled heads and I theoretically shouldn't have needed anything in the drum, but dude stuck his mic in the port and said he was getting tons of overtones. It's my job to play the drums, not to argue with the sound guy about mic placement. Even so, I was a little irritated and basically backed both batter and reso of the kick down to wrinkles to get rid of the overtones. Here's what I learned from that and a subsequent studio session: I have a 12" long piece of 2" x 2" foam weatherstriping with some adhesive-backed velcro sitting inside my kick against the batter head. I'm able to have my batter at a tension that allows me more play-ability and the foam kills the overtones for close-mic'ing situations. If I need more tone out of the drum, I just reach in the port and adjust how much of the foam is touching the head, or remove it all together.
 

KarlCrafton

Platinum Member
My bass drum heads (Coated Ambassador) are pretty open, and I don't use the pre-muffed heads.

What I DO have in the bass drum is a 1" thick piece of POLYFOAM siting at the bottom of the shell. It's as long as the screws spur to spur--just sat there well, and was held in place a little by the screws, no other reason than that.
I use strapping tape to hold it in place. That's the tape with the string in it. It sticks well to the foam, but, it doesn't leave any marks on the shell.
It barely touches the reso head, and is cut 2" shorter than the batter.

POLYFOAM isn't quite as spongy as Memory foam, but it's spongier than regular foam.
It's only a couple bucks per piece at the Foam Factory outlet near me.

This stuff stops the sound bouncing around, and it's very fast getting a sound on the drum in every venue I've played since I started using it (going on 15 years or so).

With the pre-muffed heads you are using, just some foam in the shell to stop the excess (that we don't hear behind the drum) sound bouncing around, you'd be happy with the results.

If you can't get ahold of any foam, a DW, or similar, pillow at the bottom of the shell (not touching the heads if you don't want it to) might work too.
 
Thanks, good advice. Totally agree with working with the sound man (and ours is really good). I was just a little bummed because I liked the sound without the pillow.
 

KarlCrafton

Platinum Member
The stuff Josh talked about reminds me of those old Dead Ringer foam rings.
I used one of those on my bass drum back in the day. I liked those better than the way heads are muffled today.
When the foam ring was on the head about an inch from the edge, they sound more natural than just a dead thud like most of the muffled heads do to me these days. You got the muffling benefits, but you still got a nice balance of attack, tone, and punch.
 

risewiththefallen

Senior Member
I use a poeerstroke 3 batter with a Evans pillow and a regular pillow in my kick. Idk why but i actually prefer the feel of a kick with pillows in it. When there wide open i can't hit the speeds i need to hit.
 

AirborneSFC

Gold Member
I use a tiny pillow. At most it contacts maybe one drum head. I noticed that even throwing in a towel or t-shirt in the middle of the bass drum just helps get rid of some overtones that creat a lot of issues for sound guys live. Most sound guys dont' want to make you sound bad so I tend to trust them for the most part unless you are playing some terrible venue.

Once I even used some moon gels to help and it sounded great.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAwP7zEw3TI <--- the t-shirt thing explained here
 

Ian Ballard

Silver Member
Unless I'm working a session where it's "required", I put nothing in my bass drum for a couple of reasons.

For one, my philosophy of "what goes for the hands, goes for the feet" applies to my drums as well. I don't stuff my toms or my snare drum, so I don't really see the point in stuffing things in my bass drum, when I prefer "muffling" that comes from the heads, not stopping air movement in the drum. Where my philosophy becomes inconsistent is the fact that I do muffle the bass drum significantly, however.

I use an EMAD front head with the largest foam ring for most things. Occasionally if I need a more "Bonham" tone, I take the ring off. The front head is a stock coated Tama head with a tone ring like a PS3. It's got a 4" offset hole and a KickPort installed (you gotta get one!!!) so it's also muffled quite a bit but not to the point of being dead. I generally tune the heads to the lowest tone the head makes a resonant "boom" and the reso head gets a 1/4 turn more. That's it! I get a thick, low, punchy tone that allows the shell the breathe and the air to move freely. I've never had any complaints about the sound from the dozens of engineers I've worked with.

I also like the feel of an open bass drum. The head "gives" just right. When I play bass drums with pillows and stuff in them or even a small EQ pad, something just doesn't feel right. I think, to me, the drum shell needs to resonate. Stick something inside and it stops. I don't even mount my stickbag on the floor tom anymore because I notice a SIGNIFICANT decrease in shell resonance. Poeple often underestimate the tone that comes from the shell. They think the heads are it! Bang on your floor tom open, then put your legs around the drum tightly and play it again.... you'll notice.
 

CalebL721

Member
I don't put anything in my bass drum, but it's a 20x14. I tuned it to a very soft sound with no muffling.
 

cornelius

Silver Member
So I just got my brand new Gretsch Brooklyns (2 months earlier than expected :). It's got a 22 X 18 kick that's got just about the sweetest thump you've ever heard. Right now, it has no pillow or muffling inside, and I think it sounds great.

However, our sound guy wants me to put a small pillow inside. He says the drum sounds great, but its a little too boomy and e-qy through the mic. I have an Aquarian super kick 2 on it.

So...pillow or no pillow?
Congrats on the drums - great kit! I say zero pillow. Do you bury the beater? IMO go with the sound and feel that you like... Speaking of Gretsch Bklyns - I often see Keith Carlock at a small local club, and his kik is always wide open and it sounds great - the sound man mics it up and it's no problem.
 

Les Ismore

Platinum Member
our sound guy wants me to put a small pillow inside. He says the drum sounds great, but its a little too boomy and e-qy through the mic. I have an Aquarian super kick 2 on it.

Foam laying on the bottom, doesn't need to touch the heads w/AQUARIAN SK2 on.



For one, my philosophy of "what goes for the hands, goes for the feet" applies to my drums as well.

So do you play barefoot right, or wear gloves?
 

joshvibert

Senior Member
The stuff Josh talked about reminds me of those old Dead Ringer foam rings.
I used one of those on my bass drum back in the day. I liked those better than the way heads are muffled today.
When the foam ring was on the head about an inch from the edge, they sound more natural than just a dead thud like most of the muffled heads do to me these days. You got the muffling benefits, but you still got a nice balance of attack, tone, and punch.
Yeah, it's similar, but nowhere near the amount (all the way around the heads like the Dead Ringers). Here's a pic where you can sort of see it in my Pearl MCX kit @ church:


IMG_2511 by ASH556, on Flickr
 
Congrats on the drums - great kit! I say zero pillow. Do you bury the beater? IMO go with the sound and feel that you like... Speaking of Gretsch Bklyns - I often see Keith Carlock at a small local club, and his kik is always wide open and it sounds great - the sound man mics it up and it's no problem.
Thanks. So far I looove my Brooklyn's. Very warm sounding drums, but with lots of thump too. Can't tell any discernible difference between the Brooklyns and USA Customs.
 

Drumolator

Platinum Member
I keep an Evans EQ Pad sitting in the bottom of my bass drum, but it does not touch the heads, which are already muffled. The pad in the bottom absorbs the overtones bouncing around inside of the bass drum. Peace and goodwill.
 

mmulcahy1

Platinum Member
Try a felt strip (2 - 3 inches wide) on the reso head. It will help you keep your sound and the sound engineer will be happy, too.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
So I just got my brand new Gretsch Brooklyns (2 months earlier than expected :). It's got a 22 X 18 kick that's got just about the sweetest thump you've ever heard. Right now, it has no pillow or muffling inside, and I think it sounds great.

However, our sound guy wants me to put a small pillow inside. He says the drum sounds great, but its a little too boomy and e-qy through the mic. I have an Aquarian super kick 2 on it.

So...pillow or no pillow?
That depends. Sounds like you and your sound guy need to come to a concensus.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
I keep an Evans EQ Pad sitting in the bottom of my bass drum, but it does not touch the heads, which are already muffled. The pad in the bottom absorbs the overtones bouncing around inside of the bass drum. Peace and goodwill.
This is a great answer for those seeking maximum tone whilst soaking up those unwanted reflections. Actually, you'd be surprised just how little material is necessary to produce a result. A good material to use is closed cell neoprene. A 1/2" thick piece about 6" square is often enough to augment even the most errant beastie :)
 

Ian Ballard

Silver Member
For one, my philosophy of "what goes for the hands, goes for the feet" applies to my drums as well.

So do you play barefoot right, or wear gloves?[/QUOTE]

I assume sarcasm here. Don't like gloves but I do occasionally play barefoot. Amazing how it helps control when you put shoes back on. I also don't often hit my bass drum with a stick or my drums with a bass drum beater. I'm referring to basic concepts here, goofball. ;)
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Soundmen who can't deal with an unported reso head and zero muffling...I just want to shake them. You back the mic off a little from the reso head and mic it somewhere that's not too close to the middle of the head. Sheesh.
 

Ian Ballard

Silver Member
Soundmen who can't deal with an unported reso head and zero muffling...I just want to shake them. You back the mic off a little from the reso head and mic it somewhere that's not too close to the middle of the head. Sheesh.
Yeah. I use a KickPort and the whole point of the thing is to "tune" the air coming out like a port on a subwoofer box. If you stick a mic in the hole, it kinda defeats the purpose of the thing. This sound dude was doing just that I explained that you don't get the best tone out of it and he got all shitty and had the nerve to question my understanding of MY OWN MUSICAL INSTRUMENT. He even claimed that the bass mic would pick up too much outside noise and I said, "It's a CARDIOID MIC... the polar pattern only goes forward." He finally conceded... then later said, "Dude, that's probably the best kick sound I've heard in a while... you were right!".

Sheesh!
 
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