Anyone Switch From Heal Up To Heal Down?

ricky

Senior Member
This forum looks different than it used to! (i don't like it)...

anyway...

I should start by saying drums are not my main instrument and I've never had lessons...

but for the longest time I played heal up because it seemed easier and more powerful, and playing heal down seemed weak. Heal up, I could do non-syncopated stuff fine, but I could never really develop a good way of doing any sort of syncopation heal up...my foot would move around, my knee started hurting...

so one day, for the sake of my knee, I started playing heal down...had more control for syncopation, but had to develop the muscles...and now I generally play heal down.

Just wondering if anyone can relate to that.
 

AzHeat

Platinum Member
I switched several years ago when I had to learn to play quietly. Took some time to build the right muscles, but I switch between the two today and never really think about it. Came in pretty hand when I switched to a non ported head on the reso too. Nice to be able to manipulate the pedal to give you a thump and boom depending on technique. Takes some getting used to, that’s for sure!
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I can relate. I'm a heel down snob. But whatever works. I can't bury the beater, it doesn't work for me. I MUCH prefer the rebounded as opposed to the buried tone so that works out. I use heel up when the muscular demands are too much for heel down, which in my world, doesn't happen a lot.

I'm doing heel down hi hat. That's a challenge because I need a "buried" motion for a nice "chick" and a rebounded motion for a nice hi hat splash tone. I don't flail my arms around a lot. I like the look of as little arm and leg movement as possible from the drummer paired with a great big drum sound. I like looking in total control and I like looking like I have plenty of headroom and that I'm not playing on the edge of my abilities.
 
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ricky

Senior Member
I like the look of as little arm and leg movement as possible from the drummer paired with a great big drum sound. I like looking in total control and I like looking like I have plenty of headroom and that I'm not playing on the edge of my abilities.
Yes!

It's funny, but because of my knee, I have totally changed pretty much everything, realizing I was doing pretty much everything wrong!

I was playing with tension in every limb, trying to hit hard, etc., never really even thinking about my "technique". The knee led me to start thinking about it!

Playing loosely and with as little tension as possible, and developing the muscles in a good way, I have improved more in recent times than all the time before that. Wish my knee had acted up a long time ago!
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
During any particular song I play both. Just something I've always done.
 
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newoldie

Silver Member
I learned heel down on both feet when I started private lessons in my early teens and continued on. Fast forward into the 90s as an adult, a teacher asked if I played heel up and I had no clue. Since then I've learned to do both, but still prefer heel down unless the music is so loud it demands heel up for accent sake.
Otherwise, heel down is much more comfortable to me and doubles are easier for me with heel down. I also practice Collin Bailey's Bass Drum Control book, and he plays incredible speed/control heel down, so I keep that in mind when worrying about the need for heel up.
However- in a perfect world with a 1 on 1 teacher, I'd love to master heel up more both on bass drum and hi hat. I don't ignore the fact that heel up seems to be a bit more versatile than heel down in that it can generate better speed/power in most cases.
 

hawksmoor

Senior Member
I can and do play both, but I'm more comfortable playing heel up. As has been said before, I play heel down for quieter numbers with no problem.
 

Jeff Almeyda

Senior Consultant
No, no no.

I agree with Weckl on this one. Heel up all the time, except for the super quiet 4 on the floor jazz stuff ( which very few people actually do anymore)

In modern music, a fully rebounding, resonant open kick sound like that generated from a unmuffled kick played heel down with rebound just doesn't cut it. What we want today is a transient with lots of tone and attack that gets out of the way quickly.

Thus today we have heel up, muffled kick with a ported front head and buried beater, Just like a rimshot downstroke on the snare as opposed to a free stoke in the center of the drum. Lots of tone and attack that gets out of the way quickly.

The purists will scream but they are in the extreme minority. Just go into a major studio and see what they do.

If you have pain, do what you need to do. But, lets not pretend that today's average working pros don't play heel up on a muffled kick. Because they do.
 

ricky

Senior Member
No, no no.

I agree with Weckl on this one. Heel up all the time, except for the super quiet 4 on the floor jazz stuff ( which very few people actually do anymore)

In modern music, a fully rebounding, resonant open kick sound like that generated from a unmuffled kick played heel down with rebound just doesn't cut it. What we want today is a transient with lots of tone and attack that gets out of the way quickly.

Thus today we have heel up, muffled kick with a ported front head and buried beater, Just like a rimshot downstroke on the snare as opposed to a free stoke in the center of the drum. Lots of tone and attack that gets out of the way quickly.

The purists will scream but they are in the extreme minority. Just go into a major studio and see what they do.

If you have pain, do what you need to do. But, lets not pretend that today's average working pros don't play heel up on a muffled kick. Because they do.
Well everyone can do what they like or feels right, no?

The reason I posted was because heel up seemed so much the norm, but turns out for me, heel down has worked out better.

Another thing, I was playing heel up yesterday, and noticed that it was much easier for me now...I believe because I developed muscles from playing heel down that I hadn't properly developed playing only heel up.

Why can't one use a muffled kick and bury the beater playing heel down? I do.
 

Deafmoon

Member
When I studied with Gary Chester back in the early 80's, he pushed me to play heel down for better dynamic control. It wasn't a speed or feel issue, just consistency. And I played that way for many, many years. However, now I move through both without thinking about one or the other. If you take a fast double's tune, like say Malaga Virgen by Brand X or Down 'N Out by Genesis, those tunes were played heel up and for the consistency of the feel, you may want to do the same. Certainly the doubles bounce over a 5 or 7 minute tune allows more leg muscles for longevity through the tune. But to each his own. If you study Colin Bailey, he uses heel up mostly, but he may move through both approaches at times in his playing. And I would have to agree. It's the same with hands. Now, for me, the controversy of Trad or Matched Grip is pretty much over. I've played 47 years now and can see the value in learning both grips. Just remember, whether it's learning both grips or both heel down or heel up pedal playing, it takes a lifetime.
 

TMe

Senior Member
In modern music, a fully rebounding, resonant open kick sound like that generated from a unmuffled kick played heel down with rebound just doesn't cut it. What we want today is a transient with lots of tone and attack that gets out of the way quickly.
By "modern music" do you mean "commercial music"? If so, that sounds about right.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
I think there are many variables that would make one choose one over the other.

I practice mostly heel down on the practice kit. I sort of feels weird going really heavy on it, but it's generally good as I view it almost like working pure wrist strokes in the hands.

Reality is do both and there's a lot of heel toe and fullleg movement depending.

Playing barefoot my feet are both lighter and with less leverage, so I have to use a bit more power. It will depend a lot on the pedal as well.

I prefer to not bury the beater, doesn't feel good, but yes, my sound is often still that muffled. It's probably another thing that has a lot to do with the barefoot thing. I don't bury my sticks, so I don't bury my bass drum beater, for the most part.
 

williamsbclontz

Silver Member
I've never really played heel down, but you guys keep talking about different muscle groups being more involved with the different techniques. Could anyone explain to me what muscle groups are working more with heel down as opposed to heel up? I guess heel up is more of the upper leg, quadriceps etc. But I'm having a hard time visualizing what muscles are working the hardest in heel down
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
I've never really played heel down, but you guys keep talking about different muscle groups being more involved with the different techniques. Could anyone explain to me what muscle groups are working more with heel down as opposed to heel up? I guess heel up is more of the upper leg, quadriceps etc. But I'm having a hard time visualizing what muscles are working the hardest in heel down
When playing heel down, the calf muscles work to push the pedal, extend the foot, and that one that Larry mentioned, yeah the shin muscle contracts to bring the pedal back or the spring does it as the foot relaxes.
 

Jeff Almeyda

Senior Consultant
By "modern music" do you mean "commercial music"? If so, that sounds about right.
Nah, I mean music in which the bass drum is fully integrated into hand foot combos in grooves and fills ala Vinnie, Weckl, Mangini and Sucherman. All of the them play heel up with a muffled kick.

I’m not some dumb kid talking bs over here from my mom’s basement. I’m trying to tell you what real pros actually do in real life today.
 

Soulfinger

Senior Member
Well everyone can do what they like or feels right, no?
Exactly.
I don´t really care what Vinnie or Weckl do because it has very little relevance to what I´m doing - I play a different kind of music with a different approach, and I go for a different sound (unmuffled bass drum, heel down, not burying the beater). Whatever floats your boat.
 

AzHeat

Platinum Member
Exactly.
I don´t really care what Vinnie or Weckl do because it has very little relevance to what I´m doing - I play a different kind of music with a different approach, and I go for a different sound (unmuffled bass drum, heel down, not burying the beater). Whatever floats your boat.
I’ve gone both ways with the bass drum muffled, ported, heel up and unmuffled, unported and heel down. I find it way easier to control the BD unported, than the other way around. Burry the beater and you get a short punchy tone. Don’t and you get a long boom. Very nice way to accent the bass drum as you would anything else. Gives a really nice fill for those times you need to add a bit more fill to the song, then bury again. There have been times where I’d bury the beater on the first 3 hits of a 4 on the floor beat, then wide open on the 4th. It’s just another option. No issues with making a unported, wide open bass drum sound good in funk or pop.

Sound guys on the other hand can really struggle without a port, if they are not well versed. I just went back to ported for home practice, because I had to go the silent practice path. I’m using mics with gains turned way up, so I can still record and play back to hear my own mistakes and the unported BD head was going nuts through all hot mics.

Technique and ported/non-ported should still depend on the requirements and not a hard, fast rule or who does what. Besides, the pros have way more resources to shape sound than most of us...
 

bud7h4

Silver Member
Anyone Switch From Heal Up To Heal Down?
I did the opposite. From age 10 to 18 I payed heel down because I didn't know any better. When my dad (a guitarist) bought me a kit, I just copied the way he played (heel down). Fast forward 20 years, I started playing drums again but this time, after playing guitar in a few bands and watching drummers, I learned to play heel up like all of them were doing.

There is a performance point at which heel down becomes a limiter. Heel up equals more power, speed, endurance, wider dynamic range. If this isn't true for someone, then they are playing heel up incorrectly, whether it's bad technique, pedal settings, or physical issue of some kind.

I would never suggest heel up is always the better technique. There are styles of music where heel down works perfectly and is not the "limiter" I mentioned, and there are plenty of great heel-down drummers, past and present.
 
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TMe

Senior Member
I’m not some dumb kid talking bs over here from my mom’s basement. I’m trying to tell you what real pros actually do in real life today.
I was looking for a counter example, so I found a video of Jeff Hamilton playing brushes for Dianna Krall. I can't see his feet in the video but, sure enough, in one shot his knees are going up and down in what surely must be heel-up playing.

Do real pro's play heel-up even when playing quietly? Or is there not much call for playing quietly enough to warrant heel-down playing when on a big stage?
 
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