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Bass Drum:

> INSTRUMENTOLOGY > PERCUSSION > Bass drum > Sound Characteristics

Sound Characteristics

Dark, sonorous, sustaining, full, resonant, soft, mighty, menacing, thunderous, gloomy, eerie, rumbling, thudding, pounding, hollow.

One of the main characteristics of the bass drum sound is its indefinite pitch. The large resonant chamber means that the tone is very deep; depending on the size of the drum it lies somewhere between C and G but is perceived as one or even two octaves lower.

Like the timpani’s, the bass drum’s timbre is composed of two elements: the attack, which possesses purely noise-like properties, and the resonance, which has a duration of around 3–4 seconds at mezzoforte.

Factors that influence the timbre

The bass drum possesses an enormous dynamic spectrum and a huge variety of timbres. The quality of the sound depends on a number of factors:

Force of attack
The possibilities range from a solo ppp, which creates an atmosphere laden with tension, to single strokes like a burst of cannon fire which can give the audience a shock.

Striking spot
The usual striking spot about a hand-width from the center of the head produces a rich, resounding tone. The nearer the rim the head is struck the brighter the sound becomes; it is extremely resonant and tends toward a definite pitch. The center of the head produces a dark, slightly hollow sound with little resonance.

The softer the stick the more mellow and rich the sound. The harder the stick the more prominent the attack and the more precise the note.