Bass Drum

The Bass Drum

The bass drum comes in basically three types. The concert bass drum is the largest of the bass drums and mounted to a rolling or stationary stand in the symphony orchestra. The performer plays it while standing. The second is the marching bass drum which the marching performer supports by an attached shoulder/neck strap. The marching bass drum is significantly smaller than the concert type. Then comes the bass drum used as a part of the stage drum kit or drum set and is the smallest of the three. In the stage drum kit, the bass drum, also called the 'kick drum', is not played with a hand mallet but rather a mallet attached to a foot pedal which swings the mallet into the drum when depressed by the drummer's foot. Review the  images below.


Marching Bass Drum

Stage Bass (Kick) Drum


Use of the Bass Drum

The mallet used to play the bass drum is basically a wooden stick with a felt pad mounted on one end. The player will use two identical mallets, one for each hand, left and right.

Since the percussion section is viewed as the main beat keeper in most bands and ensembles, the bass drum provides a foundation in the music for the orchestra to follow, that is, when it is used. Many compositions do not implement the bass drum or use them in only certain musical sections.

The bass drummer must possess the same kind of training and skills as other musicians. He must be able to read and interpret sheet music on the fly while maintaining a proper and accurate count of the beat according to the time signature.

Both the concert and the marching versions of the bass drum are played by hand swinging the mallet into the drum head to sound the beat. The concert and marching drums are played while standing. The 'stage kit' bass drum is played while seated with a foot used to press the kick pedal which swings the mallet into the drum head to produce the sound.


Concert Bass Drum


The Hornbostel–Sachs System classifies the Bass Drum as a directly struck membranophone which produce sound through vibrations of a tightly stretched membrane which is struck. Other percussion may be classified as shaken, plucked, singing, or friction membranophones, or or indirectly struck idiophones.


Where in the Orchestra

The concert bass drum shares with other untuned percussion instruments the area encircling the central rear of the orchestra.

Song Featuring the Bass Drum & Other Percussion

Video Left: Christian Rock recording artists 'For King and Country' perform 'Fix My Eyes' at 'The Live Room' at Grand Victor Sound in Nashville, TN.

Noteworthy Percussionists


Jack Bell


Gene Krupa


Buddy Rich


Evelyn Glennie