How far should the beater be from the bass drum?

You’ve finally gotten your first acoustic drum kit. You get to the bass drum and start wondering how far should you place the beater, from your bass drum? Here’s a quick answer:

I’d recommend starting by placing your bass drum pedal into position (there’s usually a slot under your bass drum. Then measure a distance of about 3 inch (about 8 cm) or have your beater set at an angle that’s about 45°.

Now, for the long answer…

How far should the beater be from the bass drum?

This is actually a loaded question. And the answer really depends…

As you drum on your kit, you’ll start to understand your own playing style and can adjust your bass drum set up accordingly.

That said, there are three common reasons for new drummers to ask this question.

So, here’re three points for your consideration. If you’re facing an issue that isn’t cover here, just leave a comment below!

1 – Am I comfortable? (Does my feet cramp up?)

Or does your calf cramp up while you drum?

The most common issue new drummers face with bass drum pedals is the muscle ache or cramps that come with playing on the pedals.

And there are two solutions to this really;

  1. build up your calf and thigh muscles
  2. loosen the spring tension on your drum pedal

Build up your calf and thigh muscles

For new drummers, this will usually be my recommendation.

Think about it. The motion of playing a drum pedal isn’t really natural.

Depending on your drum pedal technique, you’ll tend to feel an ache or strain along your shin and your thighs, after a long drum practice session.

It’s quite normal to feel a strain along your shin, since we really do not rely on our tibialis anterior muscles much in our day to day activities:

Source: Quora

You can consider doing some simple exercises to strengthen the Tibialis anterior and its related muscle groups:

Or, just bear with the ache. With enough drum practice, you’ll end up building up the necessary muscle strength and endurance as well.

In the same vein, you can build up your thigh muscle endurance with exercise (squats are good), or just keep at your drum practice.

Loosen the spring tension on your drum pedal

Another reason you may be cramping up might be the spring tension. When spring tension of a pedal is tight, you’ll need to use more energy to activate the pedal, which may lead to muscle aches after a long session.

Now, there’s a reason for spring tension, so don’t just loosen it without thoughts!

Spring tension controls the speed of return and rebound of the beater. The tighter it is, the more rebound you get (and the faster your beater would return to its resting position). But as the same time, the tighter it is, the more strength you’ll need to kick the pedal.

There are drummers who prefer super loose spring tensions while others who prefer theirs on the tighter side. It all boils down to your drumming style, you’ll need to find your balance.

If you want to learn more, this discussion thread could help.

Spring tension also affects responsiveness of your pedal. But that’ll be another topic, for another day.

But here’s a good visual explanation:

2 – Is my bass drum loud enough?

This has got to do with the angle of your beater, to your drum. Remember this?

In summary, the closer your beater is to the drum (aka the smaller the angle), the harder it is to kick loudly.

As a gauge, your beater angle should be between 30° to 55°.

It’s physics really. The further the beater starts from the drum, the more speed it can gather when you kick, the louder your bass drum will be. (There’s an upper limit though, so don’t over do it)

If you find that your bass drum is too soft, here’s what you should do:

  1. Record yourself drumming. Place your recorder 5 feet away, facing you when you drum.
  2. Increase the distance of your beater from your bass drum
  3. Repeat step 1

Often times, you may get the impression that the bass drum is not loud enough as you drum. This could be because you’re focusing on getting your rhythm and timing down.

Record yourself playing to accurately determine if you want the bass drum to be louder.

And remember, there’s an upper limit to how wide the angle of your beater can be. At 90°, the initial force required to activate the beater will be large and you’ll find your leg tiring out fast.

Experiment with different angles to find what works for you.

3 – Do I want to kick faster?

This is a combination of a few factors – spring tension, beater angle, beater length, your technique, etc.

In general, if your pedal feels too floppy or slow to respond, you’ll want to tighten your spring tension or reduce your beater length.

Vis versa, if your pedal feels too tense or difficult to kick, you’ll want to loosen your spring tension.

Play around with your drum pedal settings to find what works for you!

Conclusion

If you’re setting up your first drum kit, my recommendation is to start by measuring a distance of about 3 inch (about 8 cm) or have your beater set at an angle that’s about 45°.

Bass drum pedal finetuning is a whole other topic in itself, I’ll dive into it in a separate article. In the meantime, have fun!

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