Jason Bittner Double Bass Seminar

Double-bass technique requires a great deal of stamina, power, and dexterity, and the following exercises will demonstrate how you can develop these skills for your own double-kick playing. We’ll start with basic endurance exercises and gradually increase into more complex patterns. Please remember the two most important things when doing these exercises — start off slowly and use a metronome.

Basic Sixteenth-Note Patterns

When I first started playing two bass drums, I was initially inspired by guys like Neil Peart and Ginger Baker, who were known for having two kicks but didn’t necessarily play them in a constant sixteenth-note rolling pattern. Later on, I became immersed in Metallica, Anthrax, and Slayer, and wanted to have a barrage of constant kick drums at my disposal. Mind you — this was the early ’80s and I was just coming out of my John Bonham, Clive Burr, and Nicko McBrain phase. My right foot was pretty solid, so my main challenge was to develop my left, which was far from solid. The following exercises got me started.

Ex. 1. Let’s start with a straight sixteenth-note double kick pattern without integrating your hands, just to get the feel of using both feet. We will play this two ways: RLRL RLRL RLRL RLRL and LRLR LRLR LRLR.

Ex. 2. Now we’ll incorporate basic hand patterns. Start with a RLRL pattern on kicks, the snare on 2 and 4, and the ride (or closed hat) on 1 &2 &3 &4 &. Play the bass drum pattern using right- and left-foot lead. Left-foot lead might be a little awkward at first — well, at least it was for me (and still is). If you take these patterns and practice them over and over for extended time periods with a metronome, your endurance and stamina will improve greatly.

Exs. 3—13. After you become comfortable with Exs. 1 and 2, we’ll add another level of difficulty with 11 other ride patterns, ranging from straight quarter-notes to straight sixteenth-notes. Once you are able to play these comfortably and want to further challenge yourself, try Exs. 3—13 with these footings:


Basic Triplet Patterns

Now let’s look at eighth- and sixteenth-note triplet patterns. The main thing to point out here is to clearly separate the triplet pattern (1-2-3, 2-2-3, or trip-a-let, trip-a-let) from the previous straight sixteenth-note patterns (1 e & ah, 2 e & ah)

Ex. 14. Play the snare on the 2 and 4, ride on the 1, 2, 3, 4.

Ex. 15. Move the snare to 1 and 3.

Ex. 16. Move snare to 3 only.

Ex. 17. Play the straight triplet ride pattern over the hand/foot patterns of Exs. 14—16.


Sixteenth-Note Triplets

Ex. 18. Here we have an eighth-note ride pattern, 2 and 4 on the snare, and sixteenth-note triplets with the feet.

Ex. 19. Play eighth-note triplets with the hands, and sixteenth-note triplets with the feet.

Sixteenth-Note Patterns

Now that you’ve mastered continuous sixteenth-note patterns, let’s start breaking them up. We’ll approach these in three different ways: right-foot lead playing a constant eighth-note pattern while the left foot fills in the appropriate e or & ah; left foot lead filling in e’s and & ah’s with the right foot, and alternating footing.

Ex. 20. Here’s the constant 1 & ah pattern (right-foot lead).

Ex. 21. The same pattern with a left-foot lead.

Ex. 22. Now let’s try alternating footing: RLR LRL RLR LRL.

Ex. 23. This is the constant 1 e & pattern with a right-foot lead.

Ex. 24. Here’s the same pattern as Ex. 23 with a left-foot lead.

Ex. 25. Now let’s try alternating footing.

Ex. 26. This is an exercise that Steve Smith showed me, which can help you get the feel of alternate footing with the e & groove.

Ex. 27. If you want to challenge yourself further, try playing your feet on the e & pattern, while the right hand plays the & ah pattern, with the snare on 2 and 4.

Ex. 28. Another tricky one where the feet play & ah’s, as the right hand plays e &’s and the snare plays the &’s.

Triplet Shuffles

Since we have the full triplet down, let’s take out a few notes and work with a double bass shuffle beat. The main thing to remember here is to keep the triplet feel. Think 1-2-3, 2-2-3 just like we did for the initial triplet patterns, except this time don’t play the 2’s.

Ex. 29. Here’s the basic pattern just to get the feel of the kicks.

Ex. 30. Now ride on quarter-notes with the snare on 2 and 4.

Ex. 31. Here the ride matches the kick pattern.

Ex. 32. This is essentially the same as Ex. 30, except that the shuffle is played RR LL RR LL.

Sixteenth-Note Combination Patterns

Exs. 33—36. These are combination patterns that are meant to be played four different ways: right-foot lead and fill & ah’s and e &’s with left foot; left-foot lead and fill with right foot; RLR LRL RLR LRL; and LRL RLR LRL RLR. We will use 2 and 4 on the snare, and eighths on the ride, but feel free to experiment with the hand patterns. Listen to guys like Raymond Herrera from Fear Factory and Matt McDonough from Mudvayne to hear great examples of these types of combination patterns.

Adding Thirty-Second Notes

Exs. 37—40. Play these as written.


Mirrored Triplet Patterns

Let’s use the shuffle again for the following “mirrored” patterns.

Ex. 41. A four-bar phrase that is essentially two two-bar phrases put together. Notice that the initial pattern starts over at the third bar, only with the opposite foot.

Ex. 42. Here is a two-bar pattern that reverses at the second bar — think Vinnie Paul on Pantera’s song “Psycho Holiday.”

Ex. 43. Now we have a two-handed ride pattern placed over the constant triplet feel. If you don’t have two rides, just use your hi-hat.

Ex. 44. Finally, let’s go back to shuffle in Ex. 31 and throw in some ghost strokes on the snare drum to spice things up a bit.

Advanced Ideas

“Shifting gears” is a term I use for having the ability to maneuver between eighths, sixteenths, thirty-seconds, and triplets with ease and comfort. Listen to Mike Portnoy, who has the ability to do this at varying tempos with the utmost of ease.

Ex. 45. Thirty-seconds, eighths, and sixteenths.

Ex. 46. Sixteenth-note triplets and sixteenths.

Ex. 47. Eighth- and sixteenth-note triplets.

Exs. 48—49. Nonstop thirty-seconds and sixteenths.

To challenge yourself even more, go back and play the last four examples while substituting double-strokes for any alternating sixteenth-note patterns.

Well, that finally concludes our double kick drum tutorial. A few things to keep in mind — most of these exercises were written using a basic straight eighth ride and 2 and 4 on the snare. I could have written other hand patterns out as well, but we simply don’t have enough space. It’s up to you to try different snare/ride combinations and come up with your own interesting beats. Double bass is something that takes practice and patience, so start out slowly and make every note count.