Step 5: The Kick Drum
Anyway... selecting the heads. The most important head on your kick is the batter head. You definitely want to go with a sturdy 2-ply head here unless you are playing jazz or acoustic music. The tuning of the kick drum is a little different than the others, so lets check it out.
The first thing you will want to do is grab the batter head. Yes, thats right, throw everything you just read out the window and set aside the resonant head. The batter head determines just about everything when it comes to the kick. So take whatever head you bought (let me just say here that if you are playing heavy music like I do, make the best decision you have ever made and go buy an Aquarian Super Kick II. Your drumset will love you for it and so will your band) and get it set on top of the shell. With your kick drum, you have a set of wood hoops rather than the metal ones, and your tension rods will come with a sort of claw-shaped thingy that is known as... ok so its called a claw.
Get your head on and then place the wood hoop on top. Make sure each tension rod is now paired with a claw. Slide the rod into the claw and then place each pair on top of the hoop next to the corresponding lug. Similar to the other drums, you are going to want to finger tighten as much as you can, and then grab your key. There is no need to go with the conservative quarter turn here. Just go crazy and tighten a half turn. Thats right, you heard me. Half turn. In this moment of unbridled excitement you may have forgotten about having to tune your drum to a specific pitch. Thats good actually, because you're not supposed to.
After a few turns for each rod, you should be able to get a good thump by slapping the head with a stick. This is good. Flip it over and grab your resonant head. If you happen to have a front head that is sporting a logo of some sort, make sure its lined up here so that it will be nice and straight for when the drum is sitting on the ground. If you are considering doing some interior muffling here, grab a pillow or blanket or similar item and toss it inside. Muffling is a very important part of the sound you will get out of you kick, so its certainly worth doing. Another option, rather than using interior muffling is to get a head with a muffle ring on it (such as the aforementioned Super Kick II or an Evans/Remo equivalent). Use the same process as you did when putting on the batter head. Half turns all the way. There is no need to over tighten the resonant head here.
At this point, it is a good idea to go ahead and set up the kick with the pedal and all, and give it a few good kicks. What do you like about the sound? What don't you like? If the drum is too ringy, tighten the front head a little. The pitch too high or low? Loosen or tighten the batter head. If you haven't used any muffling up to this point, this is usually the time that you realize it would have been a good idea.
Well, that should be the end of it, and now that you have spent the last few hours tuning your kit, you are probably way too tired to want to play it. So, tomorrow, give it a shot and play for a little while. Similar to guitar strings, drum heads tend to loosen a little bit after they have first been tightened, so if your drums sound a little different than they did when you finished yesterday, you're not going crazy. Make any slight adjustments that you deem necessary and get ready for at least a few months of not having to do this damn tuning thing anymore.
If you want some advice on some things you can get that will take a lot of the dread you may feel about the process of tuning your next drums, then keep reading.