Bass drum technique

thegatekeeper

Junior Member
Hey everyone, got a question for all you guys out there.

My entire drumming career has been playing heel up and with the beater resting on the drum head. Recently I was doing a drum overhaul, where I take apart my beautiful recording custom and tighten all the screws clean it inside/out, polish yadda yadda the whole nine yards.

I picked up a new head as well, a coated ambassador 22" for my batter side. So off I go tuning the kit and getting some overall tones with a cymbal mallet. As I'm doing this, I'm noticing how HUGE the drum sound. I had never heard my bass drum sound this huge and massive. As tuned up it sounded more and more like a timpani, enough to get me doing some rolls on the bass drum!

Anyhow, I get a towel and kinda do the emad method - roll it up in a nice long spaghetti shape and tape it around the head with gaff tape, same concept as the emad less the $30 and thats it no pillows or anything - without the resonant side head. So here I am with the bass drum on my sofa and me banging on it like a big concert bass drum with my cymbal mallet. I soon realize that my bass drum is a 22" 3000watt SUBWOOFER! This thing is a freaking powerhouse. I had never ever in the 8 years I own this kit, had ever had my bass drum with so much sub sonic resonance as it did this instance. I had rattling around the entire room, from door knobs to loose screws, - it was loud and proud..

So I leave it as is, and do not add the front head. I go about setting up the kit again and sit down to jam away my new found love to my almighty bass drum behemoth. To my surprise and dismay, it sounds like cardboard! Totally shocked and not understanding what going on. I had played the bass drum with my cymbal mallet when it was in position with the toms in the mount and it still had its mightyness

After much experimentation and frustration, I realize the problem. I play both heel up and heel down, but have always rested my foot on the bass drum head. This causes premature choking on the head. If I play the bass drum similar to a striking a drum with a stick, in that the beater bounces off the bass drum, it frees up and I get a huge 22"-subwoofer-in-your-chest-hair-on-your-arm-shivering bass drum.

I now ask you all after this long and grueling post, what do you guys suggest besides changing my technique to keep that huge bass drum sound? How did I get it now and not before, could the coated ambassador play a roll in achieving enormous bass drum sound? Could it be the lack of the resonant head, or maybe the towel emad techinque? I also found another issue - the pedal kinda skips on the head, causing a single stroke being a split second flam...any recommendations?
 

dairyairman

Platinum Member
yeah, i think that ambassador head probably does play a role in that sound. that head is single ply and only 10 mils (i think) so it's going to really resonate. i use a powerstroke 3 because i like more of a short thud sound, but if you like the ambassador then by all means keep using it.

i never bury the beater in the head because i don't want to kill the sound and i'm just used to playing that way. in fact, i don't know how these people who stick the beater on the head do it. whenever i consciously try to do it, the beater kind of buzzes against the head in a nasty way. it sounds especially bad if you're recording and you have a mic on the bass drum. every hit has these buzzes and the drum has a choked sound. i'm much happier not burying the beater.
 
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larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Rebound is king, (for my style, at least). When you strike the BD really sharp and fast, and get that beater the hell out of the way so the head can resonate unimpeded...that gives me the best bass drum sound (to my ear). Heel down does it for me. The front of my shin...that muscle is more developed than your average bear, because of playing heel down. It looks like I have a lump on the front of my right shin. You have to be able to play a good "upstroke" with your ankle to get the beater to rebound freely. It's a real workout, but well worth it, the bass drum sounds so much bigger when it resonates.

Now I'm trying to play my hi hat heel down at all times...so my shins match ha ha. But really I am. It definitely works the muscle.
 

cornelius

Silver Member
I've been going through Stick Control with my feet, heel down. I use my double pedal - the beaters come off the head, I tensioned up the pedals and tensioned up the bass drum. The more resonant bass drum will let you know if you're burying the beater...
 

Bazinga

Junior Member
If you want that sound, changing your technique would definitely be the thing to do. Simply because by NOT letting your beater rebound, youre cancelling all the resonating sound from your shell you paid to get in the first place. Whats the point of buying a nice resonating wood if youre just going to kill the sound? I think if you try just slowly converting to letting your beater rebound, or even just including it in your repertoire. It will give you that amazing epic sound, and even a somewhat bigger sound when you play with the reso head on.
 

paradiddler

Senior Member
Hi Gatekeeper.

The heel up method is the bane of bass drum resonance. Playing with the heel down exclusively, though, may limit your range and flexibility, since the heel is fixed.

I'm not sure if you've heard of it, but the instructional DVD "Unburying the Beater", by Matt Ritter, addresses this very issue. He teaches a bass drum technique that is a combination of the heel up and heel down method, the end goal being allowing the bass drum to resonate, just like the other drums in the kit are allowed to do.

I wrote a full review of the DVD which outlines what the DVD is all about, which I encourage you to read and see if it's right for you. From your initial post in this thread, I think this DVD was made for you! The DVD addresses practically everything you're inquiring about (and it's very inexpensive to boot!).

Let us know if you decide to go with it, and good luck with getting that bass drum sound you're looking for!
 

JoeLackey

Senior Member
Just do what feels comfortable. I know that's a huge cliche, but it's true. There will be one sweet spot in the middle of the pedal. For heel up, too far back or too far forward would feel real awkward. Surprisingly, playing heel down would eventually build up a good amount of muscle in the shins, which would lead the way for a stronger heel up player.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
I do not agree that playing heel up somehow makes letting the beater bounce off more difficult.

I do not agree that playing heel down is the answer. Sometimes, heel down doesn't offer enough volume. Especially when the PA is for vocals only.

Check this out:
http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=steve+smith+bass+drum+techniques&search_type=&aq=0&oq=steve+smith+bass+drum
If there's a guy's bass drum technique to copy, it's his. He plays heel up, heel down, and what I call the "scissor" technique. Thomas Lang has a nearly identical approach.
 
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