Bass Pedal Technique

It is only natural to have less control and precision in the feet than in the hands. Therefore, proper bass pedal technique is extremely important for playing the bass drum effectively. Good technique on the bass pedal will help you play faster and with more power.

Heel Down Technique

There are two basic ways to press down on a bass pedal, heel up and heel down. Figures 1 & 2 show the heel down technique. In this technique you use your calf muscle (the muscle that bends the foot down) and slight forward motion of the leg to push on the pedal. The heel down technique doesn’t offer much power and is therefore only used when relatively quiet playing is called for.

Figure 1: Heel Down Bass Pedal Technique Figure 2: Heel Down Bass Pedal Technique

Heel Up Technique

Figures 3 & 4 show the heel up technique. To use this technique, lift your leg up from its resting position so that the heel is off the floor and the beater is extended back, and push down with your leg, making contact only with the front of your foot. The force in this technique comes from your entire leg, and is therefore very powerful.

Figure 3: Heel Up Bass Pedal Technique Figure 4: Heel Up Bass Pedal Technique

Note that keeping your heel up all the time isn’t necessary. You may rest it down, and lift up just before you need to hit the bass drum. A comfortable resting position is shown in Figure 5. In this position the heel is down and the foot’s weight is supported by the pedal. The pedal’s spring should be able to exert enough force to support the foot’s weight without extending the beater all the way to the bass drum head, otherwise you should consider tightening the spring.

Figure 5: Bass Pedal Resting Position

Physically, the bass pedal is hinged close to the floor and rotates to bring the beater to the drum, but this is not how you should think of things. Instead, think of the bass pedal as something you press straight down right below the ball of your foot. This is because the higher part of the pedal is leveraged more, and hence easier to step down on. So why not concentrate all your power on the section of the pedal that’s easiest to drive down?

The heel up technique makes this easier because it naturally concentrates all the weight and power of the leg where it has maximum impact, below the ball of your foot. If you need a lot of power, such as when playing rock music with unmiked drums, lift your leg up somewhat higher and really step down like you’re crushing a large bug on the floor.

Bass Pedal Speed

Because bass pedals are spring loaded, once you push down on one and let go, the pedal comes back up very quickly. That’s the bass pedal’s job! Therefore, if you’d like to be able to push the pedal down again shortly after, your job is to get out of the way so that the pedal can return as quickly as possible. This does not mean you should lift your foot off the pedal or jump out of your seat, just that you ease the pressure off the pedal as soon as the beater hits the drum head. You’ll find that the pedal will “want” to push your foot back if you let it.

For a fast double bass stroke using the heel up technique do the following:

  1. Start from your resting position with your heel down.
  2. Lift your heel up to prepare for the first stroke as in Figure 3.
  3. Push your foot down as in Figure 4.
  4. Relax and retract your foot and leg to let the pedal come back to its position in Figure 3.
  5. Push your foot again as shown in in Figure 4.
  6. Let the downward momentum drive your heel down so that the foot is back in its resting position.

The first and last steps are optional as you may keep your heel up if you want. Experiment to determine what feels most comfortable to you.

Rebound or No Rebound

If you don’t need to play two successive rapid bass drum notes, then you have two choices. You can either let the beater rebound off the drum head by easing off the pedal, or keep it on the head by pressing your foot in. Each method produces a different sound. You might find that at first one way of playing is more comfortable than the other, but it’s a good idea to practice and get comfortable with both.

Aside from producing a different, more resonant sound, rebounding the beater when playing heel up has the added advantage of letting you play fast double strokes and successive multiple strokes. However, many drummers find it difficult to let the beater rebound when playing heel up, and this is where the Unburying the Beater technique comes in. The term Unburying the Beater was first coined by drummer and drum teacher Matt Ritter to describe the various techniques drummers use to harness the power of the heel up technique, yet let the beater rebound and thereby gain speed and precision more conventionally associated with the heel down technique. Nobody explains it better than Matt, and we are lucky that he put his teachings into a DVD. To learn all about it, go to his Unburying the Beater Web site.

It is only natural to have less control and precision in the feet than in the hands. Therefore, proper bass pedal technique is extremely important for playing the bass drum effectively. Good technique on the bass pedal will help you play faster and with more power.

Heel Down Technique

There are two basic ways to press down on a bass pedal, heel up and heel down. Figures 1 & 2 show the heel down technique. In this technique you use your calf muscle (the muscle that bends the foot down) and slight forward motion of the leg to push on the pedal. The heel down technique doesn’t offer much power and is therefore only used when relatively quiet playing is called for.

Figure 1: Heel Down Bass Pedal Technique Figure 2: Heel Down Bass Pedal Technique

Heel Up Technique

Figures 3 & 4 show the heel up technique. To use this technique, lift your leg up from its resting position so that the heel is off the floor and the beater is extended back, and push down with your leg, making contact only with the front of your foot. The force in this technique comes from your entire leg, and is therefore very powerful.

Figure 3: Heel Up Bass Pedal Technique Figure 4: Heel Up Bass Pedal Technique

Note that keeping your heel up all the time isn’t necessary. You may rest it down, and lift up just before you need to hit the bass drum. A comfortable resting position is shown in Figure 5. In this position the heel is down and the foot’s weight is supported by the pedal. The pedal’s spring should be able to exert enough force to support the foot’s weight without extending the beater all the way to the bass drum head, otherwise you should consider tightening the spring.

Figure 5: Bass Pedal Resting Position

Physically, the bass pedal is hinged close to the floor and rotates to bring the beater to the drum, but this is not how you should think of things. Instead, think of the bass pedal as something you press straight down right below the ball of your foot. This is because the higher part of the pedal is leveraged more, and hence easier to step down on. So why not concentrate all your power on the section of the pedal that’s easiest to drive down?

The heel up technique makes this easier because it naturally concentrates all the weight and power of the leg where it has maximum impact, below the ball of your foot. If you need a lot of power, such as when playing rock music with unmiked drums, lift your leg up somewhat higher and really step down like you’re crushing a large bug on the floor.

Bass Pedal Speed

Because bass pedals are spring loaded, once you push down on one and let go, the pedal comes back up very quickly. That’s the bass pedal’s job! Therefore, if you’d like to be able to push the pedal down again shortly after, your job is to get out of the way so that the pedal can return as quickly as possible. This does not mean you should lift your foot off the pedal or jump out of your seat, just that you ease the pressure off the pedal as soon as the beater hits the drum head. You’ll find that the pedal will “want” to push your foot back if you let it.

For a fast double bass stroke using the heel up technique do the following:

  1. Start from your resting position with your heel down.
  2. Lift your heel up to prepare for the first stroke as in Figure 3.
  3. Push your foot down as in Figure 4.
  4. Relax and retract your foot and leg to let the pedal come back to its position in Figure 3.
  5. Push your foot again as shown in in Figure 4.
  6. Let the downward momentum drive your heel down so that the foot is back in its resting position.

The first and last steps are optional as you may keep your heel up if you want. Experiment to determine what feels most comfortable to you.

Rebound or No Rebound

If you don’t need to play two successive rapid bass drum notes, then you have two choices. You can either let the beater rebound off the drum head by easing off the pedal, or keep it on the head by pressing your foot in. Each method produces a different sound. You might find that at first one way of playing is more comfortable than the other, but it’s a good idea to practice and get comfortable with both.

Aside from producing a different, more resonant sound, rebounding the beater when playing heel up has the added advantage of letting you play fast double strokes and successive multiple strokes. However, many drummers find it difficult to let the beater rebound when playing heel up, and this is where the Unburying the Beater technique comes in. The term Unburying the Beater was first coined by drummer and drum teacher Matt Ritter to describe the various techniques drummers use to harness the power of the heel up technique, yet let the beater rebound and thereby gain speed and precision more conventionally associated with the heel down technique. Nobody explains it better than Matt, and we are lucky that he put his teachings into a DVD. To learn all about it, go to his Unburying the Beater Web site.

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