looking down on drum set

Single Bass vs Double Bass Drums – Which is Best?

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If you want to stir things up, ask a room of drummers, which is the better choice: Single bass or double bass drums? Even though I’ve never actually asked a room of drummers that, I can imagine the varied opinions, right?

Single bass and double bass drums both have advantages and disadvantages because they will be used for different musical situations. 

Pros and Cons of the Single Bass Drum

AffordableNot comfortable for the left foot
VersatileMuddy recording quality when playing with two pedals

One of the most significant advantages of the single bass drum is size. Because you only have one bass drum, it’s a lot easier to transport and set up at a show. And, many people would argue that you don’t actually need two bass drums to get the same sound. The argument is that you can get close enough with two pedals on one drum or work to have a very lively right foot on a single pedal. 

When you’re comparing single versus double bass drums, you’re not going to find many cons to the single bass, except the left foot may be uncomfortable alternating between the right bass pedal and left one. 

The sound of the single bass drum hit by two pedals also has the potential to become muddier when recording because there’s so much repetitive force applied in a small area. The double bass drum kit provides a more crisp sound that helps with recording quality when playing with two bass drum pedals. 

There’s a reason why the single bass drum is such a popular choice, but there are a few reasons why you might want a double bass drum kit. 

Here are some popular single bass drums reviewed at Amazon.

Pros and Cons of the Double Bass Drum

Clear sound for recordingMore expensive
Imposing lookTakes up more space
Good feel for left foot while playing two kick pedalsMore challenging to tune

If you’re in the market for a double bass drum set, is it because it’s the go-to choice of one of your rock or metal heroes? That’s not a bad reason to opt for the double kick drum. Yes, some players outside of rock and metal play a double bass drum too.

To be honest, it looks cool. The double bass drum look takes up more space on the stage and is more imposing. By appearance alone, it seems more robust. And it sends the message that you’re a power drummer, but of course, you need to prove it with your playing. 

But when it comes to choosing between the single and double kit, a lot comes down to personal taste and sound quality. You may not want a kit that takes up so much space on the stage or in your car. And when you do start playing gigs with your double bass drum, you may find that many venues don’t have two kick mics. 

And while some drummers appreciate being able to tune two drums, most are looking for an identical sound from both. It’s naturally more difficult to tune two drums to the same pitch compared to just one. 

And if you’re looking for crisp recording quality, the double bass drum is ideal because you’re alternating drums, and the sound is always going to be more explicit. 

When it comes down to it, it’s all about what you’re comfortable with playing. Jason Rullo, Derek Roddy, and Virgil Donati all favor the double bass kit, so it clearly works for many greats. 

Here are some popular double bass drums reviewed at Amazon.

Double Pedal vs. Single Pedal

Now that we’ve covered the bass drums let’s drill this down to the next option. If you have your heart set on a single bass drum, you can always use two pedals on that drum to get a sound that’s similar to the double bass kit. 

There are a couple of things to consider when you’re deciding between a single pedal or a double bass pedal. 

  • Type of music — Double bass pedals go hand-in-hand with rock and metal because the double pedals allow for more power and speed. The single bass pedal allows more groove, and it may afford the drummer more creativity. 
  • Skill level — Me and many drummers would agree that it makes sense to learn with a single pedal. When you can master the technique with the single pedal, you can bring that level of creativity with you when you’re working with double pedals. Some drummers even feel that starting with a double pedal is like using a crutch. I’m not sure if I would go that far because there are benefits to both systems, but you can learn skills with a single pedal that you won’t get on a double pedal. 
  • Sound quality — Whether you’re using a single or double pedal, the sound isn’t going to be as crisp as it is on a double bass kit. The best sound quality will come from two kicks instead of one. 

Why Use Two Bass Drums Instead of One?

We’ve already covered the pros and cons of using a single bass drum, and ultimately, it’s a very personal choice. But there’s one main reason why you might choose to use two bass drums instead of one when using two pedals: Sound quality.

If you’re determined to use two pedals, whenever you’re beating a single drum, you’re going to get a muddier sound than beating multiple drums. This is because you simply can’t allow enough time for the first sound to reverberate before you hit the drum again. 

This isn’t an issue that impacts drummers at a beginner level, but when you’re selling out stadiums or recording in a studio, it makes a significant difference. The sound quality will further highlight your skill as a drummer. 

How Hard is it to Master the Double Bass on Drums?

The double bass drum takes time and practice to master. 

If you start drumming on a single bass drum, especially with a single pedal, there’s going to be a transition period. 

Give yourself ample practice time to get the double pedal technique down. If you’re an advanced musician, this may be something you can teach yourself. But most people benefit from outside instruction. If you can’t afford an instructor, there are plenty of videos on YouTube that will walk you through the transition from single to double bass. 

Start small and focus on your foot action with rudiments and paradiddles. Don’t try to play your favorite rock songs right away. Just get a simple rock beat down and get yourself used to playing the double kick. 

I have hardly played two kick pedals, so my left foot is accustomed to stepping on the hi-hat only. It would take time for me to start using that left foot differently.

When you’re ready for a song, try Red Hot by Motley Crue. It’s a relatively simple song you can master on a double kick. 

Can You Get the Same Sound with a Single and Double Bass Drum?

When you’re first starting, you’re going to struggle to get the same sound with a single and double bass drum kit. 

Over time, you’ll shorten the gap. But will you ever get the same sound with a single and double bass? 

Ultimately, the answer is “no.” 

But with a lot of practice and strengthening your left foot, you can get close. It will also help if you use a double pedal on a single bass drum in the beginning. 

First, there’s a difference between using single pedals and double pedals that comes down to the physical setup and user skill. 

Second, each kit has its challenges for providing a clean sound. And those challenges are different based on which kit you choose. 

The single bass drum provides a muddier sound because you’re hitting the same drum repeatedly. This is true whether you have a single or double pedal setup. 

And with a double base kit, you’ve got to tune two drums to the same sound, which is extremely challenging. 

The bottom line is that you’ll get different levels of imperfection with each kit, but that’s part of what makes their sound authentic. A well-trained ear could differentiate the single versus the double bass. But the “imperfections” we speak of add to the artistry and authenticity.

I don’t like overproduced music because it strips the human aspect away from music. This is one reason people liked drummers such as Keith Moon, who would explode into sporadic fills without having perfect subdivision or time while executing the piece.

How Do I Play Double Bass Music Using Only One Pedal?

One of the reasons why the single bass drum is so popular is because of its versatility. With a lower cost and smaller footprint, you can play the same double-bass songs that you would with a double bass drum kit.

But you’ve got to be fast, and that takes a lot of practice.

That’s part of the fun for many drummers. It takes a great deal of skill to be able to achieve the double bass (double pedal) sound on a single bass with a single pedal.

Listen to John Bonham play Good Times Bad Times if you want to here an incredible right foot on a single pedal.

But even with all that said, if this is something you’re planning to master, you should know that you can’t do it all. 

There will be some tempos you simply can’t achieve. No matter how fast you are, physics is working against you. You’ll need a double pedal to make it work. 

It also has a lot to do with mental coordination. When your feet are working double-time, it’s difficult to make your hands independent. So, you’re going to be limited to some basic double-bass songs if you’re working with a single bass and single pedal.

The question you might want to ask yourself, though, is why you’re trying to achieve double pedal work with a single pedal.

If you’re serious about getting that sound, it’s best to get a double pedal. The investment isn’t quite as significant as getting a double bass kit, and it’s a lot easier to get the sound you’re desiring. 

Here are some double bass pedals reviewed at Amazon.

What is Better: Double Bass Drums or a Double Pedal?

In the end, is it better to have two bass drums or one bass drum with a double pedal? 

The answer to this question comes down to personal opinion, but there are some things to consider. 

  • Looks – The double bass drum kit looks great. The single bass drum lacks the imposing nature of the double bass drums
  • Practicality – If you’re looking to travel with your kit, as most drummers do, the double bass drums are going to provide some challenges. The kit takes up a lot of space and is more difficult to haul. You must consider whether the extra effort is worth somewhat you’re getting in sound. For most beginner to intermediate drummers, it’s not. If you’re playing bars or small venues, the double bass becomes more trouble than it’s worth.
  • Sound Quality – There’s an advantage to having two kicks, but it’s minuscule unless you’re recording in a studio. And even if you are recording in a studio, you’re probably going to clean up the sound anyway. 
  • Flexibility – With a double pedal instead of a double bass drum, you don’t have to worry as much about space, and you have a lot of versatility in the songs you can play. You also have more flexibility in how you can face the drum set because the kit itself isn’t so cumbersome. 

Bottom Line

There’s no wrong answer to the question of whether you should get single bass or double bass drums. It’s all about the music you’re playing and what works best.

But with that said, most drummers opt for the single bass, especially at the beginner and intermediate levels. 

If you don’t have a crew to lug and set up your kit, the double bass is simply too cumbersome for most (even though it looks incredibly cool) people. 

You’d struggle to find space for the double bass kit in bars and small venues, and it just takes more effort in general. 

If you had to choose between a single bass drum and a double bass drum, the extra effort might be worthwhile for certain types of music. 

But the fact remains there’s an easy answer that bridges the gap, and that answer is a single bass drum with a double bass pedal. There may be a slight difference in the sound you’ll get (versus the double bass kit), but the convenience, affordability, and flexibility of the single bass with a double pedal make it incredibly attractive. 

Especially if you’re just starting out on drums, the single bass is going to be your friend. From here, you can decide whether to start out with a single pedal or a double pedal. But most drummers agree there are benefits to starting with the single pedal before transitioning to playing with a double pedal.

I play jazz mostly, so I’ve almost always used just one bass drum with one pedal, and it’s what I prefer. I like playing rock too. John Bonham himself only used one bass drum and one pedal. It’s the player, not the equipment that makes a great drummer.

So, what’s your preference? Do you prefer the single bass or double bass drums?