What is the largest Percussion Instrument?

There are some pretty big instruments in the percussion family, some are make a big sound, others weigh a great deal, but which is the biggest percussion instrument of them all?

The bass drum is the largest percussion instrument in terms of size and sound.The Marimba is the heaviest percussion instrument but the bass drum also plays arguably the most important role in all forms of percussion bands.

There are many types of bass drum that is used and the way they are used will differ with every type. The sizes of each bass drum will also differ some being so large they need several people to be moved while others are being carried by marching bands around the world.

Here’s why the bass drum is important and all the types that you can find being used.

What is the hardest bass drum to play?

The hardest bass drum to play will always be the one being used in the wrong place, which means that a small rock band does not need an orchestra level bass drum. However, an orchestra may drown out the sound of a normal kick pedal bass drum.

Bass drums usually only require one Mallet to be used, however there are smaller and larger bass drums that will differ greatly from this. Marching bands use small bass drums that are double sides, with mallets in both hands, this is to produce sound in multiple ways and to create a beat for the band to march to.

Some of the hardest bass drums to play can be found in full orchestras, where the bass drums can reach larger proportions. However, it is the required rhythm of using the bass drum at the exact right time that makes them such a challenge to use.

You will rarely require more than a large mallet to use a bass drum, the challenge with using them comes from knowing exactly when to use the bass drum according to the music being played.

How do you hit a bass drum?

There are many things that people will wonder about bass drums, chief among them will be how to properly hit the drum. The answer is both simple and complicated, depending on the type and size of the bass drum it could be as simple as simply smacking the center with the mallet, pressing down on the kick pedal, or just softly rumbling the right mallet across the surface of the drum.

Bass drums of various sizes have different ways of being played, with many bass drum players preferring to find their own way of striking the instrument. In orchestras, the larger bass drums will be played with full mallets while marching bands will only use regular mallets to hit their drums.

Bass drums used in drum kits will always be some variation of a kick pedal drum, freeing up the artists hands to play the other drums in their kit.

Is it really the heaviest instrument in marching band?

The bass drum is the heaviest instrument that will be carried in a marching band. The marching band Marimba will remain the heaviest instrument but will be supported on a stand or coasters if required to move.

Bass drum players have to be physically fit enough to march with their heavy instrument, in some larger and more complex marching bands the bass drum will be carried in trolleys. This is owing to the impact required from the bass drum, the instrument must be heard above the other instruments to keep the percussion rhythm going.

What are the types of bass drum?

There are many types of bass drum used for music around the world, however, there are only a few that should be known by everyone. With many others being used rarely or only in classical music to give extra impact.

  • Concert Bass Drum: Easy to spot in any ensemble of orchestral music the concert bass drum is usually one of the largest instruments that can be seen in the percussion instrument. Played by the percussion lead many times they will produce several levels of sound, by either being hit with a large mallet or simply softly brushed with different kinds of malletss. The concert bass drum is one of the most versatile bass drums.
  • Kick Drum: The most common and easy to recognize bass drum, kick drums are the core component of any set of drums. Used by every rock group, pop star, or just a garage band the kick drum has become synonymous with keeping a beat and feeling music in your heart.
  • Pitched Bass Drum: Easily the most overlooked instrument of any orchestra the pitched bass drum is used in marching bands to not only keep the beat but to lend more bass to the entire ensemble. Many players in marching bands often forget the importance of having the instrument as a part of their team, which makes this uniquely versatile drum one of the most forgotten pieces of instrument.

What notes are the bass drum?

While all bass drums are tasked with making deep and resonating sounds they are all required to deliver a certain definite pitch. With the way they are stuck or the tension in them providing entirely different sounds. Knowing which notes can be made by bass drums is important to composing even the simplest forms of music.

The simplest place to start is with the E1 note, giving many bands the ability to reliably have their bass drum make a deep and throbbing sound. However, as time goes on and you learn more about bass drums and how to play them you will find that tuning your bass drum to be slightly deeper or lighter will benefit your band more.

In marching bands and orchestras the tuning of the bass drums will always be tightly controlled with the ensemble director deciding how the drums must be tuned. Many orchestral pieces already have guidelines to how the drum must sound.

Where are bass drums used?

Many people think bass drums are either used exclusively in bands or orchestras, however, they are used right across the musical industry. Most digital music producers rely on deep notes originally created by bass drums to bring their music together much the same way as orchestras or normal bands.

Bass drums are used anywhere music comes together, providing the rhythm and soul needed to combine all the music together into one piece that works in harmony.


Whether you are just starting out your percussion instrument journey or you have been playing your whole life the bass drum will always be the most important part of your kit. Every piece of orchestral, rock, pop or other genre of music uses the bass drum in some way.

Knowing how to play them and what they should sound like will always give you the benefit of being able to deliver the best music possible!

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