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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

24” Kick Drum

Playing a 24” kick drum will produce a sound that you or your audience can also feel. A 24” kick is not for those who want to play subtly. 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 within Big-Bang style music, Country, or something in line with the stylings of Classic Rock.

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.

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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.

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