Does your bass drum sound too boomy and ringy? Are you looking to lasso those overtones and rein them in for something precise and punchy?
You can muffle your bass drum using stuff you already have at home. Here’s how I do it with towels!
Every drummer is different. Some want a really open bass drum sound, which is great for slower music in a live setting. Some people like a tight and constricted sound, possibly because they’re using triggers or they’re looking to get a specific beater action on the batter head.
This is a general muffling technique that’ll give you a nice, round tone. It’s not going to completely cut the resonance; it’ll just muffle some of those unwanted overtones.
This method works for both ported and non-ported resonant heads. If you don’t have a hole in your bass drum head (and if cutting one would be sacrilegious), you’ll need to take it off first.
Loosen the tension rods and remove that reso head.
If you watched the video above: you’ll notice that on my vintage bass drum there’s already a built-in, internal muffler. I find that they don’t really do a good job of giving me the sound that I want, so I don’t use them.
You could pick up some expensive muffling or special heads from your local music store…or you could find two towels at home. Let’s keep things simple for now.
I recommend using beach towels. Take one and fold it in half, then fold it in half again. Drop it on the floor and roll it up lengthwise.
Take this and place it inside the bass drum so it gently pushes against the batter head in a ‘u’ shape. Make sure it’s resting with the ends up, and each end should go up the same distance on each side.
On the reso side, you’ll do the exact same thing. Fold another towel in half, then in half again, and roll it up lengthwise. Place it inside the drum opposite to the other towel, and make sure to place them both similarly.
If you don’t have a port hole, you’ll want to have the second towel halfway out. This way, when you put the other head back on, the muffling rests against the reso head. If you just push the second towel all the way in and put the reso head on, it’s not going to do its job.
Roll up 1-2 towels. Beach towels or bath towels are best because they aren’t so big they’ll kill all resonance, but are just big enough to reduce overtones/ringing.
Put the rolled-up towel against the inside of the batter head.
Put the head, hoop, and tuning rods back.
You may have to tune your bass drum a bit differently as there’ll be less air movement inside the drum.
Gently put the reso head back on. Be careful not to move the second towel. Reposition the hoop and tension rods. Tighten the head until all of the wrinkles disappear and make sure the rods aren’t wiggly. If you’re looking for a particular sound, go ahead and tighten it up or leave it loose. It’s up to you to decide how to tune your bass drum.
And that’s it! With two beach towels and a little bit of elbow grease, you’ll get a controlled sound and a full, round tone. This won’t kill the drum, of course – you can expect a nice attack and some resonance that tapers off.
This bass drum muffling technique is perfect for rock music, playing in a church, or in a club where you’re using the house kit. While this is how I like my bass drum to sound, you can start here and experiment with tighter or looser tuning (and even more muffling if it floats your boat). The sky’s the limit, but here’s your ticket for launch!
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