The heel-toe technique is a method of playing the bass drum using a kick pedal. This technique is commonly used to create fast bass drum beats, especially when using double bass drums or double kick pedals. The technique allows you to hit the bass drum twice with a single stroke, making it easier to increase the speed of beats and produce a quicker rhythm.
The "Rocking" Technique
Another term for the heel-toe technique is "rocking," derived from the rocking movement of the foot when executing the heel-toe method. This method is commonly used on the hi-hat pedal and is considered a traditional way of playing upbeats in Afro-Cuban, Brazilian and jazz music. The heel-toe technique is also the first step in learning to "flange" the hi-hat, where you create an open hi-hat sound.
Using the Heel-Toe Method
When you play using the heel-toe method, you basically alternate between two positions: toe down, heel up; and heel up, toe down. In other words, when the ball of the foot presses the kick pedal down, the heel rises; and when the heel goes down on the pedal, the ball of the foot rises. The sound achieved should be similar to creating a double-stroke roll on the snare -- a very fast and steady rhythm.
The Heel-Toe Method in Music
Since the heel-toe method lets you create very fast bass drum beats, it is often used with the double-bass drum. Fast and heavy bass beats are often incorporated into jazz drumming but more popularly heard in rock and metal music. One of the first and most famous drummers to use the double bass was Cream's Ginger Baker. Other notable drummers who dabbled in the art of double-bass drumming include Black Sabbath's Bill Ward, Rush drummer Neil Peart and Slayer's Dave Lombardo.
Heel-Toe vs. Slide Technique
Another method of increasing bass drum speed is using the slide technique. The slide technique is achieved by hitting the middle of the pedal on the first beat with your heel up, and then sliding your foot forward to produce the second beat with the ball of your foot. Although both methods produce the same results, the heel-toe technique is more versatile, especially when working with multiple pedals. Using the heel-toe method, your left foot can quickly change between the hi-hat and the bass drum pedal by using your heel on the hi-hat and then changing to the bass on your toe -- a difficult maneuver when using the slide technique.
- "Advanced Concepts"; Kim Plainfield; 1993
- "Drum!" magazine; Double Bass Legends: A Short History; John Nyman; May 2009
- Free Drum Lessons: Heel-Toe Technique - Slide Technique
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