How To Develop Fast Single Stroke Footwork

This month, we concentrate on producing a swift and clean double bass single stroke roll with our feet.

The two most common foot techniques in use are heels-up and heels-down. For heels-down playing, the bottom of your foot remains resting on the footboard of the bass drum pedal and you pivot your foot from the ankle for each stroke. With the heels-up technique, you hold your heel up off the footboard (I hold mine barely a half inch up) while the upper part of your foot stays in contact as you pivot from the ankle (slightly) using the toes to produce the stroke. While many drummers favor either heels-up or heels-down, I feel it's best to learn to use both. This will allow you to easily switch between the two, which will come in handy for executing different rhythm figures, dynamic levels, tempos, and more advanced heel-toe combination techniques.

Due to the larger muscle groups involved, foot development normally takes longer than hand development, so be patient. Practice the exercises below at a slow tempo and repeat them for long periods of time before gradually increasing the tempo. This will allow you to develop the leg muscles that will eventually provide you with speed, endurance, power, and control. Check out the video.

Practice Key
1. Play each exercise heels-down and heels-up separately.
2. Reverse the written footwork by starting with the left foot.
3. After you perfect these exercises as written, play the first bar of each exercise once and repeat the second bar multiple times. This builds endurance.

For Further Study

Once you develop fast and clean single-stroke footwork using the above exercises, you'll find you can apply it to many drum set applications, from solo work to blast beat grooves, and more. For further study, I recommend my book DoubleDrum: A Double Bass Drum Text, which was written specifically to develop double bass technique, but works well for single bass and hi-hat coordination too. You can also take books written specifically for the hands (such as Stick Control by George Stone) and practice them using your feet.

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