Bass Drum Volume / Running Through PA

DrummerCA35

Senior Member
Hello,

I play in a 5 piece rock/R&B/funk band. At the volume we play at, the drums and cymbals all cut through well, but the bass drum doesn't have enough presence/low end unless it's mic'd. It's a good bass drum, 22x18. EMAD batter head, the front head has a hold in it. I know I've seen threads that mention that single ply batter head with a sold front head (no hole) will put out more volume.

This hasn't been an issue in our rehearsal studio, they have a huge PA, and we mic the bass drum. But have our first gigs scheduled (bar). The band bought a Yamaha Stage Pass 600, no sub. The vocals sound good. As an experiment, we ran the bass drum through it. Not great, which was expected. Couldn't get a low end punch/thump, which is what a sub would do. It DOES add a little presence for the bass drum if not turned up too high. I made the low and high frequencies high, turned off the mids (that, I think, has worked before with other setups...)

So I'm wonder what options are. If I buy a sub, I have to carry it, and pay for it as the band isn't going to buy a sub. (Some of us pitched in for the mains, including me.) You'd think they'd all pitch in for a sub, but it's "not necessary" yet. I could just run it through the stagepass mains, but it's not great. Or I could just play with no mic in the bass drum, but after playing in the studio with a mic and subs, it's going backwards. I realize that the band and/or audience probably won't care or know the difference, though the band members DO like the solid low punch of a properly mic'd bass drum. Sometimes at the volume the band plays at, I'm hitting the bass drum and wondering who can hear/feel it. It feels SOOOOO much better with a mic'd amplified bass drum.

Part of me thinks about going electronic, and getting a E-drum amp, if I'm gonna carry an amp around. I have V-Drums to practice on, and rehearse/play out with acoustics.

Any input would great, thanks.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
There are a few factors at work that prevent/allow a kick to be heard and felt, even when mic'd.

Tuning - a drum tuned low doesn't necessarily put out low end. With a 22x18, you'll have plenty of oomph if you tune it higher than you think it should be. Remember, it's what the drum sounds like out front that matters. Your idea of the sound from behind the kit is secondary.

Attack is perceived as volume, in that the click often cuts through in a frequency range without much competition. The click is detected better, and therefore appears to be louder. So try a wood beater, and for the ultimate acoustic attack, find a half-dollar coin and tape it to the spot where the beater hits. The resulting click will help the kick cut through the mix.

Speaking of frequency ranges, where does the bass player like to be? If he's playing a lot of low end, you can't compete, even when mic'd. Tune your kick even higher than I suggested. If he likes a lot of mids and pop, tune your kick a little lower, in order to not compete in that range. Think of it like a mono mix, where everything competes for the center channel in order to be heard. But the instant you move something to the left or right, it's easily audible, and may even be too loud. That's because that sound is no longer competing for the same space as the rest of the instruments.

It could be that the band as a whole is just too loud, which may be necessary on certain gigs. If that's the case, yes, you'll want to be mic'd. but the frequency range thing still applies, otherwise it becomes a volume war that nobody can win.

Bermuda
 

opentune

Platinum Member
I wouldn't go with an e-kit, they just don't look cool on stage. :)
I would think to have bass drum going through the PA is fine - pretty tried and true by most bands no? Do you use a bass drum mic, or just a regular mic?
If you want a cheaper sub option - you can try making a DIY one for cheap. Many u-tube videos describe how to make a sub.
Sounds like a cool band.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Bermuda has some fine advice. Tuning and attack. Sometimes bass drums are tuned so low, the human ear misses a lot of the frequencies. Tuning it up raises the drum more to where we hear, so it sounds better higher. Tuning for good throne tone is probably the biggest reason why drums sound like mud in the audience. You don't want a soft beater unmiced if you want the bass drum to punch through with good attack.

The part I don't get is, everything else...snare, toms, cymbals...their volume sounds fine you say. Makes me think that your own personal kick playing volume is not in the proper proportion with the rest of your kit, like maybe you depend on the bd mic too much at rehearsal. Forgive me for saying that, I don't know a thing about you, but I have to be honest going on the info provided.

I'd say before you try amplification, try a full front head and tune that reso up so it sounds like a tympani, boing! No extra muffling either, none. The Emad is plenty.

Drum overtones undeservedly get a bad, bad rap. Have to eliminate those stray overtones! Truly, overtones ARE your tone.

Putting a hole in the front head subtracts volume and tone unmiced. Play that bitch wide open. Learn to love the sound. It is beautiful. Bass drums are happiest unencumbered by fabric and holes. Let that drum speak.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
Agree with the other suggestions.

1: If you're 100% acoustic, try a virgin reso head. Remove any dampening.
2: Try tuning upward so that the LF is in the audible range
3: Sit down with the bass player and adjust your tuning to that it comfortably fits/shares the same sonic space and doesn't clash.

4: If you're going to mic and go through a small PA, it might be a good idea to get/use a low-pass filter so you don't hurt/stress it.
5: Go on ebay and see how much powered-sub you can get for $100, you might be surprised if your patient. Remember, you're not looking to be the next Davvinci, you're looking to supplement your sound and give it a little boost.
 

DrummerCA35

Senior Member
There are a few factors at work that prevent/allow a kick to be heard and felt, even when mic'd.

Tuning - a drum tuned low doesn't necessarily put out low end. With a 22x18, you'll have plenty of oomph if you tune it higher than you think it should be. Remember, it's what the drum sounds like out front that matters. Your idea of the sound from behind the kit is secondary.

Attack is perceived as volume, in that the click often cuts through in a frequency range without much competition. The click is detected better, and therefore appears to be louder. So try a wood beater, and for the ultimate acoustic attack, find a half-dollar coin and tape it to the spot where the beater hits. The resulting click will help the kick cut through the mix.

Speaking of frequency ranges, where does the bass player like to be? If he's playing a lot of low end, you can't compete, even when mic'd. Tune your kick even higher than I suggested. If he likes a lot of mids and pop, tune your kick a little lower, in order to not compete in that range. Think of it like a mono mix, where everything competes for the center channel in order to be heard. But the instant you move something to the left or right, it's easily audible, and may even be too loud. That's because that sound is no longer competing for the same space as the rest of the instruments.

It could be that the band as a whole is just too loud, which may be necessary on certain gigs. If that's the case, yes, you'll want to be mic'd. but the frequency range thing still applies, otherwise it becomes a volume war that nobody can win.

Bermuda
Thank you for the info! I do have the drum tuned pretty low, but it DOES sound really good and punchy when standing in front of it and in the room. The band IS loud to a degree. I will try your suggestions. The bass player is low, and punchy, and very prominent. (Which I love.) I will try tuning the drum higher, the wood beater, and the coin. And, the band may be too loud. That's been a problem, keeping it down. Been hard to keep this consistent.
 

DrummerCA35

Senior Member
I wouldn't go with an e-kit, they just don't look cool on stage. :)
I would think to have bass drum going through the PA is fine - pretty tried and true by most bands no? Do you use a bass drum mic, or just a regular mic?
If you want a cheaper sub option - you can try making a DIY one for cheap. Many u-tube videos describe how to make a sub.
Sounds like a cool band.
Yeah, you're right...not my preference to gig wtih an E-kit. I think to have the bass drum mic'd properly through the PA we'd need that sub. The improvement in running it through the stage pass is minimal. But then, the band just bought it,and is figuring out how to use it. The studio has an AKG mic. The drum sounds great running through the studio's huge PA and subs. But we gotta do better. I'm having a lot of fun in this band! A buncha middle aged guys playing what we want.
 

DrummerCA35

Senior Member
Bermuda has some fine advice. Tuning and attack. Sometimes bass drums are tuned so low, the human ear misses a lot of the frequencies. Tuning it up raises the drum more to where we hear, so it sounds better higher. Tuning for good throne tone is probably the biggest reason why drums sound like mud in the audience. You don't want a soft beater unmiced if you want the bass drum to punch through with good attack.

The part I don't get is, everything else...snare, toms, cymbals...their volume sounds fine you say. Makes me think that your own personal kick playing volume is not in the proper proportion with the rest of your kit, like maybe you depend on the bd mic too much at rehearsal. Forgive me for saying that, I don't know a thing about you, but I have to be honest going on the info provided.

I'd say before you try amplification, try a full front head and tune that reso up so it sounds like a tympani, boing! No extra muffling either, none. The Emad is plenty.

Drum overtones undeservedly get a bad, bad rap. Have to eliminate those stray overtones! Truly, overtones ARE your tone.

Putting a hole in the front head subtracts volume and tone unmiced. Play that bitch wide open. Learn to love the sound. It is beautiful. Bass drums are happiest unencumbered by fabric and holes. Let that drum speak.
Gonna try a hard beater. You make a really good point about volume proportion. I have a disability. I am a below knee amputee. Lost my right leg below the knee 5 years ago after a drunk driver slammed his motorcyle into my daughter and I at 65 MPH while we were crossing the street. Also nearly lost the left leg too, but it was saved, but left with severe damage. ANYHOO...playing the drums again seemed IMPOSSIBLE. But, I relearned how to play. I learned to play the bass drum with my right prosthetic leg/foot, in a "heel up" fashion. (no ankle). This works, and I can play most everything I used to, BUT really slamming the bass drum IS tiring. I get the job done, but playing it really hard, for long periods of time is difficult. I use a double pedal. I learned to play the bass drum with my left leg as well. For figures that require 16th notes (ie, "Walk this Way") I break the beat up between the two feet and often used a second closed hihat. So yes...the bass drum volume may sometimes be tough to match with the snare because I just can't stomp really hard for very long periods of time. However, this hasn't been an issue. I can play it loud, but continual heavy stomping is a drag. But even if I DIDN"T have the disability, stomping sucks....want to just play it normally and have the band quiet down, or mic the drum.

I've tried solid front heads, and I KNOW it sounds better. It just feels like mush...it's so hard to get used to after years of playing with a hole the head. But Maybe it's time to try again.

Thanks for the info!
 

DrummerCA35

Senior Member
Agree with the other suggestions.

1: If you're 100% acoustic, try a virgin reso head. Remove any dampening.
2: Try tuning upward so that the LF is in the audible range
3: Sit down with the bass player and adjust your tuning to that it comfortably fits/shares the same sonic space and doesn't clash.

4: If you're going to mic and go through a small PA, it might be a good idea to get/use a low-pass filter so you don't hurt/stress it.
5: Go on ebay and see how much powered-sub you can get for $100, you might be surprised if your patient. Remember, you're not looking to be the next Davvinci, you're looking to supplement your sound and give it a little boost.
Thanks for the info!!
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I'd say before you try amplification, try a full front head and tune that reso up so it sounds like a tympani, boing! No extra muffling either, none. The Emad is plenty.

Drum overtones undeservedly get a bad, bad rap. Have to eliminate those stray overtones! Truly, overtones ARE your tone.
Funny you should mention this.

I took a 22" kick to a gig the other night, I wanted a nice punch and feel (for an unmic'd room.) Lo and behold, when I took the drum out of the bag, it had no padding inside! I wasn't going to get the tight, thumpy 'pop' I was expecting.

Well, it sounded very old school, not a bad sound at all, sort of Bonham, sort of classic big band. I decided to play it wide open, and it was FABULOUS! Nice cut, nice punch, nice tone, excellent control over dynamics, and it blended with the band perfectly (blues/rock, bass & 2 guit.) EMAD on the batter, smooth white on the front (although it does have a hole...)

I loved it so much, I took it as-is to a session with a very picky artist. We leaned some pillows lightly against the reso and pointed the mic at the head (not the hole.) It's still sounded great!

The biggest problem drummers have with tuning & sounds, is that they're afraid to let a drum sound like a drum. A drum's size, head type, shell composition, and damping all contribute to the sound you can expect, but tuning will make or break it. I have an aversion to deep toms and kicks, because they're rarely tuned well. If you take a 22x18 kick and tune it up, it will sound great! The irony is, you can get that same sound with a more modest depth kick, even the old "shallow" 14" drums. Drummers don't need deep drums... they need to learn to tune.

Bermuda
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
I have a disability. I am a below knee amputee. Lost my right leg below the knee 5 years ago after a drunk driver slammed his motorcyle into my daughter and I at 65 MPH while we were crossing the street. Also nearly lost the left leg too, but it was saved, but left with severe damage. ANYHOO...playing the drums again seemed IMPOSSIBLE. But, I relearned how to play. I learned to play the bass drum with my right prosthetic leg/foot, in a "heel up" fashion. (no ankle). This works, and I can play most everything I used to, BUT really slamming the bass drum IS tiring. I get the job done, but playing it really hard, for long periods of time is difficult.
Coming back to playing the drums with your disability makes you one of my heroes.

I used to play my bass drum softly with my heal down. I was pretty fast and accurate.
Now I am in a loud band and I bury the beater with my heal up. I really stomp down on the beater to get a loud bass drum sound. Almost all of my speed is gone playing like this.

I want to go back to playing the bass drum heal down, softly with more finesse. So I too am looking for a way to increase my bass volume.
I'm glad you asked this question, because I am also learning from the answers.


.
 

Captain Bash

Silver Member
Get up get on up

The more padding you put in a drum the lower the volume will be, conversely no padding will cause a slight but real increase. On top of this you will get a broader range of frequencies both from the shell and the front head. I like to give the sound guy a full range of frequencies to play with even if the mic is well inside the drum (not a preconceived muffled kick sound, it never does the job as all those lovely resonant overtones are taken away at source).

I am not a no-port real skin purist and I confess I like the feel of a small amount of padding on a single ply batter, whether that's a t shirt or its gear head equivalent the Evans eq pad. Pretty much every bass drum I have played gives out maximum on stage volume running batter head medium and tuning the reso just a quarter turn up from this on every lug.
Although this may sound rather high in pitch behind the kit, it will sound fine out front. Similar to Bermuda's statement about tuning a above a bass players tone, I have had to rise above low end Fender Rhodes bass samples.

This is the same as others have said below so it's probably not style, drum make or size dependent.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
1st up, major props to you for overcoming such a playing challenge - truly inspirational!

2nd, everything the guys have said so far, especially establishing sonic space through tuning,

3rd, tightening the resonant head by way more than you'd think will produce a rich tone that translates out front, irrespective of wether you're mic'd or not. I have my bass drum resonant head shockingly high sometimes, like 1 octave plus above the batter. It really works.

Here's a little Zoom cam capture I've just put up for a customer. I'm delivering the kit tomorrow, so only had time to do a quick check. Put on some good headphones & listen to the bass drum. Seems deep doesn't it - well, that resonant head is really cranked, but you wouldn't know it unless you hit it. This is a tone that really delivers in a live mix :) BTW, the tom resonant heads are really cranked up too.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHf5DIJzWyI&feature=youtu.be

Bermuda - 20" x 14" ;) ;) ;)
 

SteveRatz

Member
Huge respect to the OP, good on you for rising to the extra challenge :)

Interesting subject this, I've often pondered why the biggest drum ends up being the only one needed thro a PA. maybe pedals need a fundamental rethink.

Anyway, I couldn't add anything more to the excellent replies, but I sometimes wonder how much we are conditioned by recordings to expect drums n cymbals to sound a certain way (eq, mixing, reverb etc) that just can't be achieved in a live environment. Have we forgotten what real drums sound like without all the damping and tuning etc?

Just a thought.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
Thank you for all of the suggestions.

I'm going to re-tune my bass drum for tomorrow nights gig.
I will tune it up higher and rotate my beater from the felt side to the hard plastic side.

Last week I tuned the toms higher and it worked great !
The toms cut through the band much better even though they had too much "boy-ing" when played by themselves.
At least that is how they sounded from behind the kit. But boy I sure learned a valuable lesson.

Others will be playing my kit tomorrow so I can hear what the bass sounds like when played along with the screaming guitars.

I'll let you know what happens.

.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I'm coming to realize that unmiced unmuffled boingy toms sound great in the audience Jim. Another seemingly backwards discovery.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
I'm coming to realize that unmiced unmuffled boingy toms sound great in the audience Jim. Another seemingly backwards discovery.
Yep ! Me too.

I think what ruined our taste in drum sounds, and in fact everyone's taste in drum sounds, is the over processing of recorded drums.
And making the drums sound the way producers and sound techs wanted them to sound.

Listen to most any recorded rock and pop song and you will hear a nice dampened tone from the drums. It seems to sound good in recordings.

Duplicating this sound in a loud band, live performance, without mics on the drums and a good soundman is nearly impossible.

.
 

Aeolian

Platinum Member
Congrats on getting back on the horse, as it were.

Yep, sustain will create a note that can be heard. Try taking the ring off the e-mad. Just the extra plastic ring is often enough damping. Especially for a live acoustic (un-mic'd) situation. At least use the smaller ring.

Try the tuning and damping reduction ideas given and let someone else hit the drum while you stand in the room. Especially with the bass player playing along. From there you can try and find the differentiation Bermuda was talking about. Maybe even convince the bass player to lighten up their tone.

There is a big difference between what an instrument sounds like played by itself compared to in an ensemble. If you start competing for the same sonic space with a bass player with a 500+ watt amp, it's going to be tough. Especially if he's trying to get a "big fat sound". If guitarists are using 4-12 cabinets, the thump those produce will further muddy up the low end and obscure your kick. The reason metal has these super clicky bass drums is that the detuned guitars and bass are already filling up the low end and a big booming bass drum would get swamped and you wouldn't have any articulation or ability to hear what it's doing. Especially any fast stuff.
 
Top