Friday, June 19, 2015

Insanity Single Kick Drum Program

Before I start this thing I’ve got a confession to make.  Nobody asked me to write down my insanity single kick drum program, No request was made by a publisher, nor did any of my students ask me.  This is purely my own idea.  I just think it’s really important to have a kick-ass solid bass drum technique.  And I now know how to get it.

The two secrets to the insanity program are: 1. Always practice at a tempo that is slow enough that you can master the material right away, then very gradually increase the tempo so that you are always challenged somewhat, but not too much.  2.   Switch books once you get tired with practicing one set of exercises.  

I recommend five books for developing the kick drum.  The first is Bass Drum Control by Colin Bailey.  This is the best book on kick drum technique out there.    The exercises look ridiculously easy.  They are physically challenging.    They are simple but if you do even half of them they will radically  improve your coordination. At first, I found I was exhausted just practicing more than two pages from this book.  Building up your strength, keeping solid time, and building up your speed is a gradual thing, It can’t be rushed.  

Do read the page where Colin talks about right foot technique.  He says very little but it’s worth remembering everything.  You can catch you tube videos of  Colin Bailey.  He has incredibly fast technique.  Basically, he keeps his heel down for slow strokes and rests, and lifts his heel about half an inch for fast repeating strokes. His stroke never leaves the beater on the head but always lets it rebound.  

Don’t burn out on Bass Drum Control.  Before that happens get a copy of Syncopation by Ted Reed. If  you are a drummer you should already have this book.  You should have gone through the entire book playing quarter notes on the kick and alternating RL on the snare.  Now go over the entire book again substituting the kick for the snare line, letting your hihat play the quarter notes, one hand playing the ride and the other playing back beats on the snare or rim on 2 and 4, on 3, or on 4.  Make sure to do all the eighth note sections in both  rock feel and  in shuffle feel

You may want to skip the multiple sixteenth note sections.  Most of us will not be able to play solid lines of sixteenth notes on  one kick but you may be able to play up to four to eight sixteenth notes in a row, using Bailey’s method. .  

When you get to the accented eighth, triplets, and sixteenth note section at the end of the book go back to alternating R and L on the snare but play the hihat on quarter notes and play  only the accents on the kick drum.  
But for a real flowing single kick technique I recommend some of the eighth note triplet exercises in Double Bass Drumming  by Joe Franco.  I’m sure Joe does not approve, but I practice his exercises using a single kick , with my right hand playing bass drum number two’s line on the low tom, and my left hand playing quarter notes on the hihat and the backbeat (either 2&4, 3 or 4) on the snare.  Doing it this way makes a very good double bass simulation.  Most people will not be able to tell the difference between this technique and real double bass.  Start on pg 22 and do ex.  1 to 80.  Should take a couple of weeks or a month if you are not practicing every day.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

I find that Colin Bailey has better sixteenth note exercises for the bass drum than Franco.  But I really love Franco’s eighth note triplet fill exercises, p43 ex 1 to 108.  I substitute R kick for both bass drum 1 and bass drum 2,  and if there is more than four eighth note triplets  in a row for the bass drum to play I alternate R hand on the Low tom for bass drum 2.  Doing Franco’s triplet exercises has really improved the flowing quality of my  single bass technique.  But it only works if you practice enough to play the exercises really fast.  

After you get tired of those exercises, it’s time to learn a different style of kick playing called the linear style.  Glenn W. Meyer has put out a lot of material on this style.  It is playing by alternating hands and foot, so that you produce polyrhythms.  Beyond Stick Control is a comprehensive look at different ways that you can incorporate the bass drum into rudiments.  It covers ostinato bass drum , linear style, and linear jazz style.  It goes beyond the books Stick Control  and Syncopation because it shows you how to improvise with the bass drum.  Colin Bailey also does a great job of incorporating linear style and stick rudiments, but Meyer is better at showing how to improvise and how linear style works with Latin and Jazz.  

If you only have one book, it should be Ted Reed’s book Syncopation.  To learn the linear style, start with Lesson three on page 8 and play exactly as written.  It doesn’t get any simpler or easier than this, so it is really worth mastering.   Keep practicing until you can play it very fast.  Now go to the back of the book, where he deals with accented notes.  Start with Lesson One P47, on accented eighth notes.  Here are four ways to do these exercises for the kick drum.    The last  two ways will demonstrate the linear style.  

First, play the entire snare drum pattern on the kick drum, including the accents.  One hand plays eighths on the hi-hat or ride, the other plays a back beat on the snare, it can be 2 and 4, on the three, or on every quarter.

Second method:  play alternating RL on the snare, but instead of playing the bass drum on the quarter notes, just use it to play the accents.

Third method: Play accents on the kick but only play the unaccented notes on the snare. This will sound very similar to Colin Bailey's method.

 Fourth Method:  play the accents on the kick drum but play the unaccented notes one hand playing the snare alternating with the other hand playing the cymbal, or play a pattern of your choice with the same hand playing the cymbal and the other hand playing the snare.  You will be blown away by the grooves that you can get with this method.  Build up speed slowly.  It is a real pleasure to be able to play these patterns in a relaxed manner.  This is where you can really improvise using different hand patterns, making it sound like funk, latin, or middle eastern.

Now repeat these last three methods for accented dotted eighths, accented triplets, and accented sixteenth notes.  If you play the hihat with your left hand, you can simulate a double bass sound by playing the right on the low tom.   

For a comprehensive guide to linear style for rock drumming I recommend the exercises in Jungle/drum’n’bass  by Johnny Rabb.  Keep practicing these babies until you can play them at lightning speed and the effect on kick and hand coordination will astonish you.  

That’s my insanity program.  When I get tired of practicing from one of these books, I go back to the next one.  That way I keep getting better and I never burn out.