Double bass: Ideal Positioning and Tweaks for BPM Improvement?

MutinyWithin

Junior Member
Hi All,

First of all, I'm new here, but definitely enjoying the site so far. I've been a musician for 14 years now, but I've been drumming for only 7. Anyway, to my question:

I am a metal drummer, and I seem to have hit a wall that I haven't been able to break through for 3 years now. The wall is getting my double bass above 160 BPM.

The frustrating thing though, is that when not on my kit, just doing rudiments in my cube at work, for example, I can sustain a consistent 200+ BPM quite easily without the pedals under my feet, by keeping the ball of my foot on the floor and going back and forth with my legs. But put me on pedals, and when I try to exceed 160 BPM, my knee and thigh muscles tighten and it kind of just looks like my lower body is shaking. Same deal with heel down. From a rudiment perspective, I'm really good at small burst fluttering on the floor. But it's like, put pedals under me, and my fluttering isn't strong enough to push down the pedal and it doesn't work. I also find that I am significantly faster with leg drumming the higher my knees are positioned from my waist - i.e. if I am sitting in the front seat of a low car, where the seat has a bit of a right angled slope that causes my knees to be higher than my waist while sitting - but I can seem to reproduce that placement when on a throne in front of a kit to make playing efficient or ergonomic though.

I've also been trying to perfect the heel toe, and this is even more frustrating, because on the flat floor, I get all 4 hits every time, no problem; right heel-left heel-right toe-left toe, and I can do it at 200+ BPM. Put pedals under me though, and the same rudiments don't don't produce the 4 hits. Pedals: Axis Longboards.

It's almost like, due to the fact that the pedal is angled in nature, and not flat on the floor, like carpet for example - all of my rudiments don't work, and I have to just use leg drumming to get the power and rebound I need for the pocket - which as mentioned, I max out at 160 BPM with that approach. Sometimes I wish there was some kind of electronic bass trigger that I could lay my foot flat and parallel on, like resting it on the floor, to get the speed and triplets I want.

Due to this, I'm feeling perhaps the rudiments are there, but my settings are preventing me from improving. I've tried to set my pedal angle down closer to the floor, but then I just lose all the rebound.

If this is the case, what can I do to tweak my settings? If nothing, what can I do to improve?
 

Arky

Platinum Member
Double bass is a common topic on this forum. If you do a search you'll find lots of related threads with good info on how to improve in terms of bpm and/or acquire more control (which should be the same thing basically).

I wouldn't overthink settings - just go with everything set up 'medium'/in an acceptable way. Honestly everything else is the time/effort you're putting into it. No one setting will catapult you to new heights - but practice will. If you want more bpm - you need to PUSH yourself, really. Think of working hard physically. This is what it will feel like in the beginning when you hit new speed regions for the first time. With more time/practice those speed regions will start to feel a bit easier. Then will be the time to hit even higher regions and the system is repeating.

You shouldn't overthink technique but if you've been drumming for years and are still at 160 I think it's because you're using full leg motion. Are you familiar with ankle motion?

There's a few superb tutorials on foot technique - you won't regret getting them:

* Matt Ritter - "Unburying The Beater" ("Bass Drum Techniques for Today's Drummer")
http://www.unburyingthebeater.com/
Addresses setup, seating position, foot technique, the "how to's"

* Tim Waterson - "Techniques, Motions and Applications For Bass Drum Playing"
http://www.twothreeonetwomusic.com/
Covers 99% of what one might ever imagine doing with one's feet, including doubles/heel-toe, swivel... Stuff to practice ad nauseam. BTW, Tim hits 360 bpm, for a full minute!!

Both Matt and Tim are here on DW.

Also keep in mind we're all progressing differently. I don't know how much of a focus you're putting on cleanliness/control. Maybe your 160 bpm is super clean and you could hit way more but a bit sloppy. My speed progress was sensational but as a side-effect I'm used to hitting certain speed plateaus for longer periods of time, focusing on getting more control in lower/medium speed regions. (My 'wall' is @ 240/250 - singles, depending on the day. Doubles are faster.)
 

MutinyWithin

Junior Member
Hi Arky,

Thanks for replying, and I will definitely watch those videos.

I should also specify that 160 BPM are my singles. I would assume that means I hit the bass pedal 320 times per minute. At 160 I am clean and controlled. I suppose I can go faster, but it's really really sloppy and doesn't flow well enough to the point where I would try to say I can play higher than 160 because it sounds like crap.

I do use the full leg motion just about exclusively. The problem is when I try to go beyond 160 BPM, my full leg technique begins to fail and my body feels like it is trying to switch to another muscle group, because my knees and thighs tighten. But the end results, as stated, is that I just end up looking like I'm shaking and I lose the power to hit the pedals effectively, so they never make contact with the bass drum.

By ankle motion, do you mean heel down and only using feet? If so, yes I am familiar, and that is part of why I'm frustrated, because I can get the triplets and speed bursts I want with that technique rudimentrily on the floor. But put the pedals under my and my feet aren't strong enough to push the pedals down enough to make contact with that style.
 

Arky

Platinum Member
Well that would be heel down. Another great technique but not primarily for metal. There are some guys that can do this pretty fast but it's not typical. Some actually switched from heel down to heel up (in the metal genre, e.g. John Longstreth - who's a beast with doubles).

Here's an example of heel up/ankle motion - not the best audio quality - but you'll get the idea as the motions are pretty economical as there's some use of pedal rebound.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmjoWJcIl00
Also a good demonstration that when not playing, the feet would rest on the pedalplates to save energy.

You can absolutely get good punch with this technique at higher speed, too - it's a matter of practice. Once you learn it speeds like 220-230 will be fairly easy for like 20-30 seconds. Or even for minutes if you work towards it. Yes, when starting with ankle motion it might feel like a 'shaky'/twitching motion, that's how I got into it. Within a few weeks you'll clean it up and bring into good sync though. That's when the fun starts!

Well the speed range of around 160+ (up to around 190) is considered the hardest. Actually it's great that you have good control in this range. Once you get into ankle motion you wouldn't have to worry about having control in the medium speed range (like me, haha).

Get those DVDs and watching them will clear up a million questions on foot technique. And yes, rudiments are a superb way to work on control. The first few months of double bass practice I've been only playing 16th notes but then started practicing rudiments also. Paradiddle, flams... some stuff is pretty hard for the feet.

Also, try to learn several/different foot techniques. Personally I consider this a must.

BTW, this is a 'speed demonstration' video I did some time ago, kind of a time capsule to get back to it in the future and have a laugh or whatever.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnGNok9SHsM
 

beyondbetrayal

Platinum Member
make sure your not putting too much effort in.. if you can do it without the pedal there its not the speed. its stamina and power are your problems...


First things first... practice and more practice is the only thing going to get tight fast double bass.

but a few things you can do in the mean time

I would try and loosen the springs a bit. and tighten your head on ur kick. i find that's a way to get some speed at less efforts. once you get to a high speed. you can start to tighten them for faster response.. but the muscle has to be there before the speed.

make sure your not sitting to high or low.. legs are about 90 degrees.

and as far as doubles and heel toe go I posted a thread on this a while ago.. don't use your heel.. flat, THEN toe...

this should help

http://www.drummerworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=102211
 

wildbill

Platinum Member
...I've also been trying to perfect the heel toe, and this is even more frustrating, because on the flat floor, I get all 4 hits every time, no problem; right heel-left heel-right toe-left toe, and I can do it at 200+ BPM. Put pedals under me though, and the same rudiments don't don't produce the 4 hits. Pedals: Axis Longboards.

It's almost like,due to the fact that the pedal is angled in nature, and not flat on the floor, like carpet for example - all of my rudiments don't work, and I have to just use leg drumming to get the power and rebound I need for the pocket - which as mentioned, I max out at 160 BPM with that approach. Sometimes I wish there was some kind of electronic bass trigger that I could lay my foot flat and parallel on, like resting it on the floor, to get the speed and triplets I want....


...If this is the case, what can I do to tweak my settings? If nothing, what can I do to improve?
About the settings - do you have your foot board lowered as far as it can go without bottoming out at the end of a stroke?

And about the triggers - I wired up a thin piezo transducer and just put a thin layer of rubber over it. The whole thing is just about 1/4" high.
If you've got a module to hook into, it's pretty easy to solder a transducer to a connector.
Might not be too practical for all situations, but it's fun to goof around with.
 

MutinyWithin

Junior Member
Hi Arky, BB, wildbill,

Thank you guys for following up. It looks like I have some good suggestions below from you guys.

About my footboard angle: The best way I could describe it is: I have Axis Longboards, and the settings are pretty much out of the box in terms of pedal placement and spring tension. I believe I set the beater angle to face my shins more than it was out of the box, because I wasn't getting any rebound/too close to the kick otherwise.

I should also mention that 95% of my practice time is on an electric kit (though a very nice one) ($2,500+). Everything is mesh, including kick pad. I have an apartment, so....

About the angle I sit; I find that when my legs are at 90 degrees and my knees are parallel to the ground, I lose speed, versus, say, sitting in a car seat, where your legs are naturally positioned more concave towards my chest (i.e. 70 degrees) - I seem to be able to play consistently along with my ipod on the car floor at 180-200bpm. I wish I could find a way to replicate that positioning on the kit, but it doesn't seem feasible to do that and still be able to play.

Actually, that brings me to another point: I just got the Axis Longboards. For the past 7 years I've been using DW7000's. My feet are size 14, and since I've perfected heel toe on the floor, I figured I'd be fine on the longboards. You can imagine my disappointment $600 later that I still can't do it, but that is besides the point. While the Axis is far superior with bounce, I find my DW's more comfortable. Also, for $600, these things should be a lot more customizable than they are. The beaters don't even fit on my Roland KD-9 mesh pad. For that price, the horizontal beater positions should be adjustable. So I need to drop another $500 on the KD-120, just to fit the Axis beaters onto the pad, which is kind of BS. But to the point: Should I just switch back to the DW's to build the muscles/speed? Or will it come quicker/easier with the Longboards?

Looks like I have lots of videos to watch and lots of posts to review. Thank you guys.
 

beyondbetrayal

Platinum Member
axis takes some time to get used to.. but in the end it was worth it for me.

try different beaters...... my axis needs the sonic hammers somtimes depending on what i intend to hit with it but it should be able to play on ur ekit..

a few things you can adjust or the height and the vdl position.. i like mine at the end... sonic hammers alow you to move the pedal back a bit.
 
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