I want to talk today about single-kick technique. I hope that my ideas are helpful for drummers in developing a fast and powerful bass drum foot.
I play heel-up most of the time, but the term “heel-up” is misleading. In reality, the heel move: up to prepare for a stroke, and then down towards the ground when playing the stroke, allowing gravity to create energy. The pedal should lift the foot after the stroke, allowing a natural rebound, much like the stick’s natural bounce prepares the next note on a snare drum. Just as the fingers control the rebound of the stick, the toe controls the rebound of the pedal. Unfortunately, this is difficult for many students.
I came up with some exercises for this moving-heel action on the pedal. First, place the right foot (left foot for lefties) on the floor, and make “tip-toes.” Keep the toe touching the ground, and lift the heel up and down, so that the foot bends in and out of a tiptoe position.
Next, put the foot on the pedal (the toe on the upper half of the footboard) and let it drop until the beater reaches the “ready position,” somewhere between the pedal’s resting position (the beater at around 45 degrees when compared with the floor) and the impact point with the drum (90 degrees). There will be a very specific feeling of resistance on the toe. Release the pedal and repeat. The idea is to memorize the feeling of the spring when the pedal is in the ready position. Keep repeating—this is the position the foot rests in between notes. With a little practice, that spring resistance will allow the foot to float without any effort to keep the foot “raised.” Stay relaxed!
Third, place the foot on the pedal, depress to the “ready position” with the beater one and a half to three inches from the drum, and while keeping the beater/pedal stationary, practice the tip-toe movement. Execute the up-and-down movement without moving the pedal, staying in the ready position with just that perfect amount of spring resistance under the toe. That light resistance is all the foot needs to stay elevated while moving.
Once you are comfortable with these movements, try some single notes on the bass drum. Place the toe on the pedal with the weight of the foot “floating” on the spring and the ankle relaxed, ready to make the tiptoe move to lift the heel. Raise the heel, and let the weight of the upper leg fall as you play the note. The heel should drop naturally as you play the note, but it will rarely come to rest on the footboard. Allow the beater to rebound to the ready position, that sweet spot of spring tension on the toe. Try louder and softer notes by adjusting the up/down move of the leg/heel, but keep the toe touching the pedal, and feel the spring.
For more on Jamie Douglass, go to drumsetartist.com.