Bass Drum Buying Guide

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Bass Drum Buying Guide

Finding a Bass drum to complement or complete an existing drum kit can be difficult. Drums are more usually sold as complete drum kits, rather than being supplied individually. However, there are several reasons why an individual bass drum may be sought, such as damage or loss of the existing bass drum, or a desire to convert the kit to be a double bass drum kit. As there is a relatively small market for individual drums, it can sometimes prove impossible to find a drum that matches all the specifications. However, with a little patience, and a bit of ingenuity, it is usually possible to get a drum which is suitable.

Choosing a Bass Drum

How well the bass drum will need to fit in with the other drums it will be played with is the most important consideration when choosing an individual bass drum. It will not be as easy to find an exact replacement of a lost or damaged drum as it will to find a bass drum around which the rest of a kit will be built. When choosing a bass drum, it is important to decide which of the following criteria are the most important.

Choosing a Co-Ordinating Finish

It is worth considering a bass drum which is the correct brand and model, but with a different finish. Before deciding to pass up the opportunity to purchase such a drum, consider investigating how often this type of drum comes up for sale. It may well be that finding the perfect drum is unrealistic and that compromising on not having the correct finish could prove to be a wise choice.

There are situations where a non-matching drum may not be a problem. When a drum is to be used solely for practice or recording and is not intended to be played live, the drum's finish should not be an issue. In any case, it is an easy and relatively inexpensive matter to re-cover a drum. Before deciding against buying a drum because the finish is wrong, it is worth investigating the cost of re-covering the drum, and whether the correct finish of drum wrap is available.

Matching the Size

If a drum is located which is the correct brand, model, and finish, do not forget to check the size of the drum and if it will fit with the kit. An oversize bass drum will dominate the sound of the rest of the kit and require a change in playing style to accommodate this. An oversized drum will also require excessive damping to control its volume. The sound of an undersized bass drum will not be able to compete with the volume of the rest of the kit. If there really is no alternative and the drum is to be used solely for recording, it may be possible to compensate for some of these effects during the mixing stage.

Matching the Make

When looking for a bass drum to be used with a rare kit, it may be unrealistic to expect to find a bass drum from the original manufacturer. In this case, it is important to locate a drum which will give the nearest possible sound to the one supplied when new. A well matched drum will be made of the correct material, be the right physical size and the shell will be a similar thickness. For example, in seeking to match a 9 ply Maple 22" x 18" bass drum the primary consideration should be to find a bass drum which is made from maple. Matching the drum on size should be next on the list. If it possible to find a drum which is also a similar shell thickness, the drum should be a fairly good match for the rest of the drum kit, particularly if it is of a similar age.
If it is necessary to source a bass drum which is not from the same manufacturer as the rest of the kit, it will present further problems. None of the hardware on the bass drum will match, meaning that the new drum can no longer be used to support any of the original kit. This can be overcome by converting these instruments to be stand mounted, however this is less than ideal. For a particularly rare or valuable kit it may make more sense to have a bespoke replacement remanufactured, particularly if the original drum was merely damaged and not lost. In this case, the correct hardware could be salvaged from the damaged drum to produce a near identical replacement.

Creating a Drum Kit

It may be that the intended purchase of a bass drum is not as a replacement or supplement for an existing kit, but instead will itself form the basis of a new kit. The motivation for this approach might be the intention to add some toms later, when extra funds permit. Although this might seem an attractive idea to a novice trying to get started, in the long term, it is likely to prove far more expensive than buying a whole drum kit.

When manufacturers set the price for a new drum kit, they heavily discount the cost of a complete kit in comparison to the price of the drums when sold individually. This means that building up a drum kit over time by buying the drums individually will cost far more than if the drums are purchased all in one go. In addition to the extra cost, the buyer will have all the problems of matching drums detailed above, only in reverse.

There can be situations where it makes sense to base a kit around a bass drum. For instance, if the drummer already has a good snare drum and is looking to play this as part of a two piece kit. In this scenario they are not seeking to match the size, make or finish of the new bass drum to anything else and so are free to choose whatever drum they see fit.

Buying a Used Bass Drum

Anyone looking to buy a used bass drum needs to know how to properly assess the condition of the drum, and also how to assess its value. Ideally, the drum should be inspected in person and, if at all possible, played. If the drum is being bought remotely, then it is important to ensure that the buyer and seller agree on the condition of the drum as well as the price. If the advert for the drum does not include enough information for the buyer to fully assess its condition, then they should request additional information including photographs where necessary.

What to Check For When Buying a Used Drum

Most of the value of a bass drum is contained within the drum shell and hoops. The outer drum wrap can usually be replaced relatively cheaply, so small cosmetic marks on this should not be cause for too much concern. What is important is that the shell of the drum is not warped or cracked, as replacing the shell will likely cost more than the drum is worth. Ensure that the drum is round by checking the gap between the shell and the hoop is even all the way around the drum on both sides. If necessary, remove the drum heads to ensure there are no cracks to the inside of the shell.

Check that all the hardware, such as the legs and tom holders, is complete and in working order. Although the tension rods are cheap and easy to replace, the holders into which they are fitted can be difficult to source. Check that the tension rods thread into these easily and that none of the threads are stripped or have become jammed.
An idea of the value of the drum can be obtained by looking at the prices that similar drums are being sold for elsewhere.

Find Bass Drums on eBay

To purchase a bass drum, start at the eBay homepage. Open the All Categories tab and then select Musical Instruments followed by Percussion. Next, select the link for Drums & Drum Kits. Expand the Sub-Type criteria by clicking Choose More and then put a check in the Bass drums option and select Go. Options on the left of the page can be used to further refine the search. View only the bass drums which fall within a certain budget by defining an upper and lower price. Narrow the search to only display sizes or brands of bass drums of interest, or enter specific criteria into the search box at the top of any eBay page. For example, to find an unused Ludwig bass drum, simply type ''Ludwig bass drum new" into the search bar.


Buying a bass drum to match an existing kit can sometimes be difficult. Getting a perfect match is not always possible and so it is sometimes necessary to compromise on the finish, size, or make of the drum. A used drum will be significantly cheaper than a new one, but will require due diligence on the part of the buyer to ensure that it meets their expectations.

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