Before the modern hi-hat existed there was a device that allowed early drumset players to control a pair of small crash cymbals with a pedal. This aptly named lowboy extended a foot or so above the floor, which helped keep the kit compact but also positioned the cymbals too low to be hit with sticks. The lowboy was rendered obsolete with the invention of the modern hi-hat stand, which allowed the cymbals to be raised up above the snare drum.
DW recently revived the lowboy and rebranded it as a foot instrument for hand drummers and drumset players looking to expand their sonic palette with additional foot sounds. While based on an early twentieth century design, the 5000 Series Lowboy isn’t a flimsy replica. In fact, it has all the hallmarks of design and function that have made DW’s hardware so popular over the years.
The 5500LB Lowboy has DW’s venerable shoe-shaped black footboard and the upgraded Delta ball-bearing hinge that appear on all 5000 series pedals. It also features a steel baseplate with a non-skid rubber grip to keep the stand stable and to prevent it from slipping on hard surfaces. The footboard comes with a drum key and holder as well.
To keep the Lowboy extra-compact, DW created a unique drive system, called Glide Track, which positions the footboard to the side of the shaft, rather than below it. The footboard sits on top of a lever arm that rotates and pulls the rod downwards when depressed. The cymbal seat has an angle adjustment that can be utilized to minimize airlock, and the clutch has a locking nut to keep the cymbals from working loose as you play.
The shaft of the Lowboy is fixed to the footboard, so it can’t be folded flat during transport. But the total height is just 14″, and the pedal comes with a nylon carrying
case that’s about the size of a small laptop bag. The LP-branded medium-weight cymbals are 9″, and one of them features six .75″ holes. The holes help create a grittier, trashier “chick” tone.
I play a lot of acoustic gigs in small clubs where my setup often comprises a cajon, djembe, or congas, and various shakers and tambourines. Sometimes I bring a bass drum or cajon pedal, but rarely do I bother with a hi-hat. Instead I’ll put a tambourine on the floor and rock my left foot on it whenever I need to add that sound to the groove. I enjoy the challenge of trying to control and manipulate the tambourine as it lies on the floor, but I admit that it’s a flawed approach. Adding the DW Lowboy to my setup made a nominal impact on my load-in time and took up no additional floor space, which is crucial when having to cram a band into a tight corner of a restaurant.
The Lowboy pedal felt super quick and smooth, and the footboard never wobbled or slid around during the gig, even when I wasn’t using a drum rug. The small cymbals were great for adding bright chirps and funky splashes, and the pull rod extended just enough beyond the clutch to allow me to attach a tambourine for additional sounds. You can also swap out the 9″ cymbals for larger hi-hats if you want a deeper chick sound. And if desired, the Lowboy is slim enough to be placed within a standard drumkit fairly easily. I was skeptical as to whether the Lowboy would prove to be useful enough to warrant its revival, but given its discreet yet stable design and ease of use, it’s winning me over—one mellow gig at a time.