Bass Drums Anonymous

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I admit it . . . I’m a bass drum.  I am a concert bass drum and I have a problem; I get no respect.  Everyone uses me . . . but that’s not the problem.  The problem is that I am sooo carelessly used.  I am used – without thought about how beautifully I could/should produce sounds.   I am choked with towels and all sorts of mutes on my skin to keep my voice from singing.  My alternate drum set body is regularly stuffed with blankets, carpets and other materials – expressly for the purpose of keeping me from sounding my best.  They even cut big holes into my second skin to insert these things, which makes this skin completely dead, adding absolutely no resonance to my sound. Don’t they remember how beautifully I used to sound in the days when I was considered so special that some of my players would devote their entire concert careers to me? – me alone!   They didn’t put towels on my skin – ever!  Don’t they remember how cool my resonant, undampened sound was in the jazz music of so many great set drummers?

I get no respect.  While all the other drums – timpani, tom toms, congas, bongos, and even  snare drums (sigh) – are tuned with care to get the most warm and resonant sounds, even when I am in their company, I am routinely ignored.  The other drums don’t seem to care about the ugly ‘thumps’ I am forced to produce.  In fact, they all seem to expect it, as if it’s the only kind of sound I am capable of making.

I get no respect.  More often than not, my ‘T’-rods are scattered every which way, as if nobody cares enough to keep my skins in tune.  No wonder; player after player may use me.  One turns a ‘T’-rod here, another turns a ‘T’-rod there and pretty soon, I am unbalanced and out of tune with myself.  Don’t they know that uniformly-aligned ‘T’-rods are a sign of thoughtful care?

I get no respect. My skin is regularly struck in the center, where my tone is the least resonant.  Why? . . I ask.  The timpani are almost never struck in the center, because everyone knows that the resulting sound is choked, and a choked sound is almost always not the resonant sound that is most desirable.  But for some reason, I am regularly expected to make this very kind of choked, non-resonant sound.  Don’t they know that my most beautiful resonant sound can be carefully shaped?;  it only takes a soft shaping mitten used with care to produce a good resonant sound of any length rather than a short ugly ‘thump.’

I get no respect.  I am almost always placed on a stand or suspended in a cradle, either one of which sometimes makes more sounds than I do, and rarely does anyone do anything about it.  All of the rattles of casters, loose bolts, loose lugs, and more, are simply accepted and ignored, and my beautiful sound is forced to be paired with all of the added clatter.  Don’t they know that the clatter is heard too?

I get no respect.  I am so regularly played for the ugliest sounds.  It is so unusual for the inherent limitations of my voice to be considered.  A ‘fortissimo’ in the music is not a request for an ugly, overplayed ‘whack.’  Don’t they know that I can make beautifully loud, resonant sounds as well?

I admit it . . . I’m a bass drum and I have a problem;  I don’t get any respect.



One Response to “Bass Drums Anonymous”

  1. Michael Dragen

    Very clever. And true! The bass drum, the triangle, the wood block… All too often in educational settings, even directors with percussion background just end up accepting a mallet, beater, or stick making contact as “good enough” in terms of tone quality… It is important that we teach percussionists from an early age (perhaps even before they choose this instrument family in middle school) how detailed and attentive they must be on EACH instrument, while a trumpet player can give all their attention to ONE instrument.

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