Rebuilding Bass Drum Chops
Do you have any tips for an older guy to get his double kick chops back? I’m really struggling. What should I practice? My hips get tight.
As in any area of drumming, there are no shortcuts to building chops. You have to invest a considerable amount of time and make sure you’re practicing efficiently and effectively, with proper mechanics. If you had strong double bass skills when you were younger but you’re having trouble regaining them at your current age, it’s likely that you never developed a proper technical foundation and instead relied on youthful energy and stamina to push your legs, feet, and ankles to execute your ideas. Your joints are probably not as limber as they once were, and you may even have some minor injuries, like lower-back strain, that could be slowing you down.
The first thing we suggest is to dedicate some time each day to improving your overall flexibility and abdominal strength. Double bass requires both feet to be off the floor at various points, so without a strong and stable core you’ll likely sway off balance, which will disrupt your flow at the kit.
Next, examine how you’re positioning yourself at the drums. As explained in Bobby Rondinelli and Michael Lauren’s method book, The Encyclopedia of Double Bass Drumming, “Your seat should be positioned where, when your arms are relaxed at your side and your elbows are bent at about a 90-degree angle, your sticks can reach the center of the snare drum.
“How close you position yourself to the drum is also an important factor. If you sit too far back, you’re probably going to experience back problems. But if you’re too close, your legs will eventually cramp up. Your legs should always be in a natural position…. In general, you should sit at a height where your thighs are parallel to the floor.”
As for exercises, start by focusing on the feet by themselves, practicing various sticking patterns, like those found in George Lawrence Stone’s book Stick Control. Start very slowly (40 to 60 bpm), use a metronome, and focus on achieving even, consistent strokes while remaining perfectly balanced on your seat. Then add basic hand ostinatos over those patterns, like quarter notes, 8th notes, or offbeats on the ride and 2-and-4 backbeats on the snare. Just be patient, work at it every day, and strive to make small improvements in each practice session. There are a ton of additional exercises and tips in The Encyclopedia of Double Bass Drumming, which can be purchased at moderndrummer.com. Good luck!