Kick drum, straight pulse or flavour?

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
This thread is a result of a PM between Polly & myself. I think it opens up a wider trend observation. I've always placed great value on the micro placement of the kick drum, & using kick placement variation as a subtle flavour enhancer. Many of you will have seen me congratulate players on their kick placement in the your playing section from time to time. In many ways, I'm sensing (possibly incorrectly) this is no longer a popular area of playing concentration. We all rely on the kick as the pulse in so many popular genres, but increasingly, the flavour is added at the top of the kit, leaving the kick pulse as a steady ostinato. I do this too, but I also switch the rolls by keeping a steady ostinato at the top of the kit, & using the kick placement to change the vibe. Am I out of touch here? Is this a skill that's being kicked into the long grass as a result of the relentless quest for easy consumption?
 

PQleyR

Platinum Member
No, I don't think so. I think modern music places more emphasis on the bass end of the frequency spectrum, and so the kick drum is of vital importance. I certainly use it the way you describe.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Andy, as you know from both our chat and your ears, I'm an ostinato girl. Don't have much choice, really. If I had the foot chops I'd branch out a bit more.

You do have to be careful with the kick, though, so you don't make mud pies with the bassist.
 

Coldhardsteel

Gold Member
A good drummer would know when to pulse, have the chops to mix it up, and know how to mix the two effectively for any musical situation.

I can't say I mix the two a lot, if at all, but I try to switch it up between chorus and verse, stuff like that.
 

Naigewron

Platinum Member
I do both, depending on the mood of the song, although I think my "default mode" is usually to follow the guitar/bass rhythm. If I just play along with a song without thinking about what I'm playing, that's usually where I end up (sometimes I'll play exactly what the bass plays, sometimes I'll only emphasise what I see as the important notes)

However, a straight pulse kick pattern can add a lot of drive or laidback-ness (yes, that's a word now) to a song, and I love doing that when the music calls for it. Also, if the guitar and bass parts are fairly synchopated, a straight kick pattern can really help ground the song too.

I don't think I ever try and go for a "standalone" kick drum part, where it's not either a fairly steady pulse or following the rhythm of another instrument.

Here's a tune where I'm more or less completely following the bass/guitar riff all through the song:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CD2AXECtlTI

While here I'm trying to go for a more laidback feel by mostly going for a pretty steady pulse. Even in the "jungle groove" prechoruses and bridge, the kick is keeping a steady quarter note pulse:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akvSy-dsb4U

I also sometimes use the "four on the floor" kick pattern (kicking every quarter note) if I want to really kick into overdrive. In songs above the 130-140 bpm mark, I find that doing that really propels the song forward in a very cool way.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Andy, as you know from both our chat and your ears, I'm an ostinato girl. Don't have much choice, really. If I had the foot chops I'd branch out a bit more.

You do have to be careful with the kick, though, so you don't make mud pies with the bassist.
Pol, it's not really a foot chops thing. It's certainly not about fancy footwork, fast doubles, etc. It's more about adding or subtracting that one sweet kick note, or from a microtiming pov, placing the kick right on, slightly ahead, or behind the beat. A kick ostinato can be complexed or simple. It's the use of the kick to add dimension or change the vibe, rather than relying on the top of the kit whilst leaving the kick ostinato straight.

Here's an example from Jeff I like very much. Ok, more of a composition thing, but hear how the placement of the last double on the two bar phrase utterly changes the vibe in the example towards the end of the clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HB59qH9T-I

Listen how David places this simple 2 bar phrase kick ostinato, & how it interplays with the snare backbeat pattern http://www.youtube.com/user/XXXXKISXXXX?feature=mhum#p/a/f/0/VX080x8btzc

The thing that both these clips have in common, is the really accurate kick placement in executing the groove.
 
W

wy yung

Guest
IMO every piece of music should be dealt with appropriately. There should be no fixed ideas beforehand. The bass drun is simply a component part of the kit as a whole.
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
It still takes foot chops, Andy. I notice that you add little flurries with your double pedal here and there and they sound good.

I mix things around around a little, but very simply, nothing like the sorts of things Jeff P & David G were doing in those clips. Good funk and jazz players do all sorts of fabulous syncopations but, to me, they're talking a whole different language. I'm more fluent in Ringo-ese and Charlie-ese :)

Agree with Eskil about following the bass and you would have heard that in our recordings. When the bassist is riffing through the bar there's not much choice but to either follow verbatim or choose which notes to accent; the kick is so dependent on the space the bassist leaves - or not.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
If it works with the music and the band. I remember Stanto Moore in his clinic talking about spicing things up but only if the band can follow and not lose time. spice on.
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
I've been on a bit of a Jeff Porcaro bender lately and was watching that very video (and others, including the Rosanna shuffle) and noticed the same thing about his kick placement. It's absolutely impeccable with it's relentless accuracy and smooth dynamics. I think the reason that it stands out so much when someone is that good with it might be because so many of us spend so much time on a pad working our hands and typically we don't give our feet that much attention.

That got me to thinking about bass drum muffling again (tangent alert!). There's been some talk on this forum about whether to use or not use any kick muffling. I've always put something in my kick just because I feel like I get tighter control of the beat if the kick isn't this wide open thing.

Anyway, did some recording with the band a couple weeks ago and the engineer was a proponent of taking all muffling out. I was like, "Sure, why not. Let's try it?" It sounded really great and in the interest of experimentation, I left it that way for the whole session. But on playback, I can hear micro timing things that wouldn't otherwise be there. Not necessarily bad, but the feel changed to a kind of lazier Bonham-esque thing that I don't normally have.

Of course, it's true that I'm not used to playing an open kick, and I'm sure I could get used to it, but the trade off, it seems to me, is the ability to get that tight nuanced thing that both Jeff and David had going.

Oh, and that band I was recording with is all electronic, so sometimes it's about playing quarters on the kick in an almost dance-like fashion, but other times I'm trying to get away from that if for no other reason than I don't want to keep repeating myself or make the songs all sound the same. The hardest part for me is taking the kick off of 2 and 4 once it's been there for a while. Feels like something's missing - because it is!
 

brady

Platinum Member
This thread is a result of a PM between Polly & myself. I think it opens up a wider trend observation. I've always placed great value on the micro placement of the kick drum, & using kick placement variation as a subtle flavour enhancer. Many of you will have seen me congratulate players on their kick placement in the your playing section from time to time. In many ways, I'm sensing (possibly incorrectly) this is no longer a popular area of playing concentration. We all rely on the kick as the pulse in so many popular genres, but increasingly, the flavour is added at the top of the kit, leaving the kick pulse as a steady ostinato. I do this too, but I also switch the rolls by keeping a steady ostinato at the top of the kit, & using the kick placement to change the vibe. Am I out of touch here? Is this a skill that's being kicked into the long grass as a result of the relentless quest for easy consumption?
Not out of touch at all. I think it's a great idea.

In fact, we have been doing a fairly new song at my church in which I play a steady 8th note ride with a quarter note cross-stick and play sort of a melody on the kick drum underneath it. I think it works best if you do keep some sort of steady pulse going for the others to follow.

I had actually messed around with more of this a while back. I was listening to some Max Roach recordings and noticed a lot of his "fours" had the swing ride going with snare and/or bass drum comping underneath. That's a pretty common comping technique but it's much more obvious when it's done as a 4 or 8 bar solo.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
I've in several bands where I played along to loops and/or sequencers, and where an electronic dance cross over feel was required, so playing with a straight, near machine like, pulse on the bass drum is pretty much a requirement. And it's just stuck with me ever since.

Actually, in the past few weeks I've been actively trying to break myself from such habits by revisiting a lot blues and stuff that has a bit of swing in the feel like I used to play before I went down the path of loops and sequencers.
 

mcbike

Silver Member
I play straight pulse more often than not, and the older I get the less busy I play. It actually changes night to night though depending on the sound of the room and the crowd. Some clubs have banging subs and kick goes on forever it's just better to drop beats out and keep it simple for the sake of clarity. It also depends alot on the bass player. I always try to lock in with the bass and sometimes they are predictable or have certain lines they always do so I double up when they double up.

When I was a kid I would try to throw bass drums in every possible permutation to keep things interesting for myself, but now I get off on watching the crowd move to the beat. I wish I had the patience to play like Ndugu Chancler on "billie jean".
 

kyle

Senior Member
To be honest as a more metal oriented drummer I find ghost notes on the snare distateful so I do mine with maybe a quick flurry of double pedal, sometimes put in a triple. I personally find it to sound much better than a quiet hit that can barely be heard.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Oddly enough, I'm a fan of having no bass drum sometimes ;) I like to let the bass player do his thing without me mucking it all up....

It'd be better if no one had ever invented that kick pedal. Then there'd be at least two guys in every rhythm section....
 

Pollyanna

Platinum Member
Fair point, Bo. Funny, that happens in percussion-based groups all the time - there's someone looking after the bottom end while various others take the middle tones and high end.

Yet I'd never imagined that for drums sets - a bass drummer and treble drummer. Usually drummers want to do the full spectrum themselves since that's what the kit can do. A player with a dedicated bass kit could add all sorts of interesting bottom end flavours that would give a group a unique flavour.

Cool!
 
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