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Anyone who plays double bass wants to get faster at it. Some of these drummers fall short on their goals because they lack the appropriate exercises and knowledge to do so. In this free video drum lesson, Dave Atkinson, of the DrumLessons.com team of instructors, shares some valuable tips and exercises on how to develop double bass speed and endurance.
For getting a glimpse at what these exercises will help you achieve in the long run, check out the drumming of some of the fastest drummers on the planet. Don’t get put off by their playing. The high levels of speed at what they are able to play are the result of a lifetime of practicing double bass drumming. It takes years to get to their level of proficiency. If they can do it, than so can you. Enjoy their drumming. Hope they further inspire you reaching your double bass drumming speed goals.
Drummers: George Kollias (Nile, Cerebrum, Sickening Horror, Nightfall), Derek Roddy (Serpents Rise, Hate Eternal, Aurora Bourealis, Council of the Fallen, Nile, Today is the Day), Thomas Lang (Stork, SchwarZenator), Tim Waterson (Judea San Pedro), Pete Sandoval (Morbid Angel, Terrorizer), Jan Axel “Hellhammer” Blomberg (Mayhem, Arcturus, Dimmu Borgir, The Kovenant, Shining), Gene Hoglan (Devin Townsend, Dark Angel, Death, Dethklok, Strapping Young Lad, Pitch Black Forecast, Testament, Fear Factory), Tim Yeung (Divine Heresy, Hate Eternal, Aurora Borealis), Mike “Machine” Mallais (Jeremy Reid & The Machine, Red Dead & Loaded, Sensory Deception).
Setting up your bass drum and pedals is the first step for having a successful venture in attaining a higher double bass speed. The main focus here is to keep everything well balanced. This goes for the spring tension, angle of the footboard, and even the placement of the beaters. You’ll want to have your feet playing pedals that have very similar settings, so that they can produce similar sounding strokes. As for the bass drum, drummers usually have problems with the skin’s slap back, which catapults the bass drum beater back after striking the drumhead. This makes the beater of the pedal that much harder to control, which in turn makes it harder to gain speed. So having the right amount of muffling against the batter head, or even tuning it a little looser, will help you tone down its slap.
When playing double bass we tend to use an up and down motion with our legs for each stroke. As we get to faster tempos this type of movement needs to be toned down since it wastes too much energy. As a result, we get tired way faster and can’t surpass a certain speed plateau. You’ll have to start using your ankles instead when this happens. The muscles in that area of the leg are smaller, which enables them to outperform the bigger leg muscles in speed and endurance. To learn more about ankle based bass drum technique, watch the video on the flat foot technique.
At slower speeds you use a lot of leg motion and at higher speeds the ankles. But what happens midway? This grey area in speed is where a transition occurs, a mix of leg motion with ankle motion. It’s very important to practice these transitions throughout a wide range of tempo markings, so as to make your legs comfortable in changing gears – legs, legs/ankles, ankles – at any speed. You can practice this by playing a regular rock beat with an 8th note double bass single stroke roll on counts 1 and 3, and a 16th note double bass roll on counts 2 and 4. This way, for each tempo marking you play with, you’ll be able to practice transitions from slower rolls to faster rolls to slower rolls again.
It’s important that you spend some time focusing on your weaker foot. This will enable you to have a real assessment of how your foot behaves and how strong and fast it is. In the video, Dave shares a cool exercise that works on strengthening your weaker foot. When practicing that exercise keep looping it for as long as you possibly can. The more time you keep playing the exercise without stopping, the stronger and faster your leg will become. The free drum lesson “Beginner Single Pedal Bass Drum Speed” is a great source of exercises that you can use to strengthen your weaker foot.
Speed is a direct result of control. The more you’re able to control the pedals with each foot, the higher the speed at what you’ll be able to perform. Thus, starting out slow and working your way up is the way to go. Slow tempos enable you to work on your control. So as you become more and more controlled at slower tempos, the better you’ll become at higher tempos. Gradually increase the tempo of the metronome, but only when you feel you’ve mastered a certain tempo.
Endurance on the other hand is a result of repetition. As you practice one exercise for an extended period of time without stopping, you may start feeling a burn in the legs. The burn you feel is actually the tissues in your muscles tearing. Once the tissues heal, your muscles will get stronger and bigger. Not only will you be able to endure fast tempos for longer periods of time, but you’ll also be working on speed, since repetition also develops control.
This is a big one. Using a click track as a measuring tool for your progress, and taking notes of it on a piece of paper, makes a world of difference in the way you perceive your development. As days and moths go by, you’ll be able to look back and check on how you have really developed over time. It serves especially as an encouragement tool, but can also be used as a way of organizing the way you spend your time behind a drum set or a pad.
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