Heel down control is rough!!!

Drumyourfaceoff

Junior Member
With the aid of my drum instructor I am really digging into Jim Chapin’s "Advanced Techniques for the Modern Drummer." I just came home from the studio frustrated beyond belief because I am trying to gain better control over my right foot playing heel-down. It’s rough! I am hashing out the section where the rhythm (kick or snare) is playing straight sixteenth note combinations over the ride ostinato instead of being "swung...." Ring any bells to ANYone on here? I am having such a hard time gaining control over my feet heel-down. I know the answer will always be "start slow and eventually it will come," but... Man... It’s hard.

I have been playing about 13 years and I actually know my way around a drum kit really well. I have been on full U.S. tours with rock bands and I have a lot of experience... But my real interest now is jazz. So... Any advice on hashing out heel down techniques would be appreciated. ANY advice for Chapin’s book would be appreciated as well....
 

komodo

Senior Member
Yes that book certainly is a challenge! I know its cliche but the only advice i could give is to really slow it down and practice a lot,to get it into your muscle memory. I struggled alot with it too but youll find one day it just clicks. Although ive still a long way to go in this book :p
 

oops

Silver Member
I went with a teacher who believed that anything after the triplet/8th's exercises were purely 'co-ordination exercises' and not really musical statements or even necessary.

Needless to say I never worked beyond that point. I'm kind of considering going back to it now, but still not sure what it holds for me.

Nevertheless, look at the way the exercises are written on the right side of the page, and try and phrase more like that if it helps? As I recall the lines are written out together.

In regards to heel down, maybe check out Steve Smith's History of US Beat, he goes over three motions (i think) and interplay between them. Might be good to see his view on it.

Otherwise, work slowly :p
 

zambizzi

Platinum Member
Why play heel-down so much? How are you going to achieve relaxed doubles and multiple strokes?

I'm playing some bop-ish type of stuff these days w/ a jazz group and I haven't changed my foot technique, I didn't feel I had to. I control dynamics well by using both the heel and the ball of my foot (heel-toe technique) in a mostly heel-up position.

Just curious...we're all different.
 
L

lewisn27

Guest
somehow i found heel down very natural and heel up very natural as well.
so unfurtunatley i have no advice for you, sorry.
 

Drumyourfaceoff

Junior Member
Well, it's a goal I have to condition my feet heel down just as much as I have heel up. I think the results are obvious. Drummers have found both heel up and heel down to be useful in multiple situations. I could play super light and try as hard as I can to feather with my heel up but... I like a challenge and I do like the feeling of playing lightly heel down. I'm not necessarily looking for serious dynamics (accents and grace notes heel down), just some ideas and input on developing even strokes and a little speed and consistency playing heel down. I have seen a lot of my favorite drummers do it and it makes sense. Although, I'm realizing that the answer really is... Just staaaaaaaart slow and eventually it will come.
 

zambizzi

Platinum Member
I think that's it, if you're really going to commit to this. Do it stupid-slow for long periods of time and try to train those little front-calf muscles. It won't come easy! Those are small muscles...they won't train as quickly or have the power and endurance that your calf has.

Someone mentioned Steve Smith's video - that's the best instruction you're going to get on this. Matt Ritter has an excellent video out too that changed my foot technique and entire kit setup completely, to facilitate better foot control.
 

Joe P

Senior Member
You can practice heel-down anywhere you go actually! Just tap your foot (keeping your heel down on the ground of course) to build up strength and control in it.
 
J

jay norem

Guest
Interesting. I've always played the bass drum heel down. Don't know why, it just happened that way. And I always played the hats heel up. Again, it just happened.
I'm surprised that a teacher would tell you to do it one way or the other. After all, we all have different bodies. I've never had any problem playing anything I wanted to play with my heel down on the bass drum pedal.
Drummers do it all kinds of ways, don't they? For me, I have all the control I need with my heel down on the bass drum pedal, and all I need with my heel up on the hight hat pedal.
Seems to me that it should be a matter of what works best for the individual.
So however you played during your thirteen years of playing is how you should keep on playing, in my opinion.
And this sounds really weird to me: " I am hashing out the section where the rhythm (kick or snare) is playing straight sixteenth note combinations over the ride ostinato instead of being swung...." Straight sixteenth notes on the bass drum under the swung ride cymbal pattern? Why?
 

Drumyourfaceoff

Junior Member
Interesting. I've always played the bass drum heel down. Don't know why, it just happened that way. And I always played the hats heel up. Again, it just happened.
I'm surprised that a teacher would tell you to do it one way or the other. After all, we all have different bodies. I've never had any problem playing anything I wanted to play with my heel down on the bass drum pedal.
Drummers do it all kinds of ways, don't they? For me, I have all the control I need with my heel down on the bass drum pedal, and all I need with my heel up on the hight hat pedal.
Seems to me that it should be a matter of what works best for the individual.
So however you played during your thirteen years of playing is how you should keep on playing, in my opinion.
And this sounds really weird to me: " I am hashing out the section where the rhythm (kick or snare) is playing straight sixteenth note combinations over the ride ostinato instead of being swung...." Straight sixteenth notes on the bass drum under the swung ride cymbal pattern? Why?
My teacher is not forcing one way or another on me. He just sees benefits in developing control with heel up AND heel down. He said you might as well get as much as you can squeeze out of a book and playing the Chapin book heel down is quite a process. I believe Chapin's intentions with straight sixteenths in jazz are to be prepared for any situation. They are conditioners just in case the saxophone starts soloing with straight 16ths and what not. You know, I want to be an efficient jazz drummer so I'm taking the whole book seriously. Why not?... Is what I ask. I was such a rock drummer and so one-sided a few years ago and I have really sincerely enjoyed the challenge of learning to play jazz. It can be a complete paradigm shift. I suppose heel down is easier for quieter dynamics. Heel up AND heel down should be considered. I definitely get a different feel and different personality out of the kick drum when I play heel down. It feels... A lot subtler??? Plays into the whole "feathering" concept.

And I have been on two "death metal" tours and it was super fun, but not my jam in the end ha ha. Thank you everyone or your valuable input. I have taken every bit of advice and opinion into consideration!

~J
 

zambizzi

Platinum Member
I guess I don't see my feet as any different than my hands, in regards to how the pedals are played. I wouldn't rest my palm down on the rim of the snare and smack the stick down to make strokes, so why restrict movement w/ my feet? When I "feather", I gently drop my foot down on the pedal (heel-up first, then down to heel...so I guess it would be toe-heel?) I let spring tension provide some of the resistance to keep the note soft and quiet. When I want to accent, it's just a matter of laying into the same stroke a little more. This *seems* harder to do w/ my heel stuck down on the foot-plate. When I want a double or a triplet, it's the same stroke again, using the rebound of the head (heel-toe and heel-ball-toe). I also don't bury the beater...ever...just like I wouldn't bury my sticks into the heads of my drums.

That's just me...I look at foot technique as being similar to hand technique - whatever takes the least amount of work to achieve the most results. It's hard for me to imagine getting the same or better results w/ the hell stuck down on the plate...but obviously folks like Jay have found a way.
 
Though I play both ways, if I want control and precise beat placement I prefer heel down.

I use heel up for power and volume, and found it easier to quickly get a fast single or double stroke on the bass drums, but for me heel up is a little sloppy and lacks real control. I'm not saying you can't learn precision with a heel up technique, but in my opinion if you want finese, use heel down.

I like how solidly heel down centers you, contact is maintained with the floor and you don't strain the thighs and stomach holding the leg up. The problem with heel down is it takes lots of time to develop speed and precision, and is actually painful pushing through the cramps in the shins.

My advise is to work the rudiments with the feet, heels down. Do paradiddles, double strokes, singles strokes, the short rolls, triplets. Make sure your batter head is tight enough. Try doing a simple marching drum cadience with your feet. Hard isn't it to play something you could do easily with your hands in the 5th grade?

Mark time on the cymbal and play 16ths with feet, switching between single, double, and paradiddles. Try to break free of the hands. If you screw up keep trying till you get it. It's ok to screw up, thats how you learn, just don't take it for an answer, push on through.

Play straight single strokes with your feet at a tempo you can keep for 10 minutes and play a solo across the top with your hands. Can you do a fast hand roll without breaking the foot part? Break free with the hands! Work on independence while you are building up your strength in the legs, it makes the long practice less boring.

Try playing at a nice slow speed for awhile, then suddenly double the speed, then drop back to the slow speed. Push yourself through the burn, push your limits, but drop back when you get sloppy.

Anyway that's my thoughts.

I play almost exclusively heel down on my primitive drum kit. If you want to see some results of my practice methods, check out bongodoggie on youtube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PIApZ9i3ss

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zf9jCI-XLJE
 
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larryace

"Uncle Larry"
My teacher taught me how to develop good heel down technique. Play with socks on or with a shoe with no heel. Put your heel down on the pedal, play the bass drum by pulling the sound out of the drum by not burying the beater, attempt to get the most possible rebound, (lifting your toes after the hit just as high as your ankle allows), play straight 8th notes at a fairly fast clip, and try to get your front calve muscle to burn. Turn it into a calve muscle exercise. In this case no pain no gain doesn't apply. Don't shoot me. I play heel down exclusively. Not knocking heel up at all, it is a useful technique. Do the exercise in unison with your hi hat foot as well, or else you will have 2 different sized calves ha ha
 
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