This is how the first drumset players played, and it is still the method of choice amongst certain drummers...especially drummers who play older styles of music. I find that this method has both advantages and disadvantages. Let's talk specifics. One advantage of "heel down" is that it allows a drummer to relax the leg and foot muscles between strokes. Another advantage of this method is that it tends to encourage the beater to rebound off of the drumhead for a full, low-pitched sound. The primary disadvantage of "heel down" is that it presents a challenge for drummers who need to play with maximum volume. Despite the online debates about this last point, it is actually a concrete fact. The physics equation for FORCE is MASS x ACCELERATION. Playing "heel down" prevents us from using the MASS of our full leg for each stroke, so the FORCE we can generate is severely limited. A full analysis of "heel down," can be found on my DVD.
This is the bass drum technique that hard-hitting rock drummers typically discover on their own as they attempt to play as loudly as possible. Playing "heel up" means that the entire leg can get behind each stroke to generate power. That's the main advantage to this bass drum method. Unfortunately, the power created by playing "heel up" comes at a price. Keeping the heel suspended in the air requires that the calf muscles be in a constant state of tension. When playing a long set of music, this can take a heavy toll. Furthermore, with the heel off the ground, the weight of the leg tends to press the bass drum beater firmly into the drumhead. We often call this "burying the beater." It chokes the vibrations of the drum and severely limits the spectrum of sounds that can be achieved. It can also create unwanted buzzes and extra hits against the drumhead. A thorough analysis of "heel up" and a discussion of the problems associated with "burying the beater" are presented on my DVD.
Unburying The Beater
After a decade of frustration with "heel down" and "heel up," I concluded that those methods aren't for me. As discussed in the other 2 columns, both "heel down" and "heel up" have some significant drawbacks. If only there were a way to retain their strengths while eliminating their weaknesses. In other words, what if it were possible to get the relaxation and the full, low-pitched sound of "heel down"...combined with the power of "heel up"? As it turns out, this incredible combination is possible. In fact, I have been using it and teaching it since 1999. I jokingly call it "Unburying The Beater" because it offers contemporary drummers the raw might that they seek from "heel up" without the troublesome side effects of "burying the beater." If you already know my "Unburying The Beater" techniques, then browse around this website for additional details and assistance. If my concepts are new to you, then you can enjoy a 2 hour and 16 minute class on them by watching my DVD.
But what about Jeff Porcaro…or John “JR” Robinson…or…?
GOOD TO KNOW: John Bonham's drum tech has stated that the Led Zeppelin drummer did NOT press the bass drum beater against the drumhead.
GOOD TO KNOW: A drummer who took bass drum technique lessons with Matt was voted the world's #1 rock drummer in a Modern Drummer Readers Poll.
GOOD TO KNOW: Matt's DVD was given a tremendously thorough (and positive) review on TheParadiddler.com, one of the Internet's best drumming blogs.
GOOD TO KNOW: Matt developed the bass drum concepts in his DVD by working for many years as a leading NY drum instructor.
GOOD TO KNOW: Matt's bass drum techniques work on any pedal, but the Pearl double Powershifter Eliminator is the one he likes best these days.
GOOD TO KNOW: Matt uses a Sonor drumset with a 22" inch bass drum and an 18" inch bass drum, getting excellent results with both.
GOOD TO KNOW: Matt is proud to be an official Vic Firth drumsticks endorser.