Dodgy kick technique

Durbs

Senior Member
So I've always had issues with my kick drum technique, but it's quite hard to pin down.
It's entirely possible it's mental, but interested to hear if anyone's got any thoughts or advice.

Generally, I'm a solid drummer - not overly flashy, my hand speed and rudiments are good, graduated music college etc.

But there's some situations where my right food just doesn't behave.

For example, the Creep / Walk This Way rhythm. Sometimes I nail it, others, I just can't get my foot to do what it needs to do. The three hits at the end (a..3+) just either miss the beat, or sometimes don't even connect.

This is utterly regardless of tempo, and it's not consistent either.
Some days or on some kits, it'll be super easy, others it's like I'm playing drums for the first time.

Bonham-triplets too; xoo xoo xoo xoo
Urgh, somedays they're fine, others neither kicks hit, or I get a horrendous one-footed failed buzz-roll on the kick.

I used to play heel-down, I kind of switch it up a bit, but certainly live I play mostly heel-up.
It's possible it's just weak muscles, but given I've been playing kit for 20 years, and am also a keen climber (and previously dancing too), I feel my calves and ankles should have the strength for it.

I've tried drills, 15-20 minutes of just working the same patterns, doesn't appear to make a difference. They still mostly suck.
Then randomly one day they'll be perfect.

It's not even a speed thing, I can play quicker sixteenths (off the top of my head; the chorus of My Friend's Over You...) fine. Equally the Immigrant Song, no issues.


My theory is it's either mental (over thinking it), or there's something basic which isn't consistently done in certain phrases.
Whether this is relaxing between strokes, or prepping the foot in time.
No idea.

Any help wanted!
 

cornelius

Silver Member
Do you sit high, or low? I always suggest practicing heel down, letting the beater come off of the head - this will focus the muscles in your lower leg. You mention that you have strength, but possibly not the same level of coordination.

When your heel down playing gets to a certain level, your heel up playing will also improve. For exercises, play the Fatback exercises in Gary Chaffee's Time Functioning Patterns. Also a tip for heel down: so you can hear whether you're burying the beater - tension up your bass drum, and don't muffle it.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
Check this out. This video just came out and I watched it last night. I think he has some great suggestions here to help you with exactly what you're looking for help with in his fourth exercise, which starts right around the 8:30 mark of the video. Whether technique or timing, this should help you isolate the problem.



https://youtu.be/wOBnMmUCMJU
 

rebonn

Senior Member
My advice would be to try and totally relax the right leg and your mind employing a devil may care attitude. I've been through this and relaxing both your mind and leg helped me.
 

Durbs

Senior Member
Check this out. This video just came out and I watched it last night. I think he has some great suggestions here to help you with exactly what you're looking for help with in his fourth exercise, which starts right around the 8:30 mark of the video. Whether technique or timing, this should help you isolate the problem.

https://youtu.be/wOBnMmUCMJU
See, it's weird.
I can play those exercises fine (popped home at lunch!) :D

When my kick fails me, it literally breaks. Like neither of the doubles hit, or only one and it's way out.
Which is why I think it's not an actual technique/timing thing.

There's like some weird inertia that comes into place.
Perhaps it's tension, whether mental or muscular, so all the fluidity is gone...
 

Durbs

Senior Member
My advice would be to try and totally relax the right leg and your mind employing a devil may care attitude. I've been through this and relaxing both your mind and leg helped me.
One thing I've never understood since trying more heel up, is what is relaxed in this position?
Toe/ball on the pedal, heel up... there's now loads of tension in your leg unless the beater is pressed into the head (which I try not to do).
Or the thigh takes the weight and then there's still tension - so I don't get how you relax in this position.
Heel down is easy; your heel is just resting naturally on the pedal, supporting the weight of your leg so there's no tension there.
 

Durbs

Senior Member
Do you sit high, or low? I always suggest practicing heel down, letting the beater come off of the head - this will focus the muscles in your lower leg. You mention that you have strength, but possibly not the same level of coordination.
...
Also a tip for heel down: so you can hear whether you're burying the beater - tension up your bass drum, and don't muffle it.
I sit pretty neutral I think... Knees slightly below the hips, knee not quite at a right-angle (just over 90 degrees).
Always played beater off the head.

Specific examples of when my kick does/doesn't work.

  • Samba pattern: No issues, can play it solidly up to a decent tempo.
  • KKRL KKRL fills around the kit, no real issues with 16th up to decent tempos.
  • xoo xoo xoo (RKK RKK triplets) even at a slower tempos, falls apart.
  • xooo xooo (_e+a) at a faster tempo. Fine.
  • xxxo oxox (Creep/Walk This Way). Generally fails. (___a 3+)
  • oxooxoxx (Immigrant Song). Fine. (1+a,_+)
 

rebonn

Senior Member
One thing I've never understood since trying more heel up, is what is relaxed in this position?
Toe/ball on the pedal, heel up... there's now loads of tension in your leg unless the beater is pressed into the head (which I try not to do).
Or the thigh takes the weight and then there's still tension - so I don't get how you relax in this position.
Heel down is easy; your heel is just resting naturally on the pedal, supporting the weight of your leg so there's no tension there.
Try relaxing during the execution, not over all relaxation. You are probably relaxing more both mind and body during the exercises and things change for the real deal.
It's like golf, practice swings before you hit the ball are always good and smooth, but when you go to actually hit the ball, things completely change.
 

cornelius

Silver Member
I sit pretty neutral I think... Knees slightly below the hips, knee not quite at a right-angle (just over 90 degrees).
Always played beater off the head.

Specific examples of when my kick does/doesn't work.

  • Samba pattern: No issues, can play it solidly up to a decent tempo.
  • KKRL KKRL fills around the kit, no real issues with 16th up to decent tempos.
  • xoo xoo xoo (RKK RKK triplets) even at a slower tempos, falls apart.
  • xooo xooo (_e+a) at a faster tempo. Fine.
  • xxxo oxox (Creep/Walk This Way). Generally fails. (___a 3+)
  • oxooxoxx (Immigrant Song). Fine. (1+a,_+)
Seems more like a coordination issue. This is why I like the Chaffee Fatback exercise. It frees up your limbs so you're not playing a locked-in beat, where only certain grooves are comfortable, because of where your hands and feet line up (or don't).
 

mrfingers

Senior Member
I find when just practicing a pattern just fine the tough part comes when adding it to the beat or the music. Practice to a slightly slower version of the songs, slow enough to get it right, not so slow that the feel of the pattern disappears. Too slow and you’re back to plain ole practice with no reference to the music.
Another thing that may work is to see how you would normally keep the beat as the “rock beat.” It may just need modification to fit the new rhythm.
Hendrix’ “little miss lover” almost same rhythm as “Immigrant song” but slower
 
Last edited:

newoldie

Silver Member
I am most definitely an intermediate drummer and I was having so many issues with doubles then I found this video about the heel-toe technique and I have improved tremendously. I'm still perfecting the technique but I can now do the (a 3 +).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHqkxHaQ-bI

Thanks for posting that. I had watched that video a long time ago, but just viewed it again and found it very helpful, especially the way Jared breaks it down so simply.
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
One thing I've never understood since trying more heel up, is what is relaxed in this position?
Toe/ball on the pedal, heel up... there's now loads of tension in your leg unless the beater is pressed into the head (which I try not to do).
Or the thigh takes the weight and then there's still tension - so I don't get how you relax in this position.
Heel down is easy; your heel is just resting naturally on the pedal, supporting the weight of your leg so there's no tension there.
Don't point your toe and hold it. This is a waste of energy as you have to hold your leg to do it. Keep your foot on the pedal until you need the note.

First and foremost, if your ankles are in front of your knees (legs angled), heel up is hard. That is more for heel down.

You want your ankles under your knees for heel up. Take your throne away from the kit and sit down. Put your ankles under your knees. Raise your heels by pressing down with your toes. This raises your leg without using your thigh to do it (same movement as a calf raise). When you drop your foot back down you get your note. It's the same thing you see anxious people doing at hospitals, airports, court, etc. The bouncy leg thing. Those people play heel up. The toe tappers play heel down.
 

Rochelle Rochelle

Senior Member
Thanks for posting that. I had watched that video a long time ago, but just viewed it again and found it very helpful, especially the way Jared breaks it down so simply.
I love the way Jared teaches stuff. I picked up the basics of the technique after the first viewing. Now it's just a matter of practicing to perfect it.
 

bud7h4

Silver Member
When you're having a "good day" (with pedal technique) try to make the most of the moment and dedicate some time to burning in the muscle memory.

In my experience, with footwork, inconsistency has been the result of simply not having put enough time into developing a particular technique.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
In my experience, with footwork, inconsistency has been the result of simply not having put enough time into developing a particular technique.
Sometimes this is true, but most of the time, it's the practice method that is to blame. The OP seems to be putting the work in, but the results aren't happening.

I've tried drills, 15-20 minutes of just working the same patterns, doesn't appear to make a difference. They still mostly suck.
Then randomly one day they'll be perfect.
This is most likely the heart of the issue. You cannot expect to work on one, two, or three patterns, and improve this particular skill. You should be playing many different patterns, in many different ways. A wider variety of practice is the prescription here.

You really need to check out Time Functioning Patterns by Gary Chaffee. There are about 6 or 7 pages of "fat-back" exercises. You start by playing 8ths on the hi-hat, 2 and 4 on the snare, and then add ALL the possible bass drum patterns possible (in a 16th note context). Some are easy, some are not, and you'll need to be able to read rhythms pretty well. After you're comfortable with the combinations, which will take a while, the most important step is to improvise, using those combinations. Time Functioning Patterns is not a beginner's book; it's commonly taught to college freshmen at Berkley.

In addition to the Chaffee book, here are some more exercises to challenge your execution of bass drum doubles:

 

cornelius

Silver Member
Sometimes this is true, but most of the time, it's the practice method that is to blame. The OP seems to be putting the work in, but the results aren't happening.

This is most likely the heart of the issue. You cannot expect to work on one, two, or three patterns, and improve this particular skill. You should be playing many different patterns, in many different ways. A wider variety of practice is the prescription here.

You really need to check out Time Functioning Patterns by Gary Chaffee.
The other benefit from these exercises is after 8ths on the hi hat, he has you playing every other permutation with your hi hat hand. Another way to practice it is to pick one of the bass drum patterns, and cycle through the different hi hat patterns. This will help with time, coordination, feel, etc.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
The other benefit from these exercises is after 8ths on the hi hat, he has you playing every other permutation with your hi hat hand. Another way to practice it is to pick one of the bass drum patterns, and cycle through the different hi hat patterns. This will help with time, coordination, feel, etc.
Absolutely. It's a slim book, but there's years of practice in it.
 

One Up One Down

Senior Member
I have no advice to give, but I do offer some moral support in the form of company. Currently I'm practicing bass drum 16th notes using heel-toe technique -- 8th notes on the hi-hat and doubles on the bass drum starting at different points in the beat. So a drill would be like 80 beats with bass drum doubles on 1-e. Then 80 beats with bass drum on the e-and. Then on and-a and a-2.

Doubles on e-and are maddeningly uneven -- mostly the problem is that the toe-strike doesn't produce a beat or a very soft beat -- whereas the double at all the other points are fine. I have such difficulties with this! It's in my head now and I feel myself tense up when I practice it. Sometimes my entire body does a spasm as if suddenly two opposing neural structures in my body that have stored antagonistic tension suddenly collide and release their energies.

I have to video my foot to see what I'm doing and get an accurate mental model of what's going on. I'm so fucked with this!!!!
 
Top