an interactive discussion/demonstration
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Presented by Bill Cahn
Concert bass drum performance practices:
Concept 1: Setting up the bass drum
a) place the bass drum in a suspension cradle or on a cushioned stand;
b) remove unwanted rattles or noises (from the drum and the stand);
c) if the bass drum has calf skin heads, check that the backbone (thicker line) on the playing head runs from 2- o’clock to 7- o’clock through the center.
Concept 2: Tuning the bass drum
a) ‘clear’ both heads (tune at each lug to the same pitch), working from opposite sides (i.e. on a 12-lug head tune the following pairs in order: 1-7, 4-10, 6-12, 2-8, 5-11, and 3-9);
b) normally, tune the resonating head roughly a major-second higher than the playing head;
c) on each side of the drum, bring the T-handles into exact alignment with each other;
d) the drum heads may need re-tuning depending on weather conditions:
* in damp weather the heads may need to be tightened,
* in dry weather the heads may need to be loosened;
e) normally, a resonant and full (not dampened) tone is desired on a concert bass drum (THINK TIMPANI), unless specifically indicated otherwise in the music, or by the conductor;
f) Tune for the best tone as often as necessary.
d) place the left hand on any T-handle and leave it there; with the right hand start at the T-handle where the left hand is resting and go around the head turning every T-handle in order no more than one half-rotation (180Å¡); in the event that your attention is diverted you will have two references for checking how evenly you have tuned (the starting T-handle at your left hand, and the alignment of the T-handles).
Concept 3: Striking the bass drum
a) normally, use a direct stroke (THINK TIMPANI);
b) the normal beating spot is at about 10- o’clock, about one-third of the distance from the edge to the center of the head (THINK TIMPANI);
c) normally, do not play in the center of the head (or, in the case of a calf skin head, on the backbone) because the tone will be much less resonant;
c) normally, use felt beaters appropriate to the size of the bass drum head.
Concept 4: Muting/Dampening the bass drum
a) use a felt or wool muting mit when dampening or ‘shading’ the tone;
b) normally, do not overdampen (knee dampening is not normally required);
c) normally, the mit can be used only on the playing head, allowing the resonating head to provide a fullness of tone;
d) dampen the resonating head with the (non-playing) hand, if necessary.
Â© 2001 William L. Cahn
8740 Wesley Road, Bloomfield, NY 14469 USA