Bass drum technique help

Flamadiddle28

Junior Member
I have been struggling with my bass drum for a while, and I still can't get it right. Lately I have been using a technique that is a combination of slide technique and heel toe, I use heel toe for fast doubles and slide technique for the rest. But my slide technique needs some serious work and just feels awkward. I want to completely switch to heel toe but I don't know if it is reliable in all situations....? So I'm really confused on what technique to do, how to build speed, and how to adjust my bass drum to my technique (I have the pearl demon drive pedal if that helps)? Also I'm not sure if I should I use ankle weights?
 

caddywumpus

Platinum Member
Don't use weights. You'll form bad habits, use muscles that you normally wouldn't (waste energy and efficiency), and possibly cause yourself some injury.

I can gather that you play heel up from the techniques you describe. Here's what I recommend:

1. Play heel down for a while. It will work out your bass drum foot control and musculature in a way you never imagined.
2. Practice and get comfortable with both bury the beater AND letting it rebound.
3. Focus on playing beats/rhythms/licks that incorporate fast footwork that is right on the cusp of your ability. If you can just barely play it clean, do it over and over again. Working at the threshold of your ability is how you push further.
4. Don't rely on "tricks" or "special techniques" to play fast notes. Work your way up to speed playing "legitimately". It will probably take years, especially if you have bad habits to break. If you find yourself consistently gravitating towards a particular trick/technique/shortcut to play a lick/pattern, force yourself to play it by using basic strokes on the pedal with your heel down--no side to side movements, no sliding, no heel-toeing.

...this will improve your playing and control of your bass drum work to a whole new level. Once you can ditch your bag of tricks and play the bass drum with basic techniques, without having to rely on "special moves", your playing will be more consistent and controlled, and you can express yourself through finesse a lot better. It takes a long time, but it's WELL worth it.

Good luck, and welcome to the forum!
 

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
Also I'm not sure if I should I use ankle weights?
Don't use weights. You'll form bad habits, use muscles that you normally wouldn't (waste energy and efficiency), and possibly cause yourself some injury.
I would agree with ankle weights on the drummer, however, using "sliding" weights on the shaft of the beater can improve the balance of a drum pedal, there"s also beaters where you can exchange weights within the beater itself, such as Mapex Falcon beaters. :)
 

aaajn

Silver Member
Don't use weights. You'll form bad habits, use muscles that you normally wouldn't (waste energy and efficiency), and possibly cause yourself some injury.

I can gather that you play heel up from the techniques you describe. Here's what I recommend:

1. Play heel down for a while. It will work out your bass drum foot control and musculature in a way you never imagined.
2. Practice and get comfortable with both bury the beater AND letting it rebound.
3. Focus on playing beats/rhythms/licks that incorporate fast footwork that is right on the cusp of your ability. If you can just barely play it clean, do it over and over again. Working at the threshold of your ability is how you push further.
4. Don't rely on "tricks" or "special techniques" to play fast notes. Work your way up to speed playing "legitimately". It will probably take years, especially if you have bad habits to break. If you find yourself consistently gravitating towards a particular trick/technique/shortcut to play a lick/pattern, force yourself to play it by using basic strokes on the pedal with your heel down--no side to side movements, no sliding, no heel-toeing.

...this will improve your playing and control of your bass drum work to a whole new level. Once you can ditch your bag of tricks and play the bass drum with basic techniques, without having to rely on "special moves", your playing will be more consistent and controlled, and you can express yourself through finesse a lot better. It takes a long time, but it's WELL worth it.

Good luck, and welcome to the forum!

CW, thank you for this lesson. Always helpful.
 

Flamadiddle28

Junior Member
Don't use weights. You'll form bad habits, use muscles that you normally wouldn't (waste energy and efficiency), and possibly cause yourself some injury.

I can gather that you play heel up from the techniques you describe. Here's what I recommend:

1. Play heel down for a while. It will work out your bass drum foot control and musculature in a way you never imagined.
2. Practice and get comfortable with both bury the beater AND letting it rebound.
3. Focus on playing beats/rhythms/licks that incorporate fast footwork that is right on the cusp of your ability. If you can just barely play it clean, do it over and over again. Working at the threshold of your ability is how you push further.
4. Don't rely on "tricks" or "special techniques" to play fast notes. Work your way up to speed playing "legitimately". It will probably take years, especially if you have bad habits to break. If you find yourself consistently gravitating towards a particular trick/technique/shortcut to play a lick/pattern, force yourself to play it by using basic strokes on the pedal with your heel down--no side to side movements, no sliding, no heel-toeing.

...this will improve your playing and control of your bass drum work to a whole new level. Once you can ditch your bag of tricks and play the bass drum with basic techniques, without having to rely on "special moves", your playing will be more consistent and controlled, and you can express yourself through finesse a lot better. It takes a long time, but it's WELL worth it.

Good luck, and welcome to the forum!
Thanks this advice seems great, but I'm just wondering after playing heel down for a while, when should I switch to heel up? And since I won't be doing slide technique, what technique should I do?
 

caddywumpus

Platinum Member
Thanks this advice seems great, but I'm just wondering after playing heel down for a while, when should I switch to heel up? And since I won't be doing slide technique, what technique should I do?
You should PRACTICE heel down, and work on being able to play fast with just your foot strokes. In the meantime, if you have a regular gigging situation where you HAVE to play fast, you should use whatever techniques you've used up to this point to still play what you have been playing, at least until you get your foot control up to speed.

I only play heel up when I need that extra bit of volume. Heel down works great for precise control and being able to play all dynamics and speeds. Heel up is more difficult to play consistently at all dynamics and speeds.

Don't worry about "techniques", so to speak. Here's how you play fast doubles with your bass drum foot:

1. Play a stroke.
2. Play it again.

...it's that simple. Anytime you have to "cheat" and use a special move like sliding, pivoting, or heel-toe to accomplish whatever you're trying to play, your foot has to "switch gears" to do that move, and that split-second switch-over, or even re-positioning of your foot, can cost you reaction time to the music.

Like I said before, it takes time to build up your ability to play as well with normal strokes as you can with special tricks (years probably), but when you do, you'll be glad you did. Start working on it now...the sooner you do, the better.
 

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
So I'm really confused on what technique to do...
...and how to adjust my bass drum to my technique
Don't rely on "tricks" or "special techniques" to play fast notes. Work your way up to speed playing "legitimately". It will probably take years, especially if you have bad habits to break. If you find yourself consistently gravitating towards a particular trick/technique/shortcut to play a lick/pattern, force yourself to play it by using basic strokes on the pedal with your heel down--no side to side movements, no sliding, no heel-toeing.
I disagree, it's like comparing traditional grip vs matched grip vs french grip and saying "use only traditional grip", both heel-down, heel-up and toe-heel are "legitimate" techniques, it's a personal choice.

Here's Steve Smith demonstrating an exercise with all 3 techniques together: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wqj3p8rF4ew

Heel up is more difficult to play consistently at all dynamics and speeds.
I disagree again, within my 30 years + at the kit, I have really studied the different bass drum techniques, as the kick drum is my favourite drums, and I opted for the heel-up technique which I use all the time and I have no problem whatsoever with consistency, dynamics and speeds. It's what the drummer will find more suitable and/or confortable that the deciding factor, ideally, we should all use Steve Smith approach, and master all techniques.

Anytime you have to "cheat" and use a special move like sliding, pivoting, or heel-toe to accomplish whatever you're trying to play, your foot has to "switch gears" to do that move, and that split-second switch-over, or even re-positioning of your foot, can cost you reaction time to the music.
Sorry Caddy, I disagree again, nothing personal, just my humble opinion.

If you switch techniques, Michael Packer (http://www.youtube.com/user/mpacker49?feature=mhum#p/u/2/dPQqqf_-BSg) explained the importance of the pre-position of the foot before any stroke with any technique. it allow the foot to be ready for the upcoming stroke, without the pre-position of the foot, consistency and accuray are at risk.

Therefore, you can switch techniques, providing you use the pre positioning concept and that you're aware of what you want to play at ALL times.

I do agree with Caddy, it will take time, be patient, practice slowly with and without a metronome using all the techniques (you'll choose the one(s) that suit your style at a later date) and gradually build up the speed of your exercises. :)
 

B-squared

Silver Member
Don't use weights. You'll form bad habits, use muscles that you normally wouldn't (waste energy and efficiency), and possibly cause yourself some injury.

I can gather that you play heel up from the techniques you describe. Here's what I recommend:

1. Play heel down for a while. It will work out your bass drum foot control and musculature in a way you never imagined.
2. Practice and get comfortable with both bury the beater AND letting it rebound.
3. Focus on playing beats/rhythms/licks that incorporate fast footwork that is right on the cusp of your ability. If you can just barely play it clean, do it over and over again. Working at the threshold of your ability is how you push further.
4. Don't rely on "tricks" or "special techniques" to play fast notes. Work your way up to speed playing "legitimately". It will probably take years, especially if you have bad habits to break. If you find yourself consistently gravitating towards a particular trick/technique/shortcut to play a lick/pattern, force yourself to play it by using basic strokes on the pedal with your heel down--no side to side movements, no sliding, no heel-toeing.
This is a topic where opinions will vary, but I absolutely, completely agree with Caddy on this one. I am pretty fast with my right foot - probably faster than average and I play a single pedal; but I can think of nothing in my playing that is less important than my kick pedal speed. Controlling tempo and dynamics are the important things to cover, and Caddy's methodology allows for that. Speed will come with practice.
 

burn-4

Senior Member
I think it can only benefit you to be adequate at as many techniques as possible- this year I began playing heel up (after 10 years of ONLY playing heel down) and I found it really difficult at first but as people say just practise it- it also made me realise how low I had been sitting and my general posture has improved massively since (not getting so many aches from long stints etc)
Do everything slowly at first and make sure your posture/ seat height/ distance from pedal/ angle of your upper and lower leg is correct that way you are not learning any bad habbits. Then pick up the speed once all that is comfortable.

I now naturally play heel up and it allows for a lot more speed and power but I also like to play heel down in say a verse section or with a rim click- just like switching to French grip can be more appropriate than a german grip in certain situations. None of it is cheating, if you want to be a musician then you need to diversify and be able to be as appropriate both musically and dynamically as possible. It's like a guitarist playing down strokes for everything rather than alternate picking- sometimes down strokes are needed but more often than not it makes sense to do it another way :)
 

caddywumpus

Platinum Member
I disagree, it's like comparing traditional grip vs matched grip vs french grip and saying "use only traditional grip", both heel-down, heel-up and toe-heel are "legitimate" techniques, it's a personal choice.
No, it's like comparing push-pull to bouncing to Moeller to Gladstone. You can use whichever you like to play doubles and triples, but they shouldn't be a crutch you depend on to play, and you should always be working on your "regular" strokes.

I disagree again, within my 30 years + at the kit, I have really studied the different bass drum techniques, as the kick drum is my favourite drums, and I opted for the heel-up technique which I use all the time and I have no problem whatsoever with consistency, dynamics and speeds. It's what the drummer will find more suitable and/or confortable that the deciding factor
That's great for you. Everybody should spend their time investigating all of the various methods for playing the drums and figure out what works for them. You can glean different perspectives from studying various methods, and it will make you a more well-rounded, understanding, and complete drummer. If you only pursue one method and put all of your chips in that one hat, you don't have the advantage of a bigger perspective. The original poster was asking which specific technique he should use, and I was telling him to work on his basic strokes. There should be no issue with that--that's basics. The pedagogical reason I was telling him to practice heel down was so that:

1. He produces strokes from a neutral, relaxed initial position.
2. He has less chance of "sneaking in" his previously-mentioned tricks while working on the basic strokes, which all start from a heel-up position.

If you switch techniques, Michael Packer (http://www.youtube.com/user/mpacker49?feature=mhum#p/u/2/dPQqqf_-BSg) explained the importance of the pre-position of the foot before any stroke with any technique. it allow the foot to be ready for the upcoming stroke, without the pre-position of the foot, consistency and accuray are at risk.
...hence the heel-down suggestion for practicing. Sure, you can have a pre-position while playing heel-up, but most people I know who play heel up rest their foot/leg between long pauses between notes, and do the foot equivalent of a "prep stroke" before playing the first note after that long pause. It's not as consistent as heel-down, where your heel is planted on the plate.

Therefore, you can switch techniques, providing you use the pre positioning concept and that you're aware of what you want to play at ALL times.
This is why I would suggest concentrating on the music rather than which pre-position you want to use for which technique you want to use. Have a foundational grounding in the basic strokes, and you won't have to worry about technique, just playing music.

Ultimately, the truth is, every technique you study, every style you play, every drummer you emulate, every lesson you're taught, etc., all have something to offer. Take from it what you can and incorporate what makes sense to you as a player. Heel-up players have a LOT to learn from playing heel-down, just like heel-down players have a LOT to learn from playing heel-up. I play both, and have studied all of the "tricks" we've been talking about extensively. I'm a better player because of all of the practicing, and I've learned from each new perspective. I'd recommend that the original poster do the same--study and practice as much as you can! Don't stagnate or get stuck in your ways...there's always something new out there to learn that will help your playing and keep you growing as a drummer...

...but that's just my opinion. Good luck!
 

Mad About Drums

Pollyanna's Agent
No, it's like comparing push-pull to bouncing to Moeller to Gladstone. You can use whichever you like to play doubles and triples, but they shouldn't be a crutch you depend on to play, and you should always be working on your "regular" strokes.
Yes Caddy, I understand better your "reference" point. And I agree on the practice of "regular" strokes and I still practice such exercise with both hands and feet, including the heel-down technique.

That's great for you. Everybody should spend their time investigating all of the various methods for playing the drums and figure out what works for them. You can glean different perspectives from studying various methods, and it will make you a more well-rounded, understanding, and complete drummer.
I agree, that was the point(s) I wanted to add to your initial comments. :))

If you only pursue one method and put all of your chips in that one hat, you don't have the advantage of a bigger perspective. The original poster was asking which specific technique he should use, and I was telling him to work on his basic strokes. There should be no issue with that--that's basics. The pedagogical reason I was telling him to practice heel down was so that:

1. He produces strokes from a neutral, relaxed initial position.
2. He has less chance of "sneaking in" his previously-mentioned tricks while working on the basic strokes, which all start from a heel-up position.
...hence the heel-down suggestion for practicing.
I understood your comments from you initial post, and I agreed with the methodical approach of your statement, I just felt, that he/we should practice all three "legitimate" techniques, to establish a better all round technical bagage and understanding the difference in feel, mouvements, and approach to such techniques from the word go, and although I'm using an extremely simple sliding technique for very fast strokes, I deliberately didn't mention using such an approach/technique at this stage.

Sure, you can have a pre-position while playing heel-up, but most people I know who play heel up rest their foot/leg between long pauses between notes, and do the foot equivalent of a "prep stroke" before playing the first note after that long pause. It's not as consistent as heel-down, where your heel is planted on the plate.
This is why I would suggest concentrating on the music rather than which pre-position you want to use for which technique you want to use. Have a foundational grounding in the basic strokes, and you won't have to worry about technique, just playing music.
My comments regarding the pre-position, was initially to make the OP aware of such an approach as it is widely an overlooked but important feature and the suggestion of being aware of what you play at all times was referred to the practice and learning curve of such an approach, I don't have to concentrate on my pre-position anymore, it's a natural "move" while playing the instrument, I concentrate on the music and listening to the other players.

Ultimately, the truth is, every technique you study, every style you play, every drummer you emulate, every lesson you're taught, etc., all have something to offer. Take from it what you can and incorporate what makes sense to you as a player. Heel-up players have a LOT to learn from playing heel-down, just like heel-down players have a LOT to learn from playing heel-up.
I agree 100%


I play both, and have studied all of the "tricks" we've been talking about extensively. I'm a better player because of all of the practicing, and I've learned from each new perspective. I'd recommend that the original poster do the same--study and practice as much as you can! Don't stagnate or get stuck in your ways...there's always something new out there to learn that will help your playing and keep you growing as a drummer...
I join you on that one, I have studied and still practice the "tricks" discussed in this thread, I just prefer playing heel-up using rebound and the fulcrum point of the pedal, for me it's a similar approach to hand strokes . :)



@ Flamadiddle28, Sorry for the opinions exchange, but at least now, you'll have plenty of advices to your queries, have a good practice and good luck. ;-))
 

caddywumpus

Platinum Member
@ Flamadiddle28, Sorry for the opinions exchange, but at least now, you'll have plenty of advices to your queries, have a good practice and good luck. ;-))
Yes, I think we were on the same page the whole time, just describing it from different angles. Anyways, lots of good reading for ya, with differing perspectives of the same thing...
 
Top