The bass drum pedal (often referred to as the kick drum pedal) is the mechanical device that connects your foot to one of the most exhilarating drums to play - the bass drum! Nothing beats the feeling of digging the bass drum beater into the bass drum head, and creating that punchy, unmistakeable, deeply satisfying sound!
Of course, aside from its power and sheer size on the drum scale, it's important to note that the bass drum is also an incredibly dynamic and musically versatile drum, and at Drum Ambition, you'll learn how to let loose on this monster, but also tame the beast when needed.
The bass drum pedal has undergone many design changes over the decades, but the essential function has remained the same. Modern engineering and production has made it more efficient, and nowadays, if you have a realistic budget to work with, it's hard to buy a bad pedal. The manufacturers will boast about speed, power, control and visual aesthetics, but it's important to remember that all of this is lost without learning the essential technique of controlling your bass drum pedal. We cover this point in this video, available to Drum Ambition subscribers. Before we dive in, don't forget there is a useful jargon buster for any terms that may be new to you.
1 - Bass drum pedals are available in both single and double models. So what's the difference?
Quite simply, a single bass drum pedal is, as the name would suggest, a single foot pedal unit with a single beater. A double pedal is a fantastic feat of engineering, that allows you to play two foot pedals on one bass drum; thus alleviating the need for a second bass drum. In this case the pedals are linked with a connecting bar, and both the right and left foot can play the pedals. Why would you want a double pedal? Well, if you are a fan of heavier music (metal, hard rock, thrash, hardcore) you may have noticed the pounding bass beats that are played in often lightning fast succession. To do this, you need either two bass drums, or a double pedal. Since we are no longer in the 1980's and 1990's (light hearted joke of course), the latter is preferable, and definitely more cost and space effective. If you aspire to learn double pedal, it is critical to understand that being proficient on the single pedal is a vital building block.
Above. A double bass drum pedal being used in one of our videos. You can clearly see the two beaters on one unit, with a second bass pedal to the left of the screen. They are linked by a connecting bar.
2 - Bass drum pedals have beaters. Well actually, they need them!
As you can see in the image above, bass drum pedals have beaters. In fact, without them, you can't play the drum at all. The long, thin, vertical metal section is known as the beater shaft, and atop this sits the beater head. Beater heads can be round, or, as in the example above, slightly squared. They can also have a felt side, and/or a plastic side. Which side you choose depends on the sound and tone you are trying to achieve. Felt beaters have long been considered the industry standard, but plastic beaters can give some extra "attack" for heavier music. You can see from the image that in this video, we have elected to use the felt side of the beater. A quick turn of the beater shaft however, and we have the option of the black plastic surface.
3 - The drive system can vary.
In the image above directly in front of our Presenter's right foot, you will see a chain link connecting the foot pedal to the cam system that drives the beater shaft. This is known as a chain drive pedal. In fact, if you zoom in and look really closely, you can see that it is actually two chains, parallel to each other, and connected. This is known more specifically as a twin chain system. So where are we going with this? Well, drives can be single chain, double chain, strap (also known as belt) and direct. A direct drive replaces the chain with a cleverly engineered system working with metal connectors. (Just search for direct drive bass drum pedals on Google, and you'll see the difference). These drive systems can give you a different feel and response, but having worked in music retail and tried just about every pedal on the market, I have found that the differences are marginal at best, and not something that should concern a beginner drummer.
4 - The pedal attaches to the bass drum hoop.
"Thanks Captain Obvious", I hear you say. Well, this author has often been told by students that their pedal keeps separating from the drum. On further investigation, it is often discovered the pedal has not been fastened to the bass drum hoop (or bass drum post, in the case of electric drums) using the attached clamp. If you are using an acoustic drum set, be sure that you are attaching the bass drum pedal to the hoop. Most bass drum hoops have a plastic or rubber attachment that the pedal will grip on to. This will provide extra stability, and avoid direct metal to wood contact that could damage your hoop.
5 - The factory setting is often the best.
For beginner drummers, the factory setting is always the best for bass drum pedals. This means that they are ready to go out-of-the-box (once you have attached the beater), and there is rarely a need to adjust the spring tension or angle of the footplate. Yes we are curious, and yes we want to tinker and experiment. But be warned, it can lead to some frustration and that constant voice in your head' "Is my pedal set-up correctly?"
If you have any questions relating to this article, please feel free to email me directly - [email protected].