Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Many Ways to Kick a Drum

Forget the 'flat foot vs. toe' argument. When it comes to working the bass drum foot pedal, pretty much anything goes. All of the pedal techniques listed below have advantages and limitations. My advice is to try them all, as each one can bring something worthwhile to your bass drum execution. Note that some pedals may not be suitable for certain techniques.
Flat Foot
The most basic of techniques, the foot remains flat on the foot plate at all times. This is a good choice for slow and low volume playing, although it can deliver respectable volume and speed. It also provides excellent control over rebound.Plus some players prefer having a bit of contact with the floor.

Toe Only
The simplest approach to toe technique is to keep the ankle relatively fixed and use your leg muscles to do the work ... i.e. a stomp. This delivers lots of volume and can be less fatiguing but it's limited in terms of speed and articulation.

Heel Up
This technique uses mostly the ankle, with the upper leg joining in with a bounce. With the heel about 1 inch from the heel plate, tap with the toe. Some practitioners like to swing the heel from side to side between strokes.

Moeller ... sort of
While Mr. Moeller never wrote about working with pedals, his basic principle can still be applied. The next two styles use a Moeller-like double kick that can propel you to fabulous speeds once mastered.

1. Steve Gadd Kick
This technique begins with the toe near the middle of the foot board with the heel slightly raised. Tap the pedal with the toe and immediately shift the foot forward, catching and kicking the pedal during the rebound. Great for doubles, shuffles and sambas.

2. Heel-toe/Two Step

This one is a bit like the old 'heel-toe' hi-hat technique. The first note is played on the back half of the pedal with the heel. The second note is played by catching the footboard on the rebound by dropping the toe. The resulting rocking motion is great for doubles, triples, and raw speed. Almost required for some metal music.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Young Ambition

When I was a young professional musician, I had a reputation of being extravagant. It's a bit ironic because I'm a total cheap-skate. While I was making a pretty good living from drums, I still had to live frugally. I also had to allocated funds carefully.

The main areas of contention were instruments and transportation. You see, I had very expensive drums and a fairly expensive car, whereas many of my peers made do with lesser equipment. There's a simple reason for that: TCB.

I knew that I would have to approach my playing career as a business, so I invested in my infrastructure: the things that helped me be more professional, and therefore more desirable and more valuable. I decided that other things could wait while I was building my business.

It's oft said that the key to success is showing up. That's hard to do if you don't have reliable transportation. A couple of early experiences cured me of not having my own car. I did an audition making several trips carrying my drums on a Honda motorbike (it was only a block and a half from my house, but still a stupid idea). The other was a borrowed car that broke down in mid-winter. I had chill blains in my hands for years.

My drums are the tools of my trade, so why would I compromise my job by having inadequate equipment? Reliability is paramount, and cheap stands and parts may not hold up. I also want to play and sound my best, so I always had the best instruments I could afford.

The impression we make when we arrive in a decent vehicle and unload a good looking drum set says a lot about how we approach the job. If you care enough to invest in equipment, then you must care about the music. If you have a decent car, it shows that you value both reliability and punctuality. It all becomes part of your branding and your professionalism.

Your brand image extends to your wardrobe. The business gurus say to dress better than the job (even if it means wearing a tie). Our band likes to have a bit of fun with our appearance, and dressing for the occasion has become an interesting and rewarding part of the job.

So, what kind of 'brand identity' are you creating?