As a self-taught drummer, I have had to figure out a lot on my own. My greatest teacher has been YouTube.
Countless awesome drummers put their time into making free educational content for any drummer who wants to get better.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much content out there about how the quality of gear really affects your kick drum speed and technique.
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Using Quality Gear Will Help Improve Your Kick Drum Speed
We’ve all heard something to the effect of, “you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on equipment to be a good musician” (which is accurate).
Even more degrading — “a REAL drummer can make anything sound good.” Sometimes we (especially beginner drummers) think that crappy equipment from a garage sale will meet all of our needs, but that’s not always true.
I began my drumming career from the humble likes of a First Act starter drum kit from Walmart as many others do. Naturally, as I got better, I got better and better gear.
However, during this progression, a specific piece of gear always seemed to be the cause of extreme frustration — the kick pedal.
Faster Kick Playing is a Result of Dedicated Practice and Great Gear
Trying to get better at one-footed double strokes became a source of constant frustration. I felt like my cheaper pedals weren’t responding to my foot motion, which led me to believe it was a fault of mine.
I found that I would go for a second foot stroke, and the chain on the pedal would slack to the side, taking all of the energy that I wanted to go into the beater.
No matter what I did to get better, I would never be able to achieve the foot speed I desired. I would get so annoyed with my kick pedal and lack of foot speed that I would give up on my practice in a fit of frustration.
Without any guidance from a drum teacher, I hopelessly searched the internet for a solution to my problem. There didn’t seem to be anyone else struggling with the same problem.
I thought the answer might be just to try out all of the kick pedals out there and see which one was the best.
Because kick pedals are expensive, it can be hard to try all the options out there. It’s worse if you don’t have a nearby drum shop with a wide variety. Let’s be honest — Guitar Center isn’t a drummer’s paradise.
My Eureka Moment
One day, I bought a new kit off of some guy on eBay. It came all DW hardware, including a DW 5000 kick pedal.
I swear the heavens opened up, and angels sang when I first played that new pedal.
I couldn’t believe how smooth the pedal felt and how much easier it was to play quicker and more consistent with my foot.
That said, running out and buying a DW 5000 foot pedal won’t necessarily improve your kick drum speed and clarity.
But, if a low-quality piece of gear is dissuading you from practicing, it’s worth shopping around for something that is built better and is more beneficial to your needs.
There are many brands of gear and many models of kick pedals. Different features and specs work for different drummers. It’s worth investing some time into finding what works best for you.
Things To Consider When Buying A Bass Drum Pedal
Here are some guidelines for what you should look for in a kick pedal according to what you want to get better at and the style of music you play.
Single vs. Double-Drive — A double-drive chain pedal will give you a much smoother feel. Playing fast doubles is a far less energy-expending experience when compared to a single drive pedal. Double-drive pedals also provide more durability under extreme use.
Direct-Drive? — These pedals feature a solid bridge between the beater and footboard potentially giving you even more response, speed, and control. This is subjective however, and many heel-up drummers say direct drive pedals are harder to play than chain or belt drive.
The Baseplate — Pedals with solid bases (like the DW models) are far better for intense playing that is driven by the kick drum, like a lot of pop music and modern worship music.
Collapsible Pedals? — A collapsible pedal (Yamaha 7210) isn’t as sturdy but may be a good fit if you’re playing laid-back music like light jazz. If space is an issue, having any hardware that collapses can be a godsend.
Footboards — Different footboards may be more beneficial for different techniques. Some pedals like the Yamaha 7210 have a very smooth footboard which will make playing with the slide technique easier than a pedal like the DW 5000 that has recessed lettering on the footboard itself.
Don’t forget about footwear — Sneakers will give a much different feel if you are practicing the slide technique when compared to playing in socks or bare feet. Some drummers only play barefooted while others even buy specifically made shoes for drumming.
The Beater — The type of beater you use will also affect the feel of your kick drum. A felt beater will have much less natural rebound from the batter head and will affect your ability to play quickly. However, you may like the sound and choose to sacrifice speed for tone.
The beautiful thing about drums is that they are entirely customizable! You can spend a lifetime trying to find your ideal sound and setup and no two drummers are identical.
I’m a firm believer that your biggest drum, and the driving source of rhythm for most songs, needs to feel the best to the drummer.
Invest some time and maybe a little bit of money into discovering what kick pedal works best for you. You will set yourself up for more productive practice and more confidence from behind the kit.
If you cannot afford a new kick pedal, work your tail off practicing with the one you got, earn some money playing a few gigs, and then invest in new gear.