Developing Blast Beats: Part One

drumsticks

I consider myself very lucky to have been able to study with such excellent drum instructors over the years. The late Al Germansky, who was my first teacher, provided me with a solid foundation and my second teacher, Glenn Weber, picked up where Al left off. Under both Al and Glenn’s instruction, I learned to be a versatile drummer able to play any musical style from Afro-Cuban to jazz to pop to rock to waltz to zydeco.

Today, I continue to impart this knowledge of musical styles to my own students who are often surprised to learn that drum styles they think are new are really nothing more than variations of styles from the past. A good example of this is the heavy metal blast beat. The basic blast beat pattern (using single bass) is something I learned when I first studied drums, long before the phrase “heavy metal” had anything to do with music. The basic blast beat is nothing more than a polka pattern played faster and louder!

So, this month, we examine what it takes to build the chops to play a polka … I mean, blast beat!

Practice these lessons using each of three drum keys below.

blast beat lesson

Drum Key 1:
RC = Right stick on ride cymbal
SC = Left stick on snare
BD = Right foot on bass drum

Alternate Drum Key 2:
RC = Left stick on ride cymbal
SD = Right stick on snare
BD = Right foot on bass drum

Alternate Drum Key 3:
RC = Right stick on ride cymbal
SD = Left stick on snare
BD = Left foot on bass drum )or hi-hat if you play single bass)

Alternate Drum Key 4:
RC = Left stick on ride cymbal
SD = Right stick on snare
BD = Left foot on bass drum (or hi-hat if you play single bass)

Although I repeat each exercise only once in the demo video, you should repeat each exercise at least 40 times during practice. This will allow you to build the endurance required to maintain blast beats throughout an entire song. As usual, start at the slowest recommended tempo (60 bpm) and gradually increase the metronome speed. The trick is to play the sixteenth notes cleanly and evenly between the snare, hi-hat, and bass drum. I recommend that you also practice the above exercises using the three alternate drum keys shown on the written chart. This will greatly increase your cross-body coordination.

Although most metal drummers max out the basic blast beat at a top speed of 200 bpm, there’s no reason you can’t push the limits even farther. Just be sure you’re always playing cleanly with control and without tension. Note that 200 bpm is the quarter-note metronome setting, but because the blast beat is written in sixteenth notes, you will be playing 800 strokes per minute at 200 bpm – 4 x 200 = 800. That’s pretty fast! If you can reach 250 bpm and can play the second exercise (continuous sixteenth notes) for 60 seconds, you’ll be playing 1,000 beats per minute. That's flying!

I will continue with more variations of heavy metal blast beats over the next few installments and, in the process, show you to keep up with the best of the metal maniacs!

If you need help drumming without tension, visit TensionFreeDrumming.com.

Stay loose!

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