Double Bass Drumming
It’s something that the majority of modern drummers want to learn, how to play super fast, >200bpm patterns, beats and fills. There are many techniques, tips, hints, perhaps even cheats on the internet. I intend to tell you the things that have worked for me. No hiding behind text or anything like that. You can even check out my YouTube just by typing my user name in to check out my heel-toe video. Effective, honest applications and tips are all that follows. Before I go on, I must say that double bass can be overdone. There is a point where its played in a piece of music, it does not suit the style, and it takes away what the music already had without the double bass – character and feel. With double bass drumming, it is important to know how often it should be used, when, and what feel it would create. Death Metal begs for more, while Jazz prefers it few and far between. Double bass drumming completely changes music; it creates a new feel, and spices up old beats and patterns. Finally, double bass opens up the door for more complex and deviated drumming.
Foot independence is key in double bass drumming. If all you can play is RLRLRLRL constantly, what you play becomes repetitive and the listener loses interest. Playing triplets, sextuplets and other more complex patterns enables you to expand double bass even further. First, we have to separate the feet. There are several ways to do this. If you already have a double bass solution (two bass drums, double pedal), then you must practice with your left foot more than your right. This enables your left foot to become stronger, and equal with your right foot. A way to check this is to listen to the sound of your stroke on the bass drum. Are they even? If they are, then your feet are pretty much equal. Whilst doing this, you should also pay attention to how much force you have to apply in order to create a stroke. The pedal should spring back nicely, but you shouldn’t have to fight it. Adjust spring tension and beater distance until you find a comfortable setting. If you are applying even force between feet and it produces a similar sound, then you have even strength between your feet.
For those who do not have a double bass pedal yet, you can use your hi hat pedal as a practise, but make sure that the force used between you feet is even (e.g. to close hi-hats you must use same force to strike bass drum). NEVER SACRIFICE CONTROL AND DYNAMICS FOR SPEED!
Practice these between your feet, at varying tempos and dynamics, and you should be well on your way to gaining independence and control, using a metronome.
RLR~ RLR~ ~ - Rest
LRL~ LRL~ R – Right Foot
RRL~ RRL~ L – Left Foot
RLR LRL RLR LRL
LRL RLR LRL RLR
Try using these patterns in beats and fills, for example – RLRLSnareRLRLSnare with the hi-hats doing an eighth note pattern.
The famous heel toe technique. The heel toe technique came from tap dancing, to create two strokes from one movement. When using the heel toe technique, instead of single strokes (RLRL), you’re creating double strokes (RRLL), with the heel on the backplate, and your toes providing the bounce. If you want more on this technique, check out my video on it. It also provides some applications for the technique. It can be vital in getting to incredibly fast speeds, and also makes triplets easier (such as in the second verse of Killswitch Engage’s Starting Over.) So it would be HTL or HTR (HT – heel toe), enabling to play fast triplets. A must learn for any drummer wishing to play speedily. The slide technique is another technique which creates two strokes. With your heel up, you create a stroke, and then you slide your foot up the pedal quickly whilst it’s bouncing back, and put your foot down again to provide a second stroke. It is harder to do fast double strokes using the slide with both feet, but it is still worth learning.
Remember to practice bother these techniques equally between your feet, to gain control, and start slowly and work up, to gain the speed that you want.
Sit in a comfortable position, so that you can easily access both pedals, the hi-hat and the rest of your drums. Always sit straight, never lean back into your throne. Tension is bad, so do not play with it. You need to be relaxed, and to play smoothly and with control. Control only comes with your muscles relaxed. Obviously when you start playing 250bpm plus, there will be a small amount of tension, but this should not be done too often. Creating bad habits means you’re stuck with bad habits. Playing with good habits will benefit your playing and your learning overall. Warm up before a playing session. Do stretches, play single strokes between your feet. Breathe properly as well.
Moving on from this
I urge you to check out as many resources as you possibly can. Play rudiments with your feet, grabs books (I recommend the Encyclopaedia of Double Bass Drumming) and DVDs, and there’s many videos on YouTube which can help you out. I wish you great success in double bass drumming.
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