Issues w/ Heel Down Technique

Kobld

Member
I'm having problems with heel down bass drum technique.

I've been told that you do not want to bury the beater. When I play heel down it feels like I'm working a lot harder because I'm trying not to bury the beater.

To compensate for this I lift my toes up.

I've attached two pictures to this post:
1) When the toes are up and my leg feels tense
2) When the toes are down I feel relaxed, but I can't help but bury the beater when they are down.

Not only that but my foot gets tired much quicker doing heel down which makes no sense.

Another problem is my seat position.
It is easier to play heel down when I'm sitting further away (having roughly a 120 degree angle between my thigh and my calf) - but this makes heel up and heel toe really difficult to do.

Sitting further away from the pedal helps for heel down because I can move my foot further back on the pedal, sitting closer helps for heel up and heel toe, but I can't get a happy medium.

My end goal is to be able to switch seamlessly between heel down, heel up and heel-toe.

Any tips here?

I've been working the Alan Dawson method like crazy doing swing syncopations with my right foot and I'm slowly getting better and my leg is getting stronger, but something isn't right here.
 

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brady

Platinum Member
Burying the beater or not burying the beater is a personal choice. Personally, I play heel-down and do not bury the beater. This is more appropriate for me as I play mostly blues and jazz. I also just like the fuller, rounder sound I get from allowing the beater to come back off the head. I should also mention that I don't have a ported front head on my bass drum.

I've noticed a bit of a correlation between drummers with ported head heads (generally heel-up players) and those with a full front head (heel-down). Not a hard and fast rule though.

Now, about your photos... Your feet looked stressed in both photos. You don't necessarily have to play in socks. Again though, this is a personal choice. I gig with shoes on, so that's how I practice. At any rate, you should be able to play fairly relaxed without shoes.

Try just simply putting your foot onto the pedal, completely relaxed. The beater should not be touching the head. If it does, you're applying some sort of pressure. Don't, just keep your foot nice and relaxed. Playing heel down, simply pivot press your foot down as if on a gas pedal, then relax again. The pedal tension should let your foot come back to the resting position as well as let the beater rebound off of the head. And yes, starting out, there will be a little bit of tiredness as your foot is doing more work than if you were dropping your foot, with the weight of your leg, onto the pedal with a heel-up technique.

Seat position is another personal area. Personally, I have my throne adjusted to where my thighs are just above parallel. If I go up on my toes, my thighs are just about level with the ground.

There is an excellent video out there called "Unburying The Beater" by Matt Ritter. He is actually a member on here. He might see this and comment, or you can send him a PM for further guidance.

Also, not sure what Dawson exercises your doing. Playing the written parts with just your feet? There are several exercises you can do to get your foot in shape. Colin Bailey's "Bass Drum Control" is a good book for this. I'm not saying don't use Syncopation. Just try to get your technique and accuracy down.

I hope this made sense to you.

Good luck.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Seems to me your foot is way up on the pedal board. It might work better if your toes aren't between the goal posts. You don't have to lift your toes as high for the rebound when your toes are further down the slope. There's a happy medium foot position where you should be able to do all 3 techniques. You're not in your happy place. Your toes are almost on the batter head, and you're working too hard. JMO. Don't choke up on the pedal so much. Heel up is easier when the ball of your foot contacts the pedal close to the hinge, down on the low part of the footboard. At least for me it is, I'm assuming it would be for you too. Move your toes down the board is what I would suggest.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
If you don't want to bury the pedal playing heel down, you have to raise your foot using your ankle and not your toes. Just rock your ankle back. also most will tell you to start with your seat so that you knees are below your hips. This will still allow you to rock your foot back and not have to raise your toes as in the picture. I bury the beater when I play, but find no problem raising my foot back when I wish to let the pedal back.
 
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toddbishop

Platinum Member
That's some strange technique in that first picture-- never seen that before. Don't do that. Keep your foot flat, and practice following through on every note-- end each note with the beater all the way back.

Re: your seat position relative to the drum: You shouldn't be so far back that you can't play heel up. Position your seat so you're comfortable HU, and learn to play HD from that position-- a little closer than you are right now.
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
I think your toes are too far up the foot board and posture is off. Take your big toe and place on the foot board heel up to find where you get the most control and the beater freely swings back and forth like pendulum when you let your foot off. Then go heel down with your toes in same place and adjust your seat height so sit comfortably with your foot on the footboard so you can roll on your heels (now you seem to be forward on your toes)and you can rock on your heel (and use your energy to push down to tap rather than hold your toes up as it appears) to tap along or heel-toe. I was only heel up and transitioned the last couple years-initially i was doing the same thing so I had to adjust my seat really low and further away than with heel up so I could roll on my heel and tap. Once I got a feel for it and use to it I could adjust my seat as usual, but I still have to move my seat back a bit with heel down and move closer for heel up.
 

Kobld

Member
Hey everyone! Thanks for the replies. I got the chance to actually video tape my technique and I would love to get tips on what looks good the bad and the ugly.

Here is the link https://youtu.be/OtMTUnW0kFk

Basically the video starts with a couple exercises that I'm doing from the Alan Dawson method.

Then I play a simple rock beat that I would generally play heel up.
 
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Kobld

Member
Also, not sure what Dawson exercises your doing. Playing the written parts with just your feet? There are several exercises you can do to get your foot in shape. Colin Bailey's "Bass Drum Control" is a good book for this. I'm not saying don't use Syncopation. Just try to get your technique and accuracy down.
It was printed from a book my instructor gave me. It's basically swung 8th notes with the jazz pattern on top. I attached a video where I play the first line to this stream.

I will go buy "Bass Drum Control" -- I love new books (only problem is I never finish them).

Now, about your photos... Your feet looked stressed in both photos. You don't necessarily have to play in socks. Again though, this is a personal choice. I gig with shoes on, so that's how I practice. At any rate, you should be able to play fairly relaxed without shoes.
I may actually start practicing with my shoes on. I recently bought Converse All-stars because the sole is so thin, it seems to feel like I'm playing in my socks anyway.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
What you're doing sounds fine, I don't think you should really sweat it. I still think it's strange to have your toes arched upward like that, and don't believe it's helping you. You're doing a sort of lazy half-rebound, which is also fine for normal playing-- I think if you learned to do a full deliberate follow through ending with the beater all the way back you would see some improvement. Just as a technical thing-- I'm not suggesting playing that way all the time. I'm seeing some air between your foot and the footboard when you're doing simple things-- there's some wasted effort in there. You can adjust your pedal to conform to your technique better, or you can try to get your foot to follow the pedal's motion more efficiently by keeping your foot on the footboard. The heel-toe technique is unnecessary for most playing, and if you have to think about it at all to do what you're doing here, I would forget about it and just play normal doubles. You can do fast doubles easily if you learn to follow through the way I described above.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
From the pics you seem way far up on the footboard. There is a sweet spot about an inch back.

Shoes or not is a personal choice. You get a bit of extra weight and throw with shoes so a bit of free power.

Personally, I play barefoot simply because I play all day and hate wearing shoes. I don't really ever play heel-toe but I do the "constant release" motion a lot where I rolon the ball of my foot a lot.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
FWIW I do heel down almost exclusively (in socks) and my toes are in the middle of the footboard, even further back for heel up. I think it's easier when your heel is not on the footboard, but on the heel plate, or even on the floor behind the heel plate. Definitely not on the footboard. I guess it depends on the length of your foot, but still, no heel on the footboard is the main factor.
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
I do the same Larry-for me, it's a lively sweet spot, really responsive, and the most open sound-mostly cause I tend to bury the beater when I move too far up the board or go heel up-although I do intentionally bury the beater on some songs-sounds better to me with shorter decay. I play barefoot mostly cause I'm barefoot mostly-LOL.
 

beyondbetrayal

Platinum Member
Foot seems too far up in the pics for sure.

If your having issues with the beater you could move it back a bit or tighten the springs to have it come back a bit more aggressive.

Some guys play heel down, some heel up.. its a comfort thing... I think learning 3 bass drum techniques isn't as good as learning one VERY well.


the odd time I will use heel down when I want to play lighter or am doing some weird stuff on the hats. and heel toe for extreme metal stuff but I didn't go out of my way to learn techniques. It just happened because it felt right.
 
Are you transitioning from heel up to heel down? And if so why? Could you play lightly heel up? If so, why change? If not, it's possible to do.

I play everything heel up and can feather the bass to the point where it's inaudible as well as NEVER bury the beater. At the same time heel up still allows for heavy accents and personally I'm better equipped to play fast doubles, triplets, and quads heel up. I understand why many prefer heel down for low dynamics (and in general). But like so many technique topics, do what works for you as long as it is musical, controllable, and not ergonomically strenuous (pain inducing). Looks and style is secondary. Functionality comes first.

Here's one reason I think I'm able to play quietly heel up. A matter of physics. Recall pictures of some jazzers playing trad grip during quiet passages, keeping their hand nearly a sticks height above the snare and letting the stick hang down - practically vertically. If you want a quiet stroke, this is a good way to go. When they swing the stick above the head, it moves like a pendulum, and barely grazes the drum head producing a quiet note, without all the perpendicular velocity of a normal stroke (even those attempted to at a low dynamic). A normal stroke power is always subject to the gravitational weight of the stick, whereas the "pendulum" approach can nearly eliminate this force.

The idea can be similar with heel up. If you want a quiet note you can essentially just drop the weight of a toe on the pedal and fine tune from there, essentially grazing the pedal with as little force as possible. This is opposed to playing heel down where you have the weight of your foot applying angular torque to the entire pedal, which for me involves more moving parts and is harder to control.

Again, I'm just saying this works for me, it's possible, and if it ain't broke dont try to fix it. No doubt the majority of players who successfully can feather the kick likely play heel down, but I'm able to do it heel up while retaining the mechanics of all my other kick techniques I've used for thirty years.
 

cornelius

Silver Member
Kobld, it’s cool to see you working on heel down - it’s a great technique to have. You’ll build lower leg strength and coordination which will eventually really help your heel-up playing too.

Here are a couple things that might help.
• Tension your bass drum higher than normal so you can easily hear if the beater is sticking or not.
• Check the tension on your pedal so it’s not too loose. This will help the pedal return back to allow the beater to come off of the head.
• Relax your foot so your big toe is down. There should be zero tension in your body, so adjust your seat height so your hips are just above your knee when your foot is on the pedal - maybe go up a bit to experiment a comfortable height.
• I can’t exactly tell from the video, but is that beater giving you enough throw to get some motion generated? It seems like you’re not moving your foot very much which can cause tension - kind of like throwing a punch an inch away from your target. But correct me if I’m wrong.
• Try some simple, slow, table of time exercise - 1/4 notes, 1/8ths, 1/8th note triplets, then 1/16ths. 40BPM to start...
 
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