Video: How to Make Your Kit Sound Like Nirvana-Era Dave Grohl's

In previous installments of this drum series, we've taken a look at how to make your kit sound like John Bonham, Ringo, and Danny Carey. Today, we're going back to the '90s Nirvana days to replicate Dave Grohl's signature kit sound.

Dave's early kit sound centers around a big, punchy kick drum — usually 24 inches in size. His toms — a 15-inch power tom and an 18-inch floor tom — are tuned deep and sound fat and solid. He generally played with a birch-shelled, 8x14-inch snare that sounded dry and full, and he accented all of this with strong, bright cymbals that always sat well in the mix.

Emulating a drummer isn't all about the kit, though. You have to play in their style as well. Dave's playing is full of forceful and hard hits, and the big drums and cymbals of his kit help his strength translate into a huge drum sound. His playing is also very groove-focused, with minimal fills and ghost notes, so be sure to adjust your own playing accordingly.

By the way, we're currently running an auction with Steve Albini for some of the original mics that were used in the recording of Dave's drums on In Utero. You can click here or on the banner below for more information about that.

Bass Drum

To get Dave's signature sound, use a 24-inch bass drum that's (ideally) 16-inch deep. A pre-muffled two-ply batter head is best, and tune it just above wrinkle. Use a ported resonant head tuned medium-low. Put a small towel inside for added focus.


Ideally, use a 15-inch rack, though a 16-inch rack tom will work as well. Floor toms should be 18 inches. Use reinforced clear heads, like Remo Controlled Sound for extra punch. Tune batter heads just above wrinkle, and tune the reso heads to medium-low.


Using an 8x14-inch snare is absolutely essential to nailing Dave's sound. Aim for a birch shell if possible. Use a heavy duty batter head, like the Aquarian Hi-Energy, and tune it medium. Tune the resonant head slightly higher than the batter.


Bright B20 alloy is the way to go here, and you can't beat Zildjian's A Series. Pick up 18- and 20-inch crash cymbals, a 22-inch ride cymbal, and 15-inch hi-hats.

Specs of kit used in video:

Late ‘70s/Early ‘80s Tama Imperialstar in Metallic Blue:

  • 16x16” and 16x18” toms
  • 14x24” bass drum

1980s 8x14” Tama Artwood Birch Snare in Chrome

Zildjian Cymbals:

  • 18” A Avedis Reissue Series Crash
  • 20” A Series Medium Thin Crash
  • 22” A Series Medium Ride
  • 15” A Series New Beat Hi-Hats

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