BY TIM KANE
One of the main problems new drummers have with playing double bass is that they see extreme metal drummers and they try to play at their speed. Speed is something that you can’t just learn. You need to practice every day and build up.
Start heel up and play with your entire leg, keeping your ankle semi-stiff and bending at the waist, practice there at a comfortable speed and develop those hip-flex muscles until you’re comfortable playing (120bpm or so) for a good 10 minutes without getting tired.
You’ve only just started, the technique you’re using right now is referred to by George Kollias as “level 2”, and this is only going to get harder.
As you progress upwards in speed it will eventually become a waste of energy to keep up the up down motion through your hips; this is where you want to try level 3.
At this speed (should be up to 180 or so bpm, semiquavers of course), you want your hips relatively relaxed, and your ankles doing all the work. It will feel very awkward at first, but you need to just practice and let it happen. Adjust the ball of your foot’s position in relation to your pedal until you find that sweet spot (again, it will just come to you), practicing at this speed and position is even more uncomfortable than level 2, but you’ll find once you’re used to it it’s actually easier for a long period of time, assuming you’re not going for full power strokes.
When you get even more intense (and you won’t, for a long while), level 3 is putting too much pressure on the center of your calf muscle; this is where level 4 comes in. the idea behind this is that you’re rotating your heel back and fourth about the ball of your foot. This sudden motion will both increase your speed as well as force yourself to use the entirety of your calves to remain steady for a long time.
–don’t try to skip levels. Make sure you’re perfectly comfortable for the longest period of time at each level before trying to move on.
-Position your drum throne further back than you might find normal; you want the front of the chair as close to your knees as possible while remaining comfortable seated, and you want your knees bent slightly forward, so that your legs are closer to straight than bent. Putting the throne up higher can also help with this.
-Adjust those pedals. The faster you get the more annoying that throw is going to be. Make the beater travel a smaller distance by putting it closer to the hinge, and loosen up those bolts so it’s easier for your calves to do the action.
-Adjust that drum head. You want it tight, very tight. Reducing the throw and tightness of your pedals just made it difficult to get the pedal back started, and the solution is making a good snare-like surface for it to bounce off.
You might be interested in the heel toe, dribble, or double swivel techniques.
The heel toe technique puts your toe at the top of your pedal and allows you to play in a 4-way motion (left heel, right heel, left toe, right toe, repeat)
The dribble technique is very fast and loud, but also very uncomfortable and difficult to sustain. If level 2 is your comfort zone, you might like this one. The technique is done by holding your feet off the pedal using your hip flexors and tapping your toes up and down like you’re dribbling a basketball. I’d recommend starting in level 2 and then lifting up to accomplish this, just like you would with a basketball.
The Double swivel technique, sometimes referred to as level 5, is just like level 4 but accomplishes a Mueller-like concept within it but hitting each side of your swivel twice (right heel leftleft, left heel leftleft, right heel rightright, left heel rightright, repeat)
Having practiced each of these, I’d recommend the double swivel, although if you’re comfortable with heel toe, it can be one of the fastest methods around, and Tim Waterson holds the world record at some 1300+ single strokes using this method. However, I wouldn’t recommend you even get close to any of these until level 4 is doable, and by then you probably won’t even be interested in getting faster, after all many drummers have been clocked at over 180bpm semiquavers with a single foot using this technique.