Learning double bass drumming is considered an advanced drumming skill, and it can seem intimidating when you hear a proficient drummer pounding away with both feet to a complex beat. The truth is that learning double bass drumming isn’t as difficult as it may first appear. Even a complete beginner to the drum set is able to learn double bass drumming.
The double bass drum setup originated with jazz drummer Louie Bellson. As a high school student, Bellson developed the idea to incorporate two bass drums into his drum set, popularizing the setup among jazz artists in the 1940s and 1950s. Bellson originally used two tuned bass drums, but modern musicians just as frequently use one bass drum with an extension that adds a second pedal to the customary bass drum. This enables beats that were previously impossible, especially those involving sixteenth notes and fast triplets. Double bass drumming is now used not only in jazz music, but in hard rock, Latin, country and contemporary styles as well.
Musicians using double bass drumming can also perform more articulate rhythms on the bass drum, such as the rudiments and rolls that are possible on snare drum played with two hands. There are many schools of thought on the best technique for bass drum playing, but a predominant idea exists, known as the heel-up technique. This method uses the force derived from the thigh to strike the pedal with the ball of the feet. There are also more difficult methods that can be learned, including the heel-toe technique which allows for very rapid rolls once mastered.
The first issue you will need to conquer when you begin to think about learning double bass drumming will be to make some equipment choices. You will have to decide first whether you will use two bass drums, or a single bass drum and two pedals using the extension mechanism we discussed earlier. There are two advantages to using separate bass drums. The first is that including two drums can have a decided visual impact to the audience, making the set look professional and impressive. Of course this matters very little if the drummer does not use them skillfully! The other advantage is that drums of two different sizes could be used, or drums of the same size tuned to different pitches to add tonal combination possibilities to the drum set.
There are also drawbacks to the two bass drum setup. There will certainly be space considerations at some point when using this type of drum kit on stage, and if transporting frequently is an issue, it is one extra drum to haul from place to place. You should also consider the other components that are a part of your standard drum kit and their positioning when the second bass drum is included. Will this make it difficult to easily reach the other components, or be uncomfortable while you are trying to play? The development of highly-adjustable boom cymbal stands and rotating leg hi-hat stands has made these systems more feasible. It all boils down to a matter of personal preference for sound and convenience.
You can find methods that have both rhythmic exercises and physical exercises. As it can be a rather physical event, stretching and warming-up of your feet and legs is recommended in some methods, as well as some exercises you can use to build stamina and strength in your leg muscles. Rhythmic exercises are used in much the same way as exercises for the hands, to develop right and left foot independence and coordination. Learning to be really effective with both feet as a double bass drum player takes consistent practice of the right technique to reach mastery. Some drummers have reported that working on double bass techniques also produces noticeable benefits in their single bass drum technique. There are some excellent methods in common use among today’s students of drumming that will have you playing double bass drum like a pro. One of the most widely recommended methods for learning bass drum technique is Jared Falk’s Bass Drum Secrets DVD. His training system includes a DVD and workbook that have earned raves in the drumming community.
If you are curious about learning double bass drum technique, do not let yourself be too intimidated to try it out. Even if you are learning to play drum set for the first time, it is possible for you to pick up the skills needed for the double bass drum in minutes. Give it a shot
and you may impress your friends before you know it.