Bass drum technique; what am I doing?

jer

Silver Member
Never really given much thought to what I'm doing, but after reading some of the threads on bass drum technique and not seeing anything much that I could relate with, I became curious - what am I doing?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8uOIoYVSds

Please excuse the lack of editing the head and tail of the vid and the audio level (may want to start it low), was quick and dirty for this thread.

Hard to tell in the vid, but my foot does leave the pedal board for a moment when doing the faster doubles, otherwise my toes are usually making contact at all times.

Thanks.
 

Fox622003

Gold Member
Well, you are a bit below the sweet spot. But if you're getting the sound you want as well as the speed (and not injuring yourself), it shouldn't matter. In drumming, it's mostly about end results, there's many professional players who look like they have very weird technique, but have got a nice thing going on sound-wise.


Fox.
 

MattRitter

Senior Member
You're playing with the classic "heel up" method. Your heel is up the entire time, and the weight of your leg keeps the beater more or less "buried" against the head when you do isolated single strokes. Like nearly all drummers, you let the beater rebound instantly off the head when doing a very fast series of notes (such as when you were doing the repeated double strokes). This is pretty much what everyone does since there's literally no time to keep the beater pinned to the head when you're playing a very fast series.

For your double strokes, you're using a technique that I teach called "toe/ball." The first note is made with the front of the toe, and the second note is made with the ball of the foot. Nice.

You've also intuitively figured out that moving far down the pedal can help for very fast playing because you get a lot of pedal movement from very little foot movement. The pedal does require more force to push when you're that low, but that's a tradeoff which is often not a problem. You seem to be doing just fine with it.

The one bit of constructive criticism I would offer involves your isolated single strokes. Whenever you played an isolated single, you tended to get one primary note followed by numerous little extra hits and buzzes. I see this even from very famous drummers, and it has always been a pet peeve of mine. When we hit a tom, we don't make one note followed by 2 or 3 quiet little extra hits. I suppose some people probably do, but for the most part, that would be very obvious as poor technique. And yet...nearly everyone does this and accepts it as normal when playing the bass drum. A famous studio drummer told me that a microphone CAN and WILL pick up on that, creating a muddy sound. So, if you truly want to bury the beater against the head, do so with more conviction to avoid those tiny residual taps. Or better yet, treat your isolated single strokes just like all of your other notes and let the beater rebound clear away. There are ways to achieve this.

It was fun analyzing your video. I hope you found this helpful. Extremely nice job with your drumming. That's some pretty burning bass drum playing!
 
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jer

Silver Member
You're playing with the classic "heel up" method. Your heel is up the entire time, and the weight of your leg keeps the beater more or less "buried" against the head when you do isolated single strokes. Like nearly all drummers, you let the beater rebound instantly off the head when doing a very fast series of notes (such as when you were doing the repeated double strokes). This is pretty much what everyone does since there's literally no time to keep the beater pinned to the head when you're playing a very fast series.

For your double strokes, you're using a technique that I teach called "toe/ball." The first note is made with the front of the toe, and the second note is made with the ball of the foot. Nice.

You've also intuitively figured out that moving far down the pedal can help for very fast playing because you get a lot of pedal movement from very little foot movement. The pedal does require more force to push when you're that low, but that's a tradeoff which is often not a problem. You seem to be doing just fine with it.

The one bit of constructive criticism I would offer involves your isolated single strokes. Whenever you played an isolated single, you tended to get one primary note followed by numerous little extra hits and buzzes. I see this even from very famous drummers, and it has always been a pet peeve of mine. When we hit a tom, we don't make one note followed by 2 or 3 quiet little extra hits. I suppose some people probably do, but for the most part, that would be very obvious as poor technique. And yet...nearly everyone does this and accepts it as normal when playing the bass drum. A famous studio drummer told me that a microphone CAN and WILL pick up on that, creating a muddy sound. So, if you truly want to bury the beater against the head, do so with more conviction to avoid those tiny residual taps. Or better yet, treat your isolated single strokes just like all of your other notes and let the beater rebound clear away. There are ways to achieve this.

It was fun analyzing your video. I hope you found this helpful. Extremely nice job with your drumming. That's some pretty burning bass drum playing!
Thanks for the response (Fox too).

Aware it's a heel up, I guess what I was more curious about was what you are calling "toe/ball". This is where I have difficulty explaining the motion. I don't feel as though I doing any type of "rocking" motion associated with a "heel/toe", between my toe and ball... to me it feels more like it's coming from dropping my knee or say, pushing down on thin air with my heel, stopping it at the ankle before it gets low which translates into pedal movement, almost feels like a twitch.

Part of moving back on the pedal is to try and avoid those multiple bounces. In a rest position, I've got weight on the pedal but trying to keep the beater a good inch from the head. I suppose I should have been using my IC as I've got it dialed in to compensate more for this. The pedal I was using in the vid doesn't have independent pedal board adjustment to the cam. (Poor carpenter blaming his tools, eh?) 240 was also a tad on the outside of my range.

With no fame to my name, I will concur with the statement that mics do pick up the tiny bounces, I've seen the wave forms, I've spent time editing the real nasty ones.

Been playing like this for as long as I can remember, it's worked for me in several playing styles, but you know, this site tends to make one analyze further beyond what we might do on our own. Appreciate the feedback and busting me on the sloppy singles, gives me something to look out for!
 

Fiery

Silver Member
Aware it's a heel up, I guess what I was more curious about was what you are calling "toe/ball". This is where I have difficulty explaining the motion. I don't feel as though I doing any type of "rocking" motion associated with a "heel/toe", between my toe and ball... to me it feels more like it's coming from dropping my knee or say, pushing down on thin air with my heel, stopping it at the ankle before it gets low which translates into pedal movement, almost feels like a twitch.
When I play heel toe, both strokes come from the ball of the foot actually, with the heel drop just guiding the first stroke; it also feels somewhat like a twitch. I believe you are doing a similar thing, only without dropping your heel as low.
 

MattRitter

Senior Member
Aware it's a heel up, I guess what I was more curious about was what you are calling "toe/ball". This is where I have difficulty explaining the motion. I don't feel as though I doing any type of "rocking" motion associated with a "heel/toe", between my toe and ball... to me it feels more like it's coming from dropping my knee or say, pushing down on thin air with my heel, stopping it at the ankle before it gets low which translates into pedal movement, almost feels like a twitch.
You didn't know it, but what you're doing is a perfect, textbook example of the technique I teach in my DVD called "toe/ball." Here's how it works:

Imagine doing a fast double stroke with a stick. Most people cannot achieve an extremely fast stick double using 2 wrist strokes. So instead, most people do a wrist stroke followed immediately by a finger stroke. A similar concept can apply to a double stroke on a bass drum pedal. "Pushing down on thin air with my heel," as you worded it, is a leg stroke. This works great for a single hit. However, it's very difficult (if not impossible) to do 2 leg strokes back to back at an extremely fast speed for a double. So instead, we add a quick "twitch" of the foot from the ankle a tiny fraction of a second before the leg stroke lands. In effect, we are doing a foot stroke followed by a leg stroke, just like we do a wrist stroke followed by a finger stroke for a stick double. These 2 movements can happen so close together that they actually overlap. In total, it feels like pushing down from the heel while the foot sort of "twitches"...just as you described.

This foot/leg combination is generally called "toe/ball" because the slight pivot of the foot for the first note tends to put the pressure toward the front of the toe, while the leg stroke tends to put the pressure toward the ball of the foot. Also, an easy way to teach someone the technique is to tell them to push with their toe and then the ball of their foot. Generally, if a person tries to do this, they will automatically end up doing a foot stroke followed by a leg stroke, which is what we want.

I hope this is more clear now. The good news is that you're doing it extremely well despite the fact that you said you didn't know what it was! Quite an accomplishment. Some people claim that our body will just "find" an efficient way of doing these things even without thinking them through. Unfortunately, after teaching close to 500 students, I must conclude that this is not generally true. I have had many students come in after years of drumming who still were not able to do fast bass drum doubles or fast stick doubles. In fact, the ones who come in that have achieved success in these areas are extremely rare. For the vast majority of students, we break down the motions, figure out a practice system, and finally get them on the right track after years of frustration. So, you can feel very proud of what you accomplished while not even being aware of the exact mechanics.

Continued luck to you.
 
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jer

Silver Member
Also, an easy way to teach someone the technique is to tell them to push with their toe and then the ball of their foot. Generally, if a person tries to do this, they will automatically end up doing a foot stroke followed by a leg stroke, which is what we want.

I hope this is more clear now.

Continued luck to you.
A big smile on my face last night when I broke it down and tried pushing with the toe and then the ball as you described, yes, very similar action, thanks again for your time.
 
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