18 vs 20 vs 22 vs 24 inch – What’s the Best Bass Drum Size?

Author: Joseph Scarpino | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Your bass drum is the heartbeat of your kit. It provides you and the audience with the low-end thump that drives the rhythm of each song.

While most drummers will play a 20” or 22” bass drum, you should know that there are a variety of sizes available, each with its own tonal qualities that fit well within a specific genre.

In this article, I'll compare four kick drum sizes that are most common: 18, 20, 22, and 24 inches. I'll discuss the tonal qualities of each size, and their suitability for different genres of music, and offer tips on how to choose the best kick drum size for your needs.

Whether you're a seasoned drummer or just starting out, this guide aims to provide you with some vital tips when choosing your bass drum.

What is the Best Bass Drum Size for Me?

18” Kick Drum

An 18” kick drum is revered for their tight thumpy tonal qualities. When tuned up just right, an 18” kick can be pretty amazing as they tend to generate more of a pitched note than just a typical slap sound.

Tuning up the head with more tension makes a 14” x 18” kick drum work well within the context of Jazz music. This is why you’ll see this size drum is pretty common on Jazz players’ kits. The smaller size eliminates the beefy thickness that bass drums typically produce. Having a small kick drum wouldn’t be ideal if you need a thick bass tone.

A lower tension tuning on the batter head can give the drummer enough responsive feel with a highly focused attack. Making an 18” a popular choice amongst drummers who play Pop or Punk style music as well.

The smaller size of the kick makes it extremely easy to transport. If you’re a drummer who gigs a lot then you know the value of having a drum kit that is easy to move about.

My Top Pick

Despite boasting a smaller 18" bass drum, the Catalina Club is an extremely capable and versatile kit that delivers warm and punchy tones.

20” Kick Drum

The most common size you’ll find when looking for a kick drum is 20”.  It’s sort of the “renaissance man” of kick drum sizes. This is the most versatile size you can get in a bass drum, and it works well in most situations.

A 20” kick drum is a popular choice for drummers because of its overall tone, and versatility, while still remaining easily transportable.

A 20” kick has enough power and tone to sound great in a Rock or Metal music mix. The response and overall tone of a 14” x 20” kick have wonderful application when playing fast double bass rolls. You can also just as easily tune up a 14” x 20” to fit into a quieter Jazz or Blues type setting as well.

The 20” kick drums will come in a variety of depths that range from 14” to 18”. It’s likely you’ll find that most drummers will play a 14” x 20” or even a 16” x 20” kick.

The 17” to 18” depths tend to be used for specific purposes as they are not as easy to tune and lose sensitivity. However, if you’re a fan of a boomier sound and less of a thud sound, then a deeper 20” kick drum could be the optimal choice for you.

The biggest benefit a 20" kick drum has besides versatility is the freedom of movement you get with your rack toms. You can put your toms at any angle without the top of the bass drum getting in the way. This is one of the biggest reasons that drummers use 20” bass drums.

My Top Pick

This one's my all-time favorite. The kit, featuring a 20-inch kick drum, is capable of pulling off almost anything you throw at it.

22” Kick Drum

First, it has to be said that a 22” kick would not be ideal for every style of music. It could very well be overwhelming when played within the wrong context.

Drummers that require their kick to cut through much louder or more aggressive styles of music tend to gravitate toward a 22” kick drum. The 22” kick is desirable for its ability to project a powerful sound with a bit more emphasis on lower-end tone.

A 22” kick’s inherent lower tone allows the drummer to keep tension on the head for better beater feedback without sacrificing feel. A smaller kick drum would normally have to be detuned slightly and it could lead to less than desirable quality of play.

My Top Pick

Fast. Beefy. Responsive. Explosive! The Catalina's maple shells offer superb projection for a wide range of musical applications.

24” Kick Drum

Playing a 24” kick drum will produce a sound that you or your audience can also feel. These monster kick drums pack a punch and allow everyone to feel the depth of notes when they’re played. A 24” kick is not for those who want to play subtly. They’re mostly used by rock and metal drummers who need huge sounds when playing. Expect to, “bring the thunder!”

If you wish to play a 24” kick properly you should be playing with a heavy foot combined with a heavy beater.

Because of the large size, a 24” can feel odd to sit behind. The response from the beater playing off the head can feel slower. Getting the beater in a position to strike the head's optimal point of dead center can prove to be difficult too.

Drummers that play musical genres requiring tighter, quick patterns will usually find themselves having to make some adjustments to their pedal settings.

The tonal qualities of a 24” can work very well within Big-Bang style music, Country, or something in line with the stylings of Classic Rock.

Drummers like John Bonham were famous for using larger-than-life kick drums when performing with their bands. You’ll definitely get the largest sound with a big kick drum. You may just struggle to place your rack toms comfortably. You’ll also have your work cut out for you when transporting gear.

My Top Pick

This 3-piece shell pack delivers a big, thunderous sound that many passionate drummers would kill for. I was surprised by how well it sounded out of the box even with the stock heads!

Tips for a Better Bass Drum Sound

Congratulations! You finally picked out the right size bass drum for you and now you want to get it sounding its best!

Luckily there are a number of affordable ways to get your bass drum sounding just right.

Port Holes

Installing port holes is a great way to quickly get more attack and better projection from your kick drum. It also provides a spot that can be mic’d up for live shows.

You may also find, especially in the case of larger kicks in the 22” and 24” range, that adding a port will eliminate some unwanted resonant and batter head movements.

Pre-Muffled/Dampened Heads

Heads like Evans EMAD and Aquarian SuperKick series heads have built-in dampening systems that help control the sound of your bass drum.

Adding one of these types of heads adds more punch, and tonal control, and makes your kicks simply sound better overall.


Do not make the mistake of overlooking your bass drum’s beater!

The material the beater is made from, its weight, and its size, all affect the sound that comes from your kick drum.

Felt beaters produce a warmer, more open tone. While beaters made from dense rubbers or wood produce a sound reminiscent of a slap with a more focused attack.

Use a Pillow

A simple, often free solution to dampening your bass drum is by adding a pillow. Yup, adding a pillow inside your bass drum will help control any annoying boomy overtones and make it easier to mic up when you need to.

Final Word

If you play many gigs and would benefit from having an easy setup and pack-up, a small bass drum (16 or 18") would be the best option for you. It’s also the ideal size to use when playing jazz or any other light style of music.

A medium bass drum (20") is what you need to go for if you do a bit of everything and want to be able to position your rack toms optimally. The large kick drums (22" or 24") are for those larger-than-life drummers who need massive sounds.

The bass drum is the drum that gets played the most along with your snare drum. So, make sure you have one that fits the situation you’re playing in.

Avatar photo

About Joseph Scarpino

Joseph is a drummer and lyricist from Asbury Park, New Jersey. When he is not on stage, on tour, or in the studio, you can find him behind a camera, directing, or in front of that camera, acting. Joseph enjoys many genres of music but he most frequently listens to Heavy Metal, Punk, and Hard Rock.

5 thoughts on “18 vs 20 vs 22 vs 24 inch – What’s the Best Bass Drum Size?”

Leave a Comment