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Getting your Double Bass Chops Together
Posted On 10/31/2007 22:44:10 by KenSanders
I have an email from a young drummer that wants a quick way to get his feet going on double bass drum patterns. He cited some of his favorite Metal music bands and drummers. He was very down because after a few weeks of trying to play it, he was basically getting nowhere. He asked about the heels up or heels down positions and he said he wasn't getting much volume from his bass drum. He wanted tips on getting started on developing his double bass ability.

Here is my advice to him.

REALITY CHECK FIRST
The reality is that professional drummers, known for their proficiency with double bass drum playing spent years PRACTICING like obsessed maniacs to develop their speed, endurance, and muscles. Unless you are a one-in-a-billion exception then you ain't going to get that good in a few weeks. It's gonna take a lot of work.

FIRST GET YOUR FEET IN POSITION
A few drummers may disagree, but I contend that the speed and power you are going for, is best achieved using the HEEL UP technique. Tim Waterson, holder of the World’s Fastest Feet Title, uses an advanced variation that he calls the SWIVEL technique. I highly suggest that you go view the several clips he has regarding this technique.

VOLUME/POWER
Now depending on which drummers we might use as an examples, you need to know that MANY of them actually get the volume via the sound system. Therefore, for the time being, I suggest that you focus on the playing the patterns and keeping them steady. Volume can be addressed later.

EQUIPMENT FACTORS
You need to make sure you set the height of your drum throne and the position of it (in relation to your feet on the bass drum pedals) to where your feet just hang naturally over the pedals. The idea is to get your legs into a position where your feet and ankles can move freely in order to generate speed and control. Spend some time getting this position established because it is the basis of the balance you'll need for playing double bass drums.

The length of your beater stroke, the tension on your bass drum pedals, and the amount of rebound the beaters get off of your bass drum heads (because of the tightness or loosness of your bass drum head) are ALL very significant factors.

You will have to experiment to find the right combination of those variables for you. Perhaps you will even need to make some trade offs to come up with a combination that sounds good and yet still feels good to you.

THE PHYSICS OF BASS DRUM PEDAL SPEED
Imagine trying to play fast bass drum patterns with very long beater stroke lengths (the travel distance) plus loose spring tension on the pedals (the way the beater comes back to ready position) plus a very loose bass drum batter head (which has little rebound). That would take some absolutely phenomenal foot work. There are some minor adjustments would make it so much easier.

These adjustments will improve the efficiency of your pedal strokes. The length of the beater stroke has to be long enough to generate solid beater impact, but not necessarily from a ninety degree angle or "all the way" back. I'd start with about a forty-five degree angle stroke and then adjust it to whatever feels best to you. Somewhere is that general range is most likely going to be a good "feel" for you.

Next the pedal spring tension HAS to be tight enough to return the beater back very quickly to make the next stroke. You need to let the pedal help you. That's why a loose spring tension is just going to feel sluggish and will slow you down rather than helping you.

The beater also has to BOUNCE off of the batter head…..NOT sink into it. So if you are a drummer with a normal bass drum stroke that sinks the beater into the bass drum head (and holds it there) rather than one that lets it rebound off the head (much like a snare drum stroke), then you're going to have to change that style for fast double bass drum patterns. You'll never play thirty-second notes on your bass drums by sinking the beater into the head.

INTERESTING STORY THAT I’LL SHARE
Louie Bellson was the first drummer to bring double bass drum playing to popularity. I had the fortune to meet him, when he was here in Nashville visitIng my friend Larrie Londin. We talked about double bass drums and he shared something that, at first, really surprised me.

He told me that one of things that helped him master the feel of playing double bass drums was his EARLIER LIFE ability as a tap dancer. He said that his bass drum playing had a feel similar like he was tap dancing on the pedals. Well, I'm not a tap dancer, but I watched him do it.....and it made a lot of sense to me. He was dancing on the pedals.


R E V I E W....... O F...... M Y..... T I P S


GET YOUR PEDALS AND BASS DRUM HEADS ADJUSTED FOR YOUR BEST OVERALL SOUND AND FEEL. GET YOUR THRONE HEIGHT AND POSITION FOR THE BEST BALANCE. The speed and control is going to be coming from your feet and ankles not from your legs.

REMEMBER.....for fast playing..... THE BEATER HAS TO BOUNCE OFF OF THE BASS DRUM HEAD QUICKLY IN ORDER TO GET READY FOR THE NEXT STROKE.

PRACTICE SLOW EIGTH NOTE PATTERNS FIRST. MASTER THE SLOWER TEMPO, AND THEN MOVE UP TO A LITTLE FASTER TEMPO. You are working on the ability to keep the pattern even and steady. If the strokes sound choppy or uneven, then you are not ready for a faster tempo yet.

CHECK OUT TIM WATERSON’S SWIVEL TECHNIQUE clips on You Tube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92qdU4jspao

PRACTICE. PRACTICE. PRACTICE. THEN PRACTICE SOME MORE.

Many times, nothing of value comes to us easily. But if playing double bass drums was easy and everybody could do it, then it wouldn't be a big deal would it? Stay committed and have fun.

Cheers!
Ken Sanders
IBJAMN in Nashville

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