If you want to add some deep, booming sounds to your drum solos, then you need to develop your bass drum technique . Here, Saint Paul, MN drum instructor John S. shares his five keys to help you improve your bass drumming skills…
The bass drum is the heart and soul of the drum set. If you’ve ever been to a rock concert or blasted the radio in your car, you know that the bass drum is the drum that you actually feel. The bass drum is important, it’s often up to the bass drum to establish the foundation of the groove.
The bass drum also presents a unique challenge because you play it with your foot rather than your hands. There are countless techniques and exercises to help you develop your bass drum technique.
To help you get started, here are five things to remember when you practice the bass drum.
1. Use a Metronome
This is without a doubt the most important point on this list. Using a metronome may seem pretty straightforward, but there is a correct and incorrect way to use a metronome to practice drums.
As a general rule, you should start practicing at a slow tempo, and gradually increase your tempo in small increments. For many drummers, it’s actually harder to play a slow pattern because there’s more room between each note.
To improve your bass drum technique at a slow tempo, use subdivisions on the metronome (8th- and 16th-note patterns) to improve your timing and accuracy.
Hint: If your metronome doesn’t have a setting for subdivisions, multiply the tempo times two to get an 8th-note pulse.
There are two basic ways to play the bass drum: heel up and heel down. Playing the bass drum with your heel up gives you more power, while playing with your heel down provides a quieter, more resonant tone.
Regardless of the type of music you’re playing, it’s important to develop both techniques since many advanced patterns require the ability to integrate techniques. To see each technique in action, check out this quick video-
Coordination refers to the fluid relationship between the bass drum foot and the rest of your limbs. To develop coordination, practice exercises that force your hands and feet to work together in alternating patterns.
For example, alternate two strokes on the snare drum with two on the bass drum. Start at a slow tempo and gradually increase your speed.
Here is a nice exercise that explores bass drum coordination with both hands.
Independence refers to the ability to play a wide range of bass drum patterns with a repetitive hand pattern. The best way to develop independence is to start with a simple pattern (1/4 notes on the hi-hat), and play a non-repetitive bass drum rhythm over the simple hi-hat loop.
Here is a great beginner/intermediate exercise in bass drum independence.
Regardless of which music style you want to play, it’s imperative that you repeat each exercise for more than just a few measures.
Repetition reinforces the muscle memory in your brain, which allows you to naturally transfer your skills seamlessly into real-life playing situations.
There is an endless supply of bass drum exercises, both for free online and in many well-written instructional books. The best way to develop your bass drum technique, however, is to work with a drum instructor.
As with all areas of drumming, start with slow, easy exercises and focus on developing good practice habits before moving onto harder exercises.
Happy bass drumming!
Photo by alexmerwin13