Fig. 4. Split footboard.
Most pedals feature a split footboard design (Fig. 4) in which a longer front section and smaller heel plate are joined at a hinge. But some drummers prefer pedals that feature a single long footboard (commonly referred to as a “longboard”) hinged behind the heel (Fig. 5). Early longboard examples include Ludwig’s 1950s-era Speedmaster and Premier’s model 252. This design was more recently reintroduced in the popular Axis A series Longboard pedals and has also been adopted by Trick, Sleishman’s Twin Pedal, and Pearl’s Demon Eliminator, to name a few.
Fig. 5. Longboard.
Longboard pedals offer a lighter and more responsive action and have become popular with speed metal drummers who want the quickest pedal underfoot, as well as players who employ a heel-toe technique, which is much easier to execute on a longboard. However, drummers who want more volume and power may prefer the sturdiness of a split board design. While Axis and Trick allow you to choose between a split and long footboard, Pearl’s Demon Drive can be converted from one type to the other. Ludwig’s classic Speed King offers yet another variation on a convertible footboard, with its swiveling heel plate.
Some drummers consider the footboard’s texture to be as important as any other attribute of a pedal. If you play barefooted or in your socks, a footboard with a lot of texture (such as raised logos, large stylish holes, and texture bumps) may not feel as comfortable as a smoother one. And if you use a bass drum technique like Dave Weckl’s, where you slide your foot forward to play double and triple strokes, excessive surface texture can inhibit your ability to play well.
Fig. 6. A round cam.
On most pedals, a cam (Fig. 6) marries the beater assembly to the footboard using a linkage such as a chain or strap. The shape of the cam, along with pedal tension, has the greatest impact on a pedal’s action. A perfectly round-shaped cam yields a fairly predictable response – what you give is pretty much what you get. But like the gears on a bike, a larger round cam will turn more easily and feel lighter than a smaller one.
Another common shape is an oval or oblong cam, which results in a quicker action and louder note. While this shape may require a bit more effort to initiate motion, it actually seems to accelerate once you get it going. The differences between the two shapes can be subtle to the eye, although your feet will easily notice the differences.
The interchangeable cam design of Pearl’s Eliminator Pedal offers a clever way of achieving multiple feels on one pedal. Each cam is made of a different-colored plastic (for quick identification) and has a different shape that corresponds to a unique feel. This enables a drummer who plays a loud rock gig on one night and an acoustic gig on another to switch cams from an aggressive, accelerating cam to a large linear cam that’s easier to control at lower volumes.
Certain high-end pedals like Axis or Pearl’s Demon Eliminator feature another way to simulate a variety of feels. Instead of switching cams, they vary the point on the cam from which the beater is pulled, giving the pedal either a lighter or heavier feel. The Demon Eliminator offers two points to attach the drive rod while the Axis has a variable drive adjustment that allows for a wide range of settings.