Fig. 7. Fiber strap.
Most pedals use a chain, belt, or direct drive (solid piece) to attach the footboard to the cam and beater assembly. Leather belts – once the most common linkage – had an unfortunate tendency to wear and break and in recent years were replaced by reinforced fiber straps (Fig. 7).
Fig. 8. Chain drive.
Chain-driven pedals use bicycle chain (usually one or two side-by-side chains) and became popular a couple of decades ago because of their macho look and durability (Fig. 8). However, they can also get dirty, are a pain to clean (if you’re that type), and make a little bit of noise. Chains also tend to have a slightly heavier feel than a belt-driven pedal.
Some companies offer the opportunity to switch from one type of drive to the other on the same pedal, so you can choose the one you prefer. I haven’t noticed much difference between them, but then I don’t play at death metal speeds. Which is faster? Who knows? But I did hear Mike Mangini say several years ago that he thought straps were a tad quicker than chains. Who am I to argue?
Direct drive pedals feature a solid linkage between the footboard and beater assembly (Fig. 9), which obviates the need for a cam. These pedals eliminate the slight lag that can occur with a chain- or strap-driven pedal. While most direct drive pedals offer a variety of ways to set action and feel, the range of adjustability is generally narrower than what you can find on other types of pedals.
Fig. 9. Direct drive.
Many metal drummers prefer direct drive pedals because they feel quicker and more responsive. When you pull back the beater on a direct drive pedal and let go, the beater shaft will waggle back and forth more than a similarly tensioned chain or belt drive pedal would, since the footboard’s weight helps maintain the beater’s momentum.
The venerable Ludwig Speed King can even be considered a direct drive pedal since it uses a metal bar to connect the footboard to the beater assembly. Axis, Gibraltar, Pearl, Trick, and Yamaha also offer high-tech direct-drive pedals. Gibraltar’s Catapult Linear Motion pedal is truly unique, with a design that not only forgoes a conventional cam, but lacks a frame altogether.
The beater’s angle and distance from the head was traditionally set by positioning a small screw in one of several holes on the right side of the pedal. Many of today’s pedals now feature a rocker hub with infinitely variable positions.
No matter which method a pedal employs, the fact remains that the closer the beater is placed to the head, the quicker it can reach it and vice-versa. It might seem sensible to place the beater as close to the head as possible to achieve greatest speed, but there is a trade-off: less volume and power from each stroke. So drummers who play quiet acoustic music, jazz, or restaurant gigs may want the beater close to the head at roughly a 60-degree angle, while those playing primarily rock and pop might choose something closer to a 45-degree angle for more volume.
If you position the beater too far back, it can hit your shins as it rebounds or inconveniently get caught in your pant leg. Many speed metal drummers choose a close setting for speed and trigger an aggressive-sounding bass drum sample. They also often wear shorts when playing.
Many pedals offer the ability to set the footboard angle independent of the beater angle. Drummers who play with a heel-down technique will often prefer a lower footboard position since it is less tiring on their shin muscles. Wild, leg-stomping drummers often prefer a higher footboard position.
Fig. 10. Pedal spring.
What goes down must come up on a bass pedal, which requires some form of resistance to pull the beater back after striking the batter head. In most cases, this is accomplished using a spring (Fig. 10), although there are now some unique spring-less pedals on the market.
Most pedals use an extension spring that sits just outside the frame uprights and expands (creating tension) as you press down on the footboard. After striking the head, the footboard is released and the spring returns the beater to the original position. If standard springs don’t get tight enough for you, some companies offer heavy-duty springs for quicker response and heavier feel.
Some pedals feature a compression spring that is squeezed rather than expanded, which pushes back on the footboard to provide rebound. The Premier 252, Ludwig’s Speed King, and Trick’s Pro1-V all employ variations of compression springs.
PDP’s sleek-looking B.O.A. pedal offers yet another variation. Created by drum R&D guru Bob Gatzen, the B.O.A doesn’t use a spring at all. Instead, the Flex-tech footboard and coupling point at the heel plate flexes to operate as the spring.
Drumnetics offers the most unique spring-less pedal by using magnetic repulsion to push the footboard back to its original position after playing a stroke. You can adjust the action by moving the magnet cartridges under the footboard forward or backward. That’s one way to eliminate a squeaky spring.