Double Bass Drumming (And How To Plan Your Studies)…


Though this post is about double bass drum pedals, it is really about organizing your time over multiple years, to achieve your creative goals. But what better way to study both than through the exhausting and always exciting study of playing double bass drum pedals.

There are major benefits to the careful and meticulous study of double bass drum pedal playing on the drums in particular: significant advances in your balance, focus, control, timing, consistency, and feel (grooves) across the entire drum set as you develop new, more advanced levels of technique and musicality. As you most likely have developed greater strength and endurance in your right leg/foot due to constant pedal usage, your left foot and leg now have a chance to catch up, better developing both your high hat and left bass drum pedal abilities, and your overall skill on the kit (balance). Your new found need to bring your left foot up to speed and strength with your right foot demands focus; carefully considered exercises that build strength, endurance and musicality. Thus, you must have full control of your ability to play both foot rudiments and combined hand/foot rudiments with ease now that your left foot is a more active participant in your music making. Once you have better control your timing will then need to be refined, as you will now need or be able to play syncopated patterns and sight read drum charts using both your feet like you would your hands. If you then develop the ability to consistently play withal the previously mentioned ideals, you will develop a greater level of musicality, a great feel on the drums which will provide greater opportunities to both express yourself creatively and/or make more money as a professional drummer.

A word of warning though: double bass drum pedals come with an enticing trap. It is easy to get addicted to the thrill of rapid double bass drum playing like the kind that occurs in heavy metal music, which is really fun… but can be greatly overdone. Double bass drum playing must be accompanied by restraint and taste if it is to be most effective, so be very judicious when jamming or performing with double pedals. Nothing kills a great song or mood like a drummer so addicted to double bass drum playing that they inject it into any/every song they can. I have seen absolutely amazing technical drummers lose any chance of ever having a career because they were too in love with their feet.

The key to developing a rock solid and fantastic set of double bass drums skills is to have a weekly plan that is spread over a couple of years. And the best way I have found to do this is to set your goals at the end of the schedule and work back from there, arriving at the present and the first few (small) steps required to start on the journey. That way one does not try and get too much done at the beginning and burn out. This is why so many people don’t continue on with, for example, studying the Japanese language. It is easy to get excited about taking Japanese 101 in college or starting a home study package. It is fun and easy at first, but then as the demands increase it is less fun, and thus the passion disappears and people tend not to continue on. Thus you almost invariably see 50 people taking Japanese 101, 30 of those same people taking 201, ten of them taking 301, and maybe five taking 401. Then there are two taking 501 at the Master’s degree level while also taking translation and literature courses. All shared the same passion in 101, and a few only needed the 101/201 courses, but most that stopped could have gone on to 501 as part of heir studies or passion, but gave up because it was too much, too soon for them. I even know a person who has started and dropped Japanese 101 every year for over a decade because they always fell into the same trap of trying too hard immediately.

But planning for fluency years in advance has the great advantage of not needing intensive action in the initial weeks, giving you a more patient, focused mental state in which to thrive and work on what is required. It is also like Olympic middle and long distance running. Younger runners almost inevitably “jack rabbit” out in front in the first few laps, because it feels exciting and thrilling to be leading the race, feeling like you are winning. But the victors always linger at the back of the pack, letting the less experienced runners tire themselves out before slowly taking down single runner after runner ahead of them through encroaching and slowly pulling ahead, which is psychologically distressing for the runner losing their steam as the race wears on. By the end of 5000 or 10, 000 meters the champ will be attacking with the same power the jack rabbits did at the beginning, which is why the champs are champs and the jack rabbits end up in last. I know, I was always the guy who jack rabbited… so I know from first hand experience just how ineffective a strategy that is. I learned from track that it was in my best interest to effectively do my best (5th), rather than sprint to 20th!

So in order to not jack rabbit our way out of sticking to a long-term double bass drum pedal plan, I always do the following:

  1. Set my long-term goals for December 31st of the year in which I want to achieve X, Y, and Z…writing what I need to be doing each week of the month: Dec. 23 – 31, then Dec. 16 – 22, Dec. 9 – 15, and finally Dec. 2nd to the 8th.
  2. Then I need to decide what I should be doing in November of that year to achieve what I want by December 2nd. 
  3. Then decide in October what it is I will need to be doing in order to arrive at what I need to be doing in November, and so on, all the way back to today.

For example, my overall goal for my drumming is, by the time 2020 begins I want to have equal strength and stamina in my left foot as I do my right, or the closest thing to it I can achieve in the next 2 ½ years. I also want to have both great hand/foot coordination and independence between my hands and feet. It may not be possible, but if I plan properly I will get as close to these goals as humanly possible without injuring myself or giving up along the way.

So to arrive at these overall goals, I must them find more specific ways to actually define what these goals actually mean in terms of practicing, thus the drum ideals I previously mentioned: better balance, focus, control, timing, consistency, and feel. Thus, to have something organized and practical to work on I must find or even make the resources necessary to have better balance, focus, etc. Having reverse engineered my weekly plan from December 31st, 2019 back wards, I must start in Week One (e.g. July 10 – 16), where all that is required of me is simple exercises to begin acclimating my left foot and various muscles to the new, increased level of activity. My job is not to star working on rudiments and patterns and X, Y, and Z, but carefully introduce this new demand on my left foot and leg muscles, which had previously only developed in a manner appropriate for the use of the high hats exclusively.

This means that I will now be activating my gastroc-soleus (calf) muscles in a new way, especially the flexor halias longus and/or the exterior digitorus longus, and their related tendons and stabilizing muscles. My forefoot will now be more active too, thus I have to be careful not to over exert my tibialis-anterior muscles, or the back and hip muscles now increasingly prone to stress (my ilipsoas muscle group, which can also exert a pull on my lower back and lumbar vertebrae). Since these muscles are being actovtaed in a new way, I don’t know how much practice they can handle in a single session without becoming overexerted and thus stiff, causing significant problems with my tendons and stabilizing muscles as well. So a slow start into practicing will guarantee not only not mentally burning out, but not physically burning out either (over bot the short and long term) as your body figures out what it can or cannot handle in the first week.

After a week of simple rudiments (out of the George Lawrence Stone snare drum rudiment book) done slowly with a metronome in 30 minute a day session only, stretching for 30 minutes before and after each session on the drums. Week Two (July 17 – 23) then means you can now assess what muscles are feeling good or bad and take your cues from there. You can now move the metronome up one click, and add an extra fifteen minutes to your practice session (45 min.) with a 30-minute stretching session before and after. The stretches should be light and relaxing: gentle, basic stretches approved by your family doctor. The idea is not to become a drum athlete, but flexible and relaxed, so you don’t injure yourself through improper technique or over-exertion This also includes taking one day off from practicing, just to let your muscles have a chance to rest and your brain to process the new skills and information being developing in your daily study.

Then in Week Three (July 24 – 30) you can begin playing 30 minutes of rudiments with a metronome and another 30 minutes playing along with a CD, finding new ways to play the standard (non-double bass drum) beats with two bass drum pedals. This now starts to suggest ways to make music with your pedals, rather than merely develop technique without a feel for when and where the two pedals can add musical value to a song. Thus, I recommend playing along with traditional music that does not have double bass drum pedals in it, for example the music of Fela Kuti, King Sunny Ade, Greek folk music, 80s pop like Duran Duran, and so on, to get a sense of why the double bass drum pedals don’t work in some ways and actually work in others. This mya be frustrating but it shows just when and where you should start thinking about using double bass drum pedals to enhance the rhythmic feel of a song, rather than merely learning how to make “thundering bass drum sounds”.

Working backwards from 2020, I have ended up planning the weeks of July 31 – August 6, August 7 – 13, August 14 – 20, August 21 – 27, and so on all the way to the week of December 23rd to the 31st, 2019… doing at least 30 minutes of basic rudiments every day, and adding a new set of exercises and studies each week that will have led to me to be able to sit down at my drum kit and play fluid, exciting multi-limb musical patterns and beats with ease, power, and grace.

Another benefit to this system is the ability to change course at any time. As you practice you may find new avenues to explore in your playing that you can add to your schedule, or switch from one week to another, giving you flexibility in your studies while still sticking to your overall goals. Thus I may switch out September 18 – 24 with October 2 – 8, as I may be working on a new pattern related to that week more so than the other.

As I have used this system many times in the past, I am sure it will either help you develop your own unique practice strategy or be a useful template when preparing to write a novel, compose a symphony, plan a painting or any other creative endeavor. Developing a long-term weekly plan is essential to long-term success, and I highly recommend you try it today.

Sample Double Bass Drum Practice Plan

*some of the ideas are in my own drum short hand writing, so if it doesn’t make sense, just ignore it.  

July 10 – 16: Basic Foot Rudiments: Strength/Conditioning.
July 17 – 23: Increase Metronome, Alternating Foot Patterns.
July 24 – 30: Rudiments, Greek folk/West African pop study.
July 31 – Aug. 6: Rudiments, Triplet Patterns.
Aug. 7 – 13: Rudiments: Foot/Hand Ratios (6:5, 4:3).
Aug. 14 – 20: Rudiments: Foot/Hand Ratios (5:4, 5:2).
Aug. 21 – 27: Rudiments: Jazz Melodies.
Aug. 28 – Sept. 3: Rudiments: Jazz Melodies.
Sept. 4 – 10: Rudiments: Foot/Hand (lrl L: triplet/quarter).
Sept. 11 – 17: Rudiments: Ostinato (LRLR: Stone Rudiments).
Sept. 18 – 24: Rudiments: Ostinato (R*L Triplet with rest).
Sept. 25 – Oct. 1: Rudiments: Ostinato (LRLR: Stone Rudiments).
Oct. 2 – 8: Rudiments: Hand/Foot Pattern (L l R r).
Oct. 9 – 15: Rudiments: Hand/Foot Pattern (R r L l).
Oct. 16 – 22: Rudiments: Hand/Foot Pattern (R l r L).
Oct. 23 – 29: Rudiments: Hand/Foot Pattern (r L R l).

Oct. 30 – Nov. 5: Rudiments: Hand/Foot Pattern (L r l R).
Nov. 6 – 12: Rudiments: Hand/Foot Stone Rudiment (LRLR lrlr).
Nov. 13 – 19: Rudiments: Hand/Foot Stone Rudiment (LLRR llrr)
Nov. 20 – 26: Rudiments: Hand/Foot Stone Rudiments (LRLL lrll)
Nov. 27 – Dec. 3: Basic Rudiments: (LLRL llrl).
Dec. 4 – 10: Basic Rudiments: Hand/Foot Roll (L R l r)
Dec. 11 – 17: Basic Rudiment: Hand/Foot Rolls (L R l r)
Dec. 18 – 24: Basic Rudiments: Hand/Foot Rolls (L R l r)
Dec. 25 – 31: Basic Rudiments: Hand/Foot Rolls (RL l r)

Jan. 1 – 7: Rudiments: Odd Numbers (LRLRL).
Jan. 8 – 14: Rudiments: Odd Numbers (LRLLR).
Jan. 15 – 21: Rudiments: Odd Numbers (LLRLR).
Jan. 22 – 28: Rudiments: Odd Numbers (RLRLL).
Jan. 29 – Feb. 4: Rudiments: Odd Numbers (RRLLL).
Feb. 5 – 11: Rudiments: Triplets (LLL RRR).
Feb. 12 – 18: Rudiments: Triplets (LRL LLR).
Feb. 19 – 25: Rudiments: Triplets (RLR LLR).
Feb. 26 – Mar. 4: Rudiments: Triplets (RRR LLL).
Mar. 5 – 11: Rudiments: Seven (LRLR LRR).
Mar. 12 – 18: Rudiments: Seven (RLRL RLL).
Mar. 19 – 25: Rudiments: Seven (LLLL RRR).
Mar. 26 – Apr. 1: Rudiments: Seven (LRLR LLR).
Apr. 2 – 8: Rudiments: Eighths/Triplet (LRLR LLL).
Apr. 9 – 15: Rudiments: Eighths/Triplet (LLRR LRL).
Apr. 16 – 22: Rudiments: Eighths/Triplet (LLLR LRL).
Apr. 23 – 29: Rudiments: Eighths/Triplet (LRRL LLR).
Apr. 30 – May 6: Rudiments: Eighths/Triplet (LLRL RLL).
May 7 – 13: Rudiments: Triplet/Eighths (LLL LRLR).
May 14 – 20: Rudiments: Triplet/Eighths (LRL LLRR).
May 21 – 27: Rudiments: Triplet/Eighths (LLR LRRL).
May 28 – Jun. 3: Rudiments: Triplet/Eighths (RLL LLRL).
Jun. 4 – 10: Rudiments: Non-Linear (LRL lr L)
Jun. 11 – 17: Rudiments: Non-Linear (L lr R)
Jun. 18 – 24: Rudiments: Non-Linear (R rl L)
Jun. 25 – Jul. 1: Rudiments: Non-Linear (L lr L).

etc, etc…


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