Rock ‘N’ Jazz Clinic
Raw Speed Bass Drum Workout
Increase Your BPM With a Focused 12-Minute Routine
by Mike Johnston
This bass drum workout is all about developing your raw speed. Raw speed is very different from pattern speed. Pattern speed requires your brain to keep track of a specific sequence of rights, lefts, and kicks, and you have to play a sequence for a long time while your brain memorizes it before you can speed up. Raw speed is referring to how fast you can physically play something that doesn’t require a lot of thought or pattern memorization. Think of it like this: Maybe you can play singles and doubles at 160 bpm but you can play paradiddles at only 110 bpm. That drop in speed doesn’t make sense, since paradiddles are made up of singles and doubles. But the problem isn’t with your raw speed; it’s with your brain’s ability to keep track of the patterns.
Now let’s get your foot blazing with my personal raw speed workout. This twelve-minute program uses four exercises that are played for three minutes each. Each exercise focuses on a different aspect of your bass drum development, including singles, doubles, triples, and mixed subdivisions.
When you begin each exercise, start a timer. The first minute should be played at about 60 percent of your maximum speed, and your focus should be on clarity and absolute perfect execution of the exercise. For the next minute, push into the 80 percent range of your max, but still focus on clarity and being conscious of your technique. Ask yourself: Could I exert less effort and get the same output of speed and clarity? The third minute is all about maxing out. Use 100 percent of your speed—everything you’ve got! This minute will get a bit sloppy, but the goal is to tear down the fast-twitch muscle fibers so that they’re forced to rebuild faster and stronger in the days to come.
I would recommend doing this workout at least five times a week for at least three months. Make sure to write down your maximum bpm for each of the exercises. That way you’ll have something to compare your growth to at the end of each month.
Exercise 1 focuses on single kicks. The great thing about this exercise is that your bass drum speed is not the only thing being developed. You’ll also develop independence and overall clarity when playing singles between your hands and foot.
The goal of Exercise 2 is to help build the raw speed of your double strokes on the bass drum, but there’s an added bonus of tightening up your doubles with your hands as well.
Exercise 3 focuses on triples by using a looped right-hand paradiddle while your bass drum foot mimics the right hand. Once your right hand and foot get the pattern on autopilot, you can start messing around with left-hand variations.
Exercise 4 combines singles and doubles into mixed subdivisions. This ensures that your foot is responsive to changes in the rhythm and is not just gliding through a repetitive motion.
Mike Johnston runs the educational website mikeslessons.com, where he offers prerecorded videos as well as real-time online lessons. He also hosts weeklong drum camps at the mikeslessons.com facility each year.