Some kicks have vent holes on the resonant head to relieve pressure, dip the dBs a bit, and provide a useful access point for mic installation; so would I, as an intermediate-level drummer with a pillow inside my 22" kick, hear and feel a noticeable difference if I ported my resonant head?
1From where you sit, probably not.– TimAug 24, 2022 at 5:54
The existence and size of a port on a kick drum resonator head is a matter of personal preference. That said, they are popular for a reason.
Without a port, the resonator head mostly seals the drum. That means that the drum resonates longer and has more sustain. It also means that higher frequencies generated by the beater inside the drum are reflected back and forth inside the drum and mostly lost. The audience or the microphone won’t hear them (a mic on the beater side can pick them up).
So the primary effects of a resonator head hole on a kick drum are reduced sustain of the drum and more high frequencies (articulation) audible in front of the drum.
If you want to get some idea of what your kit and your drumming might sound like with a port without cutting into an expensive head, you can simply remove the resonator head on your kick and play with that for a little while. Obviously that will be an extreme case of least sustain and most high frequencies, but hopefully you can imagine a sound in between no head and full head. That’s what you’d get with a hole.
If you play rock, pop, or related genres with an 18” - 22” kick drum, you probably want a 4” - 5” hole. Those styles generally have a less sustained and brighter, dryer kick drum sound. Having no hole at all will sound boomy and muffled compared to popular recordings of drums in that genre.
If you’re playing jazz, that is one case I know of where a hole is not a given. Depending on the type of jazz and how you play, having no hole might be important.
If you’re still not sure about a hole, you could go one of two ways. You could play without a hole until someone (like a band mate or engineer) notices and says something (or you notice yourself that you don’t like your kick sound). Or you could look to your favorite drummers whose work you like to play or emulate and see if they have holes.
One note, from personal experience: if you take your drum kit to a studio or a stage where an engineer is going to mic up your drum kit and you don’t have a hole, they should be professional about it and say nothing and get a decent sound anyway. But again, if you’re playing rock, that engineer is going to a bit disappointed because it will be harder for them to get a usable sound out of your kick.
Several reasons for having a hole in the front head of your bass drum.
It changes the sound that is produced. Generally louder, brighter (due to higher harmonics produced and let out), and it changes the amount of resonance and sustain available - depending where the hole is.
It also allows access for damping material - most bass drums ring too much, and need some sort of material placing inside to dampen the sound, so it's not so 'echoey'.
Then there's the use of a mic. For recording or micing up on stage, the mic either goes inside the drum, or directly in front of the hole, to achieve the best sound.
Where the hole is will affect both the sound of the kick drum, and its 'micability'. Usually, lower towards the edge has been found to be the preferred location, probably for scientific reasons.
3.5" is a good start diameter, and there are actually tools available for making the hole. As there are devices which fit in those holes like the port you'd find in a bass cabinet.