How to Build Drum Speed, Part 4: Bass Drum Speed

When it comes to improving your drum speed, especially bass drum speed, you’re going to have good days and bad days. Be patient as your leg muscles grow and stretch. Keep it mind that the legs and feet have more muscles and larger muscles than the hands and arms.

One thing that I always have to remind my own students is that your feet will never go as fast as your hands. It’s just how we’re built. Before you can develop bass drum speed, it’s good to work on bass drum exercises that help you develop control. A great resource for bass drum exercises is Colin Bailey’s book,
Bass Drum Control (affiliate link).

The Drumming System (affiliate link) says that one of the secrets to bass drum speed is to wear ankle weights while you practice. This well help you develop the muscles in your legs. After a practicing with them, go back and practice without the weights. You will notice results immediately. Another tip for developing bass drum speed is to try playing as loud as you can for a long period of time while wearing ankle weights.

A great exercise is to practice playing singles on your feet heel down and heel up. Playing heel down, you will feel the burn. If you find this boring, put a practice pad on the snare and play along. Years ago, my teacher Chet Doboe, the founder and musical director of the Hip Pickles Drum Band, taught me to practice the samba to develop my foot technique. The samba is great exercise because it allows you to work on controlling two notes in a row.

The Drumming System (affiliate link) recommends Hansenfutz (affiliate link) pedals for training. These are great because you practice in any chair that you are sitting in. You can even them under the desk in your office.

The Blues Shuffle for Drums

While the shuffle is mostly associated with the blues, it’s a pattern that can be played in any style of music. As a drummer, it’s important to this pattern and all of its variations. While in high school, I studied drums with Chet Doboe. He told me that ability to play a good shuffle would allow me to make more money as a professional drummer. While I can’t draw a direct correlation between my ability to play this groove and my income, I will say that it has come in handy on many occasions.

Here are the basics:

  1. The cymbal pattern is based on triplets.
  2. You play the first and last triplet of every quarter note.
    1 trip let 2 trip let 3 trip let 4 trip let 1 trip let 2 trip let 3 trip let 4 trip let
  3. As it gets quicker, you’ll eventually stop counting and feel it.

To learn more about the basics, check out this article on blues drumming.

My friend, fellow drummer and drum teacher, Chris Scherer said to me once that he felt people get thrown off when learning to play triplets. There is something about adding that third note to the rhythm that makes it a lot more difficult than counting eighth or sixteenth notes. As a drum teacher, I couldn’t agree more.

It’s important to get comfortable counting and feeling triplets.

While the groove itself might seem simple, it can be quite difficult to execute. It’s important to count out loud, go slow, and use a metronome.

According to the Drumming System (affiliate link), the following grooves are important to know:

Jump Shuffle

This is a fast pattern. It’s mostly about what is going on with the hi hat.

  1. The hi hat opens on beats 1 and 3, while closing on 2 and 4.
  2. Next, eliminate the “let” of beats 1 and 3.
  3. This essentially becomes your standard jazz cymbal pattern.
  4. Accent the snare on beats 2 and 4.
  5. The bass drum can play a variety of patterns.

Texas Shuffle

This can be challenging to play at first because both hands play at the exact same time. One is on the ride (or hi hat), the other on the snare. Then accent beats 2 and 4 on the snare. The bass drum can be on beats 1 and 3 or on every quarter note. This is a driving groove! Check out music by Stevie Ray Vaughn with Chris Layton on drums.

Kansas City Shuffle

Like the Texas variation, this is a double shuffle (both ands play the exact same time). It’s a lot faster than the Texas variation. Played on the ride, it sounds happier.

Other Variations

Learn & Master Drums (affiliate link) teaches even more grooves, such as the Flat Tire Shuffle, the Driving Shuffle, and the Charleston Shuffle.

Learn and Master Speed Metal Drumming

Speed metal is a sub genre of heavy metal music that began in the late 1970’s and carried on through the 1980’s. Bands such as Slayer, Slipknot, Lamb of God, Strapping Young Lad, and Deathklok really made a name for themselves in this style. Drummers such as Chris Adler, Dave Lombardo, Joey Jordison, Gene Hoglan are the masters of speed metal. Be sure to check out as much of their playing as you possibly can.

The Drumming System (affiliate link) suggests that this style is more geared towards intermediate and advanced drummers. I am inclined to agree.

For intermediate drummers, it’s good to master driving, powerful beats with one foot. Even if you want to use a double bass pedal to play the beats, it’s important to first develop a very fast, powerful single foot. Do the exercises slow and then speed them up.

Advanced drummers are usually crazy double bass players. You get to go nuts! The key thing to remember is that everything has to align properly. You don’t want the hi hat not aligning with the bass drums or the snare flamming with bass drums. The Drumming System (affiliate link) gives you advanced patterns include sixteenth notes and sixteenth note triplets with double bass.

It’s rare that a drummer can actually play this style with a single bass drum pedal, but it’s not impossible. The challenge is that your volume won’t equal that of two bass drums. It’s very important that you do a thorough warm up before playing speed metal or you will cramp up.

I’ve always looked at speed metal as the most physical form of contemporary drumming. If drumming were ever to be considered a sport, speed metal would be the main part of the game. Although it’s not my thing, I have a deep respect for the musicians who play this style and admire the level of speed and stamina they have developed.

My favorite speed metal group is Slipknot because they wear creepy masks when they perform.

Learn and Master Heavy Metal Drumming

Heavy metal is a style of music that began in the late 1960’s. The style originated from blues-rock and psychedelic rock. Heavy metal is known for its thick, massive sound, that includes extremely amplified distortion, long guitar solos, emphatic beats, and sheer volume. Bands such as Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Pantera, Megadeth, Iron Maiden, and Metallica are some of the more popular heavy metal bands.

The Drumming System (affiliate link) contains a variety of heavy metal exercises for all levels of playing:

Beginner Exercises

These are usually eighth note based grooves with the hi hat cymbals slightly open. Maybe you might began to add sixteenth note variations on the bass drum and the snare drum. Play them at a moderate tempo and play them HEAVY.

Intermediate Exercises

Add a partial sixteenth note triplet added to the snare or bass drum. Make sure you play with a powerful bass bass drum sound, a convincing pulse on the hi hat, and a slamming 2 and 4 on the snare drum.

Advanced Exercises

These include broken ride patterns, incorporate the toms, and add quarter note triplets.

For myself, I play along to AC/DC.  I have found Phil Rudd’s grooves to be rock solid! There is an art to keeping the groove simple and solid. In terms of drum sound, Lars Ulrich (Metallica), has an incredibly clear sound that inspired many of the drummers of my generation.

Shortly after getting my first drum set, I remember seeing the “Lars Ulrich” drum set in the music store and wanting it so badly. Seeing all of those toms and cymbals looked so cool. Nowadays, I am only concerned about having the smallest drum set possible. It’s interesting how things change.

Sorry to go off on a rant, but I encourage you to check out the Drumming System (affiliate link) and work on the heavy metal exercises. If you’re new to this style, you will find these exercises challenging. If you’re a veteran of this style, you will find these exercises refreshing.