I play a lot of percussion music that needs a bass drum. Most of this music requires a bass drum that is smaller than a concert bass drum and tuned differently than a drum set bass drum. That is why it is nice to have what I like to call, a "Grab-n-Go" bass drum. "Grab-n-Go" is the stupid name I use to describe a bass drum that is not attached to anything. For example, it is not part of a drum set and is not strapped to a concert bass drum stand. It is simply a drum that I can Grab and Go. I cannot tell you how many different situations call for a drum like this.
A "Grab-n-Go" is such an easy drum to find and most of the time it is one that you can add to your collection for free. Most high schools have an old bass drum laying around that they would be willing to part with. Check around and I am sure you can find enough parts to get your own project started.
I started my project with a 20" Pearl Championship Series Marching bass drum. I picked this particular instrument because it had most of its parts, it looked like it had not been abused, and I thought I could quickly turn this drum around. I would typically try to find an older drum because they are usually a little lighter, but this drum was free so I couldn't turn it down. The main goal with this project was to finish without spending a lot of money.
The hardware was easy to remove from this drum however, the air hole grommets on this drum took a little work. Once they came off the drum, they were no longer functional. I had to buy six new air hole grommets to replace the ones I took out. I could have simply left the grommets off the drum but there were so many holes in this shell, I thought it would look better to replace them. While I was placing an order for parts, I ordered replacement tension rods. I have never seen a marching bass drum that didn't have bent tensions rods and this drum was no exception. A new set of tension rods was cheap enough that the benefit out weighed the cost.
I had some stain and sandpaper hanging around my house from previous projects so I spent a few afternoons applying coats of stain to this drum. Because of the condition of the shell underneath the wrap, it may take several coats of stain to make the finish even. This drum took five and still had an uneven quality to it because of the weird grain pattern of the shell.
Once the shell dried, I added several coats of polyurethane, painted the hoops and put all the hardware back on the drum. I wanted to replace all of the hardware with new tube lugs but the cost of all of those replacement parts would actually be more than buying a new Pearl bass drum. I decided to go with what I had and be happy about it. The end result was a fun "Grab-n-Go" bass drum that cost me about $20 to get working again. It looks nice and sounds great.
Speaking of sound, I should tell you that I approach the tuning of this drum differently than my other drums. This drum will get used in a lot of different musical situations so I want to have several tuning options available without having to spend a lot of time adjusting the tuning. (Grab-n-Go, remember?) This particular drum has two different heads. One side has been fitted with a coated ambassador and the other side has a pinstripe. Neither head would be my first choice for a bass drum but this instrument is a little different. The playing situations which will require this drum will most likely also require that the drum be struck with either sticks or hard felt mallets. With that in mind, the head choice allows for a round warm sound if I use the ambassador side and a fatter sound if I use the pinstripe side. Each side has a strip of felt under the head so that the drum will not need much dampening.