Progressive Drumming Essentials
Part 12: Double Bass Boot Camp
by Aaron Edgar
This routine takes a little over an hour and is split into two thirty-minute sets. Each set consists of six bass drum patterns that are played for five minutes each without stopping. Even if your technique starts to fall apart, dig deep and push through until the end. The goal is to reach your breaking point and then push a little further.
Since the focus is on our feet, the hand patterns are open to interpretation. Start with the notated 8th-note hi-hat and snare pattern, but feel free to improvise as long as it doesn’t interfere with your feet. A great alternative to this phrase is to match your hand pattern with the feet. (See Exercises 7–11.) Try cutting out the hands to isolate the bass drums. However, don’t practice that way exclusively—fast feet are useless if you can’t coordinate them with your hands.
Try practicing with tight sounds for your cymbals, because playing on washy cymbals can make it difficult to hear your bass drum accuracy. Closed hi-hats and tight stacks are my preferred choices.
Before starting with set one, stretch your legs. I like to hit all of the muscle groups from my hips down to my shins and calves. You’ll be working for a while, so keep water and a towel on hand.
After stretching, strap on ankle weights and set your metronome reasonably below your maximum 32nd-note tempo. If you’re not sure what that is, 70–80 bpm is a good place to start.
The Workout Begins
00:01–05:00: The first five minutes is a warm-up. Use this time to isolate each foot. Begin with Exercise 1, playing four bars with only the right foot and then four bars with the left foot. After a minute or two, play longer groups of 16th notes with each foot before switching.
05:01–25:00: At the five-minute mark, switch to Exercise 2 without stopping. Keep advancing continuously in five-minute increments through Exercises 3–5. Stay focused, and maintain consistency and power. If you start to cramp up, pull the notes from a different muscle group. Use your full leg (coming from your hip), your ankles, or a combination of both. Experiment with a heel-down technique to work your shin muscles. Do whatever it takes to power through.
25:01–30:00: In the last five minutes, double the amount of 32nd notes (Exercise 6). Try to push yourself close to failure. You should be barely holding on by the end. If you can make it cleanly through the entire half hour, pick a faster tempo next time.
Stand up if you need to, stretch, and towel off. To keep your intensity up, don’t rest too long between sets—two or three minutes should be plenty of time. Take off your ankle weights, bump your metronome up 10 bpm, and run the entire set again.
30:01–55:00: You can skip the warm-up (Exercise 1), but you’ll need to make up for those five minutes. Either practice one of the beats twice as long, or add one of the more advanced beats from Exercises 7–11.
55:01–60:00: At this point you should be struggling a little. Don’t forget that the goal is to push yourself to your limits and beyond. If you get to the end of your second set and you still have energy, repeat the last exercise or add another full set.
The harder you push yourself, the better your results will be. If you end up going longer than an hour, try more challenging tempos or beats next time. Part of the drill here is to find your breaking point within an hour.
For an additional challenge, modify the intensity of the beats to suit your ability level. Exercises 7–11 each have four more 32nd notes and have been notated with the hands matching the feet on two different hi-hats.
For more of a workout, try leading the entire drill with your weaker foot. If you’re comfortable leading either way, try switching your lead foot every bar by adding a triplet to the end of the phrase. Exercise 12 demonstrates this idea by placing 16th-note triplets at the end of Exercise 3.
For best results, run through this set of drills two or three times per week. I wrote these exercises for my own development, and they’ve helped me push through some frustrating plateaus. They can do the same for you.
Aaron Edgar plays with the Canadian prog-metal band Third Ion and is a session drummer, clinician, and author. He teaches weekly live lessons on Drumeo.com. You can find his book, Boom!!, as well as information on how to sign up for private lessons, at aaronedgardrum.com.