heel up vs heel down vs flat footed

bud7h4

Silver Member
I play heel up but with my heels very low. I've seen some heel up players with heels really high and I'm wondering if that's heel up then maybe my "heel low" style is actually "flat footed or heel down. I don't really rest my heels on the pedal though.

I've always assumed heel up simply meant the heel is not planted. Therefore no matter how high or low the heel is, if it's off the pedal then that's heel up. Is this correct?

What about flat footed and heel down; are those terms synonymous?
 

Arky

Platinum Member
Heel up vs. heel down - that's the main foot techniques.
I don't know of various ways to play heel down, but there are a couple with heel up - anything with the heel not having contact with the footplate is called heel up. As for how far up your heel is - that's purely a question of what feels comfy for you. One way isn't necessarily better than the other. Flat foot is 'low heel up' - some drummers find that foot position from the start, others might start keeping their heels high but then from some point on develop a lower heel position which wold equal the flat foot technique.

Practice any foot technique/position and find out what works best for you. Don't overthink.
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
Well, I'd say there's a couple of things to think about.

One is tension. A lot of new players I see playing with their heels high have boatloads of tension in their calves and/or in their thighs and hips. They're holding their foot/leg high between strokes. This has upstream effects all the way to the lower back and can effect your overall mechanics in other limbs. So go ahead, play heel high but be careful that you're not unnecessarily holding tension in your leg that will slow you down, fatigue you or actually effect your other limbs' ability to operate. Tension in the leg can even lead to tension in the shoulders and arms. It's all connected.

Another thing to think about is stool height. I find that a lot of new players -- especially kids - who play with their heels high also tend to sit too high (and sometimes very low) and don't have a solid core when they play and are playing out of balance all the time. This becomes very noticeable once you try to get them to use their HH foot as well. They tend to lean on that leg for balance. So, I think there's a few things to be careful of in the beginning to make sure you don't have big problems later and end up going through the frustrating process of re-learning body mechanics just to be able to reliably open and close the hats.

The last thing to consider is control. Again, a lot of new players who play with their heel high are basically just stomping on the bass drum pedal. Their foot either loses or nearly loses contact with the pedal frequently when they play. They also find that when it comes to try and play quick successions of two or more notes later that they struggle because the entire motion they're using is being initiated by the thighs and hips which are big, cumbersome and ssssssllllllllooooooooooow as mollasses compared to smaller muscles lower down. This is particularly the case for new players who play heel high, stomp AND bury the beater.

So, in general, I find that encouraging a lower heel tends to help theses players release the beater, relieve tension, get better control and become more aware of their posture and mechanics.

But, truth be known, I start most of my students off playing heel down. They learn control and dynamics and the motion used to play heel down is applicable to more complex techniques playing heel up. More importantly, I find it helps them learn balance and body mechanics more reliably. They learn to stay rooted and not be floating around on their stools. I also do this as a sort of push back against the "kick drum" mentality in an attempt to get them thinking more about control and dynamics rather than just bashing the things into submission. But, that's me and I'm turning into a bitter old curmudgeon.
 
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bud7h4

Silver Member
Thanks very much. I'm not struggling with technique or anything I was just unsure about the terminology and what people mean when they say up, down, or flat, in cases where the feet are level and heels low.
 

wildbill

Platinum Member
A little off - topic here, but does anyone know the history of heel up playing?
Like, when did people start playing that way. Or has it always been around.
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
A little off - topic here, but does anyone know the history of heel up playing?
Like, when did people start playing that way. Or has it always been around.
I think it's probably always been around to some degree but I think the proportion of time spent playing that way compared to heel down has changed. For instance, I've seen some old footage of Roy Haynes doing some stuff heel up when playing fast combinations in solos but he generally played and comped heel down.
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
Thanks very much. I'm not struggling with technique or anything I was just unsure about the terminology and what people mean when they say up, down, or flat, in cases where the feet are level and heels low.
I was responding more to Arky's suggestion not to think about it too much. I believe we should do a little thinking about how and why we play certain ways. There are advantages to heel up playing and there are advantages to heel down playing. You have to know what you're getting into.

Personally, I tend to think of the three positions as heel down, whole foot and ball/toes. All three positions are useful alone and in combination.
 

Boomka

Platinum Member
Read this and was just wondering.. How does heel down differ from whole foot? Because I seem to use my whole foot when I have my heel down.
Well, in that sense, not at all I guess. I mean a heel up position where we're using primarily the ball of the foot but with the heel nearly or actually coming into contact with the pedal at the end of the stroke vs. just using the front of the foot without bringing the heel down.
 

whitecatcafe

Senior Member
Well, in that sense, not at all I guess. I mean a heel up position where we're using primarily the ball of the foot but with the heel nearly or actually coming into contact with the pedal at the end of the stroke vs. just using the front of the foot without bringing the heel down.
Ok, the way I look at what you wrote earlier about the three positions is this: heel down, heel up (ankle with whole foot), heel up (ankle - leg with ball/toes). I've been doing a ton of foot work practice lately.. you can say I'm pretty much obsessed with it! About 7 years ago, I never thought I would approach foot technique almost the same way as I do with the hands. But it's opening a ton of doors for me and I'm enjoying every minute of it :)
 
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