Bass Drum

Courtesy of Arthur Ka Wai Jenkins
Beater for the bass drum

Beater for the bass drum

The bass drum is very large and usually hangs on a metal frame.

It often has two heads, like the snare drum. But there are no wires to make the sound rattle.

It became popular in the 18th century, when there was a craze for music with a Turkish sound.

The sound of the bass drum is sometimes ‘felt’ more than ‘heard’ because it’s so deep and resonant.

To play it

You strike it with a large beater. The head of the beater is soft, often covered with felt or wool.

A player of the bass drum, courtesy of Tony Morrell

A player of the bass drum

The sound

The bass drum makes a large, booming sound! It’s sometimes used to imitate thunder because of the rumbling noise it can produce when it’s ‘rolled’, softly.

A ‘roll’ on a drum is similar to when you roll an ‘r’, but it’s done with beaters instead of your tongue.

Do You Know?

Do You Know?

See if you can answer the questions below!

 The bass drum is a...

a. Membranophone
b. Chordophone
c. Aerophone

 When in the orchestra, where is the bass drum is placed?

a. At the front
b. In the wings
c. At the back

 What do you use to strike a bass drum?

a. A hammer
b. A beater
c. Your hand

 Which of these composers used the bass drum loudly in the ‘Dies irae’ (‘Day of wrath’) of his Requiem?

a. Mozart
b. Fauré
c. Verdi

 The bass drum is...

a. Bigger than a harp
b. Smaller than a cello
c. Bigger than a tuba

Play More Music!

Play More Music!

Here is more music to listen to. Click the + to see tracks and information about each work!

Selected Bass Drum Extracts

Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893)
1812 Overture, Op. 49 (extract)

The bass drum sounding like cannon fire!

Performers: Ukraine National Symphony Orchestra; Theodore Kuchar

Taken from Naxos 8.555923

Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901)
Requiem: Dies irae (‘Day of wrath’) (extract)

Some powerful walloping for the ‘Day of Wrath’.

Performers: Hungarian State Opera Chorus; Hungarian State Opera Orchestra; Pier Giorgio Morandi

Taken from Naxos 8.550944-45