When trying electronic kits, the one instrument that indicates, to me, how much time has been spent on the overall feel of it, is the bass drum. Some you just sit down at and go “That’s nice!” whereas others you sit down and go “X thousand pounds and it feels like that? No thanks!”
I’ve also been luck enough to be able to take some of these bass drum pads apart and try and work out what makes then feel so good (or bad).
To me, currently, the ATV aDrum 18” bass drum pad and the Pearl eMerge 18” bass drum pads feel pretty damn good. Both work on, sort of, the same principal – a mesh head with ‘something’ behind.
In the case of the Pearl, the ‘something’ is a leather type material pad over firm foam, just where the beater hits. The foam feels good, and I suppose the mesh head is just there for aesthetics, but overall, the package is good.
With the ATV, the ‘something’ is a large, full head size piece of foam behind the mesh head, but interestingly, it has a hole cutout behind where the beaters would hit. It’s the contrast from the foam to the ‘hole’ that makes it feel, in my opinion, so good.
As we all know, just a mesh head on a bass drum feels pretty horrible. It needs something else to make it feel more ‘real’ or solid. I normally suggest filling the bass drum with pillows up to a height just below the beater hit point, but pillows can move around, add weight, and they can look a little weird in that Harry Potter pillow case your mother bought you when you were little.
So, as so many people are using A2E kits, I thought I’d try and replicate (to the best of my abilities, and without spending loads) the feel of the ATV kick, so it could be applied to other bass drums of any size.
The foam in the ATV looks something like this (right), and it looks nice and ‘factory fitted’ but in my opinion, the foam filling the top half of the head (ie the bit around the hole) is just there for aesthetic reasons.
I have a 16” bass drum which I use just for triggering, so I thought that would be the ideal subject to try and improve the feel of. I could have bought a 15” circle of foam and some brackets and copied the ATV pattern exactly, but I wanted to see if there was something easier. And there was.
I found on Ebay a seller who sold foam for cushions. They sold 2” thick upholstery foam in discs, in pretty much any size, so for £15 I ordered a 15” diameter, 2” thick piece of foam in a medium density.
When it arrived, I cut it in two, exactly down the middle (the trickiest part of the whole mission – use a bread knife and measure, measure, measure before you cut), so when stacked, they made a 15” semicircle of foam, 4” thick.
To hold the foam in place, I used some brackets which I’ve had kicking around for ages. These have a slot down one side, so they are adjustable, and I removed the screws from the back of the lugs from 3 o’clock around to 9 o’clock and put the sliding slot behind them before tightening everything up again.
Then I put the foam in the drum, supported by the brackets, and adjusted the brackets so the foam stuck out about a centimetre in front of the bearing edge. This put a bit of pressure on the head and improved the feel.
Then I put the mesh head back on and tightened it to a comfortable playing tension.
And that was it – a £15 piece of foam, 4 adjustable brackets (a few pounds off eBay again) and the feel was much, much improved. I wouldn’t say it is as good as the ATV, but then it was a fraction of the price, but, importantly, I can easily repeat it, and use it on any size bass drum.
The same eBay seller sells foam discs in 15 (for a 16” head), 17”, 19” and 21” sizes, so as long as you don’t rock a John Bonham sized kit, you too can easily get a foam disc to suit your bass drum. As you’ll have guessed by now, you’ll need a foam disc, 1” smaller than the head size of your bass drum.
If you try it and feel it is not ‘solid’ enough for you, simply cut a semicircle out of board (MDF or whatever is to hand) the same size as the foam, and put it behind it, supported by the brackets. This will add pressure across the whole head and make the whole thing much more solid.
So there you have it. Do you have an A2E bass drum and you’re not happy with the bass drum feel? Try this – cheap, fully adjustable, and takes about 15 minutes to do.