Focus On Your Foot

Rethink Your Bass Drum & Breathe Life Into Your Groove

It’s the biggest, loudest, and most powerful drum in your kit, which makes many folks assume it’s also the least subtle. But while you can’t play ghost notes or buzz rolls (at least not terribly effectively), your bass drum does offer plenty of ways to become a more musical drummer. In this article, we hope to plant a few seeds you can use to develop a new appreciation for your kick drum’s articulacy.

While all of these ideas can be applied to original compositions, even cover band drummers can make good use of them. A few are technical and may require a bit of practice, but most are conceptual approaches that can help you sound more musical today.

Simplify

Unless you specialize in playing progressive rock opuses, most songs you know have a remarkably similar structure, which goes something like this: Intro (often based on the Chorus) – Verse – Chorus - Verse – Chorus – Bridge – Double Chorus – Outro.

To create an open feeling in the verses, try omitting as many bass drum notes as you can, leaving the snare backbeats and any bass drum notes that are essential to outline the groove. is makes the bass drum notes you do play stand out much more than they would while playing a typical part. I often do this to create contrast between the sections when the chorus of the song has the same groove as the verse.

Add Notes

Bring more excitement to a part by adding extra notes that “thicken” your bass drum pattern. Here’s a basic groove followed by two busier permutations.

Mirror Rhythm Parts

One of the first things drummers are taught to do within a rhythm section is to play rhythms similar (if not identical) to those of your bass player. is practice creates a very tight sounding band and relies on good listening skills. It’s also a great way to get through any song you may not be very familiar with.

A year or so ago, I was subbing on a corporate gig when somewhat unexpectedly someone requested the Jerry Garcia/Grateful Dead song “Sugaree.” I don’t know any of that band’s material, and told the other guys in the band. However, I had worked with the bass player for several years and knew he likes to modernize older tunes and make them a bit funkier than they originally were played. I made an educated guess based on the tempo being called off and by luck played the exact groove my friend played right from the start.

By following his gestures we made it through the tune seamlessly as though we’d played it for years. At the end of it, the singer turned and asked me again if I’d ever played it before. I told him that was the first time I’d ever even heard it!

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