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.

How to Build Drum Speed, Part 3: Hand Speed

According to the Drumming System (affiliate link), a drum pad is only one surface with one feel. It’s a bouncy type feel that’s great for practicing. On the other hand, a drum set has many surfaces with many types of feels. Speed will allow to move your ideas around the drums with much more ease.

  1. Your drums and cymbals should be within easy reach so that you can get to where you need to get really fast. This will constantly change with time, but you want to make as easy as possible.
  2. Practice moving around the kit as fast as you can with a single stroke roll. Do this until your arms are tired. Try to go for five minutes and you will be sweating. Try to keep an eye on where you’re going so you’re not hitting rims. Ask yourself questions, such as  “where am i hitting?” and  “where i am i going?”
  3. At midnight, when everyone is sleeping, air drum AS LOUD AS YOU CAN. This strengthens you wrists. Remember that if you hit your drums you will wake people up. This is a good warm up, too.
  4. Try to play a single stroke roll on you floor tom only holding the middle of the drum stick. Not only does it feel awkward but you have no convincing balance point. Also, practice using the lock grip in the middle of the floor tom. If you have a high pitched floor tom, detune it low (before it loses its tone) so its soggy.
  5. Finally, practice playing double stroke rolls on your floor tom.

The Drumming System (affiliate link) goes into much more depth about how to improve your speed. This is one subject that most drummers from around the world are very interested in. As with everything in drumming and in life, patience and perseverance go a long way.

How to Build Drum Speed, Part 2: Hand Speed

Here are some more tips to get your hands flying around the drums:

  1. Practice on a pillow. Dennis Chambers recommends pillows over practice pads. Dennis has said on many occasions that Buddy Rich used to this to develop wrists, fingers, and forearms. A good pillow will have very little rebound. The purpose of this is that you have to do all the work. Practice single stroke rolls at different volumes, speeds, add aceents, play rudiments, etc. Practicing doubles on a pillow will improve your ability to play doubles on a floor tom. One great thing about pillow practice is that it won’t disturb anyone.
  2. Develop Finger control. This will improve your ability to play really fast grooves. Your wrists have a limit to how fast they can move. French grip gives you the most room for the drum sticks to move around and have the most leverage. The faster you play, the lower the height of your sticks will be. Strengthening each finger individually really helps. Your pinky acts as a stabilizer for the drum stick, but can cramp up. Keep in mind that finger control can be very frustrating to develop.
    Technique Patterns
    (affiliate link) by Gary Chaffee has some great exercises. Also, don’t do finger control exercises on a pillow until you have control on a pad.
  3. Practice the Lock Grip Technique. This technique is practiced by gripping the stick the 2nd joint of the index finger. Some people call this power grip. This really strengthens the wrist and forearms. Despite the name of this technique, it’s important to stay relaxed. This technique is a real hardcore workout for the hands. Try this on a loose floor tom that feels soggy. This will also develop power. There is no rebound in this technique.
  4. Practice new rudiments. Do a certain amount per day. The most important rudiments to work on are single strokes, double strokes, paradiddles, flams, drags, and buzzes. These are sometimes referred to as “The Big 6”, because most other rudiments are built off of these.

How to Build Drum Speed, Part 1: Hand Speed

Building drum speed is one of the top priorities of most drummers in the world. Playing faster is part of the fun in developing yourself as a drummer. Check out an impressive demonstration of hand speed and some great exercises to build it in the Mike Michalkow’s Complete Drumming System (affiliate link).

Here are some tips:

  1. Even out your hands. We all have a stronger hand. Whatever you can do with your strong hand you should be able to do with your weak hand. Keep in mind that the hand that usually plays the hi-hat and ride is getting so much more practice than the hand that plays the snare. Practice open handed playing. Open handed playing usually means that the left hand plays the hi hat (for right handed players). Check out the book The Weaker Side (affiliate link) by Dom Famularo and Stephane Chamberland and The New Breed (affiliate link) by Gary Chester.
  2. Set a goal. For most hand speed goals that you set, the weaker hand is going to need to get stronger. It might be necessary to isolate the weaker hand and work on it. Increase the tempo in small increments. Keep in mind that certain techniques might take months (or years) to improve. Be patient and trust that it will get easier. If you can play 16th notes at 110 on each hand, then you can play 32nd note singles at 220 bpm. I recently set a goal of playing the Moeller technique relaxed with sixteenth notes, at 120 bpm for five minutes straight with each hand.
  3. Practice on drum pads that give very little rebound. Putty practice pads and Moongel Workout Pads (affiliate link) have become popular in the past decade. Mike claims that he put a putty practice pad on the left side of his dashboard and would tap the left stick while driving. Although this is an excellent use of time management, it does not seem to be safe. Don’t drive and drum.

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.

Professional Punk Rock Drumming

According to the Drumming System (affiliate link), punk rock began in the late 1960’s and carried on through the 1970’s. The movement was popularized by bands, such as the Descendants, the Black Flags, the Ramones, and the Sex Pistols. Drummers such as Bill Stevenson paved the way for many of today’s top punk drummers.

Contemporary bands like Green Day and Blink 182 keep punk alive today. Green Day’s drummer, Tre’ Cool and Blink 182’s drummer, Travis Barker are highly regarded in the world of drumming. Punk music has become more popular than ever. In fact, the Broadway musical, American Idiot, is an adaptation of Green Day’s album, American Idiot.

Although I’m in no way an expert on punk drumming, I have spent a good amount of time teaching private lessons to punk drummers in New York. Some argue that the style is very simple and not worthy of mentioning. In terms of complexity, most punk beats are simple. Regardless, you need to understand the feel of these beats to play them well. Like any style of music, I suggested you do a good amount of listening. The previous paragraph provides an outline for finding good discography of material to listen to.

The Drumming System (affiliate link) does a very thorough job of teaching punk beats. It teaches beginner, intermediate, and advanced beats.

  1. Beginner beats include quarter notes, eighth notes and some open hi hat.
  2. Intermediate beats include sixteenth notes, toms, and fancier open hi hat patterns.
  3. Advanced beats get faster and a little more syncopated.
  4. Punk fills can be very challenging. The fills are usually very busy and comprised of sixteenth notes, sixteenth note triplets, and open hi hat. An effective way to practice them is to do a beat for one bar and then a fill.
  5. The Drumming System (affiliate link) also has play along songs (music minus drums) for you to practice with.

One of the challenges that I have regularly encountered with teaching many aspiring punk drummers is lack of technique. I’ve witnessed many drummers WORKING TOO HARD to try to play as fast as they can. Speed is very important in punk drumming! It’s also important to prevent yourself from getting an injury. The Drumming System (affiliate link) has an incredible amount of material on developing good technique and speed.