Pro Insight: Terry Bozzio Master Class

I wondered if Bozzio approached double bass playing with this footing method but instead he approaches it like some other drummers who came originally from a jazz background, such as Gregg Bissonette.

“Normally, I lead with my right. If it’s a consistent pattern like dugga-dugga-dugga-dugga I lead with my left, because I’m used to playing with my left foot on the hi-hat on the beat and just adding the right foot in between. When I was playing jazz, coming kind of from Tony Williams, it was very natural for me to do that (LRLR) on a consistent pattern and leading with my right if it’s a broken-up fill type pattern.”

Terry Bozzio

“I think depending on how deep you want to get into this, finding a way that works for you and being consistent with it is probably the best way to accomplish something you can use in a practical sense. On the other hand, when I warm up I always try to practice the opposite way so it works my mind and kind of gets me used to leading with my opposite foot while doing the same type of figures. But I hardly ever use them that way. I don’t have the confidence to use them in the moment, but if I keep practicing them, someday that will internalize and come out in my playing.

“There are a couple of aspects to this. One is, if you’re playing double bass on a single pedal on a single bass drum it doesn’t really matter. The sound is going to be the same so whatever’s comfortable and the strongest, do it that way. If you get into two tuned bass drums that have a distinctly different melodic pitch, then you’re going to sometimes want to lead with your left foot because that’s the melody or the sound that you want. Right/left on my kit is going to go down/up in pitch and left right would be the opposite, and there’ll be times where I’ll want to end a fill and go hand/hand and then left/right with my feet so it ends on a lower note. So you kind of need to practice both ways. You know, in all honesty I don’t lead that much with my left foot for fills.”

DRUM!: So do you mainly play heel up or heel down?

“It depends. Fast double bass things going between hands and feet I play heel up. A consistent double bass pattern leading with my left foot like eighths or a double bass shuffle I play heel up and pretty much everything else I play heel down, mainly for balance purposes. If you’re playing an ostinato it’s really good to have your heels planted so that when you rip around the toms you don’t lose your balance and screw it up. Most of my time-keeping screw-ups that are prevalent in everything I’ve recorded, ever, have to do with those kinds of balance issues. I think if I sit down and really concentrate on a 3-piece kit I could probably lay down a pretty good pocket.

“I do a tribute to ’Spanish Key’ by Miles Davis off the Bitches Brew album and its got my right foot on a D bass drum way off in right field and my left foot is on a hi-hat and I’m playing a samba rhythm. If I’m leaning too far right or too far left and playing melodically on the low or high toms I can screw up and pull the time – and it bugs the hell out of me. But I’m trying to do something that isn’t normally done. My right foot would be heel down and my left foot is bouncing up and down on the hi-hat heel up.”

DRUM!: How’s your pedal tension set?

“Loose. I have DW 9000 and it’s pretty much just at the point where if it was any looser the movement of the spring back and forth would have slop rather than just being at the point where it will stop the beater in position.

DRUM!: Beater angle?

“The angle is about 45 degrees, or cheating a little bit toward the bass drum. If it’s a little bit closer you can get a little bit faster that way.”

DRUM!: How do you practice?

“I’ll be repeating this until the day I die: When you practice you should try practicing something you don’t know how to do. Some people do things they know how to do and they call that practicing and they wonder why they never get anywhere. I think it’s important to stretch your mind and not just your muscles. When I’m warming up I try to practice things I don’t know how to do that stretch my mind and coordination as well as my body. So just don’t do paradiddles and then move to something else because you know paradiddles. Your mind probably went to sleep while your muscles were getting warmed up.

“When you practice anything new you can’t expect for it to be easy or simple or for you to get it right away. You have to take your time, put your ego on the shelf, and start like an absolute beginner because you should be working on something you really don’t know how to do and that’s the only way to do that. Some things are easier because of the work we’ve done in the past, but most new things are just like starting over. You can remember how difficult it was to do a double-stroke roll or a paradiddle or hold your sticks right or coordinate your first complicated beat. Those things were difficult and you didn’t get it right away. Why should it be any different? [laughs] Well, for me, almost 60 years old, if I’m trying to do something I don’t know how to do? You got to get in the habit of going through a little bit of pain. Trust me, it’s like exercising: You don’t like it; you don’t want to do it; but if you do it you’ll feel better. And you’ve kind of got to go through a little bit of pain and effort and self-pity [laughs] to get through the part that hurts to get to the part that feels really good. And that’s growth, you know?

For more information on these techniques and ideas, Terry Bozzio: Melodic Drumming And The Ostinato, Vols. 1, 2, 3, have been rereleased on a single DVD that’s available at

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