Knowing how to replace the bass drum beater head is an important step in maintaining a full and professional drum sound. A new head is essential for recording or playing in a situation in which a listener will be able to hear the drums in detail. Old heads produce uneven tones and can, like any poorly-tuned instrument, impair the quality of a perfectly good song. While the bass drum may seem intimidating to maintain, its low pitch makes it simpler to tune than a snare drum or a tom-tom.
First, you will need to know your bass drum's diameter. They usually range from 18 to 24 inches. It is also important to choose a head appropriate to the style of music you will be playing. Coated heads are often used for traditional jazz situations while clear heads are often used where the bass drum is more prominent in the mix, however there are many exceptions. Before you start, you will need a drum key and a new bass drum head.
- Turn the bass drum on its side with the beater head facing up. Do this on a soft surface such as a carpet because it will be easier to isolate the pitch of the drum when it comes time to tune.
- With your drum key, de-tune the head by turning the lug counter clock-wise. Loosen each lug until the tension on each rod is relaxed enough to move with just your fingers.
- Take the rods out, remove the hoop, and take off the old head.
- Seat the new head on the bass drum shell. A properly-sized head should hang over the rim of the shell so that the head is easy to rotate but isn't loose.
- Place the hoop over the head and insert the rods. Tighten each with your fingers until you can't tighten them any more. Wiggle them back and forth to ensure you are getting them as tight as possible with just your fingers.
- Tuning methods: The best way to tune a 6-lug bass drum is to pick a lug, tune it by a half-turn, then go to the lug directly across the head. After tuning that lug, go clockwise to the next lug and tune it by a half-turn. Repeat the process until you return the the first lug.
- Tune the head by the method mentioned above until the head begins to resonate fully. At this point, place your hand in the middle and de-tune each lug until you can see the surface of the head ripple in the light. Tune each lug back up until the nearest surface ripples disappear. This is called the LPP (lowest possible pitch). After achieving the lowest possible pitch, you have a tuned bass drum. From this point you can tune the head, by quarter or half-turns, up to the pitch you like best.
- Muffling is often required to tame excessive resonance. You have several options for muffling your bass drum: you can either use something around the house (a towel or an old sweatshirt), buy an Evans EQ Pad Bass Drum Muffler, or buy a install a specialized head like the Evans EMAD Muffling System Batter Bass Drumhead.
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