I am a college student and I am excited about putting together a band for my school. There are lots of other people keen to be part of it but no one wants to take the role of bass player. They say it is too heavy. How much does a bass drum weigh? Is it really that much?
The bass drum isthe heartbeat of a band. It is this large deep-sounding member which is responsible for the low-pithed boom sound typically used to mark time of maintain tempo.
Bass drums can be found in just about any musical setting. From rock to classical, jazz orchestras and very commonly, marching bands. Their origins can be traced to the ancient Turkish davul, a cylindrical drum with 2 thin heads. Davuls were known as military instruments but also featured prominently in Turkish folk dances.
There is no question that the weight of a bass drum is an important consideration regardless of its specific purpose. That said, it is, quite understandably, a greater concern in the case of marching bass drums because the player has to carry them for extended periods of time. Often for fairly long distances.
Let’s take a look at what you should expect in terms of weight if you plan to take up the role of a bass percussionist in a marching band.
How Much Do Bass Drums Weigh?
Marching bass drums
Bass drums, including the ones designed for marching bands are available in different sizes, which naturally translates to varying weights. Sizes are measured and referred to in terms of the drum’s diameter.
14 inches is considered standard size. Diameter is measured from 14 to 36 inches, with 2-inch increments in the different sizes.
Weights of bass drums with diameters ranging between 14 inches and 32 inches weigh anywhere between 13 and 26 pounds depending on the brand. Different brands could vary in weight even with equal diameters.
A drumline or battery in a marching band consists of two other types of drums. These are snare drums and tenor drums.
Tenor drums typically weigh between 12 and 26 pounds and snare drums’ weight range is between 10 and 18 pounds. With this comparison, it is clear that bass drums are the heaviest of the 3 types therefore requiring most consideration when it comes to weight.
Apart from size, overall weight of the marching bass drum is also determined by the instrument’s build material. Some common woods used to make the shells of these drums are mahogany, poplar, oak, birch and maple.
Why are they so Heavy?
Why do these drums have to be so heavy? This is a common question from users and the answer lies in their design. They are designed to be extremely solid.
Why so? Firstly because they are made to withstand exposure to the elements. A drum designed for marching bands will not be damaged whether it is played under scorching sun or in the event the skies open up during a march.
Secondly, these drums have to withstand a lot of physical shock. If you have watched a bass player beat one of these drums, you know it takes a lot more than a gentle thump on its surface to produce that characteristic deepbase sound. This is why they are made with reinforcing hardware which ensures the drum retains its shape. As you would expect, this extra reinforcement comes with additional weight.
A third factor has to do with sound projection. Marching bass drums are designed to be played outdoors where projection is essential. Additional wood is used in the construction to produce deeper, better projection. This extra wood comes with extra weight.
The primary difference between a marching bass drum and a regular bass drum is that the former is used while walking or marching. It must be portable enough to allow for easy movement.
There are 2 main methods used to attach the drum to the player. A metallic carrier or straps.
Straps are of negligible weight as they weigh less than a pound. If you choose to use a metallic-frame carrier, you can choose an aluminum harnesswhich weighs between 8 and 15 pounds.
It is generally believed that only big-bodied people can carry marching drums. I beg to differ. A good carrier distributes weight evenly. Even small bodied people can carry large drums with relative ease without much strain on the back.
Fit is another crucial consideration when selecting a drum carrier. You could have a carrier which is the perfect weight for the marcher but doesn’t quite fit right.
Look for a carrier which fits comfortably without restricting the player’s range of motion. Ensure that it doesn’t pinch, press or put too much pressure on the lower back. Adjustable carriers are best so the player’s legs can move freely even when taking high steps or side stepping.
Some drums come with a fabric harness which goes around the back to secure the instrument while the metal frame fits over the shoulders.
The strength required to carry a bass drum could easily be overlooked. Yes, it does take a good amount of muscle to carry and play a bass drum through a march.
That said, it can be done. Many marchers admit it was difficult in the beginning but soon got used to it and have even grown to enjoy the role.
Be sure to get your hands on a well-fitting carrier which doesn’t strain your back and allows for sufficient range of motion to ensure you are always comfortable and never miss a beat.
How should bass drums be measured?
To get accurate measurements of your bass drum, remove the drum head from the top (or bottom) then measure the shell. Start at one edge of the shell and measure directly across the center.
What should I use to play a bass drum?
The mallet bag should have a general beater and some soft mallets. You should also have a very hard beater which is best when you need exceptionally clear articulation.