When I purchased my Gretsch kit I decided to go a little different than in the past. I switched from a 22″ kick drum to a 20″. I’m still not 100% sure I made the right decision but this article isn’t about that.
It’s about porting the kick drum. I’ve had a chance to play the drum now for several months without a port in the resonant head. It had a nice, boomy, deep sound even for a 20″ drum.
For as long as I can remember I’ve used ported kick drums. Some like my Pearls came with the ports installed. Others, when I was much younger, were butchered with an Exacto-Knife but seemed to work. I like the sound of ported drums. I like the whoosh of air out of the drum and the way it lets the batter head sink a little deeper into the shell. I like the way you can get a microphone deep into the action of the drum. I also like access to the inside of the drum for tweaking muffling materials (if they’re being used).
I haven’t ported a drum in over 30 years and I definitely didn’t want to butcher my Gretsch head.
I read online that you could heat a tin can on the stove then melt a hole into the drum with it but that plan didn’t totally groove me.
Instead I got Bass Drum Hole Cutter from my local music store (yes, it was Fromager’s Music). It cost me $7 and was worth every cent. It’s basically a cutting blade mounted in a plastic armature with an adjustable centre point.
If followed the directions which are pretty much; remove head, place head on cardboard on flat surface, select hole size on tool (I chose 5″), do a few practice spins to get location right (keep edge of hole at least 2″ from side of head), insert pin and spin.
Simple! The hole was clean and precise with no jagged edges. Plus I was left with a 5″ muffling dot to do something with (I don’t know what yet, I just threw it in that pile of miscellaneous stuff we all have).
With the new port I find the kick sounds boomier and even deeper. That could be because I gave it a good tuning as well but the port also changes the feel of the drum and I really like that. The air can escape and the heads can really do their thing.
Port size is easily selectable by moving the pin to the desired size. Sizes are clearly indicated so there’s no guess work. You can select port sizes from 2″ to 10″ in 1″ increments. The 5″ port worked out well for me. I didn’t want to remove too much of the head because I still wanted that resonance but needed enough space to get my AKG D-112 into the port without too much trouble. I offset my port to the lower right of the head to leave the centre free to resonate.
The Hole Cutter can also do small holes and I’m considering porting a tom just to hear how it sounds.
I highly recommend this inexpensive yet well constructed, easy-to-use tool!