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Practice pads are an important tool in any drummer’s arsenal. They allow you to practice drums without making too much noise, which is great for nighttime practicing or apartment living. Companies also make practice pads for the bass drum. Bass drum practice pads are also useful as they can help prevent hearing loss that is common among musicians.
There are a lot of great bass drum practice pads on the market, meaning that you can get a pad tailored to your specific needs.
Which Bass Drum Pad is Reasonably priced?
The most reasonably priced practice pad is Evans RealFeel Folding Bass Pedal Practice Pad. Evans RealFeel pads are some of the most popular on the market today. They are durable and feel great. Their bass drum pad is also one of the most affordable.
Are There Double Bass Practice pads?
Most practice pads on the market are designed for both single and double pedals. Usually, bass drum practice pads are designed as a rectangle that is wide enough to fit two beaters when the pedal is set up and correctly aligned.
There are also slightly larger, circular pads that can more easily fit a double pedal. I would recommend using a larger bass drum pad, like the Gibraltar GBDP Bass Drum Pad, especially if you’re using non-stock or round felt beaters on your double pedal.
As you can see here you can easily set up a double pedal on this pad.
Gibraltar is a great hardware company that specializes in high-quality, affordable hardware. The GBDP, while a bit more expensive than the ReelFeel pad, is one of the most affordable pads with a larger circular design.
Practice Pad Setup:
Bass drum practice pads are relatively easy to set up. The pad is usually with the proper hardware attached. This means all you have to do is figure out where to attach the bass drum pedal, and you’ll be good to go!
Some pads are super easy to set up, like DW’s Go Anywhere 5-Piece Set Practice Pad, as all the hardware is included. This pad is great too because you can set it up like a drum set, and work on orchestration with your typical pad work.
Bass Drum Practice Pad Alternatives:
The great thing about drumming today is there are a host of products that serve the same purpose as a practice pad, but allow you to use your actual kit.
Remo SilentStroke heads are mesh drum heads designed to be put on your drumset. This mesh fiber is similar to the material used on the heads of electronic kits. These are great because they feel more like actual acoustic drumheads. You set it up on your drumset, meaning there’s no need to buy a bass drum practice pad.
Vic Firth Drum Mutes are similar in concept to the Remo SilentStroke heads. You put these on your acoustic kit to make the drums quieter. What makes the mutes different from the SilentStroke heads is that you put the mutes over your drumheads, as opposed to being actual drumheads. These are a great option as a substitute for a pad. My only criticism is the feel takes a while to get acclimated to, as they have less rebound than pads or mesh heads.
DIY Practice Pad
While bass drum practice pads are a great addition to any drummer’s practice arsenal, they are quite a deal more expensive than your run-of-the-mill practice pads. This can be a tough purchase to justify if you’re on a budget.
The good news is there are a couple of ways to Make a simple DIY bass drum practice pad. The easiest is to use a wall. Put your bass drum pedal against a flat wall, and voila! You’ve got a bass drum pad. You can also put tape or moleskin on the wall to avoid marking it up.
I’ve also used a hard cymbal case as a makeshift bass drum pad, it works in a similar way to put your bass drum pedal against the wall. This is a nice option too because you get a nice timbre and volume out of it, meaning you can work on your touch while practicing.
You can also use a suitcase to a similar effect. Suitcase bass drums are popular with certain types of music, and you can look up tutorials on how to make them on Youtube.
The main drawback with these DIY pads is that you don’t have the bass drum clamp, meaning the bass drum pedal will slide around and not feel as accurate as when it’s clamped on the bass drum. You can make your clamp though to alleviate this drawback.
Tap Your Foot!
There is also a method for practicing simple foot technique, requires no setup, and involves something that’s on your body right now, and that is tapping your foot!
As simple and silly as it sounds, this is a very powerful method to improve your bass drum technique. The reason these methods work is because you’re working on all the body mechanics of playing the pedal, just without the pedal.
I took a masterclass recently with the drummer Nate Wood. Nate is a real master of playing the bass drum, he has such a unique bass drum sound and can improvise intricate and musically interesting phrases with the bass drum, so I asked him about what he does to practice bass drum technique.
He told me about practicing away from the bass drum, which he learned from Larnell Lewis of Snarky Puppy. The philosophy of practicing this way is simple: if you can’t execute something while tapping your foot, you’re not going to be able to do it on the pedal. Nate said while he’s working on other stuff like mastering albums, he will work on different bass drum exercises by tapping his foot.
This method is great too because you can do it away from the instrument. You can practice on the bus, the subway, in an Uber, or during your lunch break. This allows you to be cognizant of the instrument and practice anywhere, allowing you to sneak in extra practice time into your day.
Many great musicians are proponents of practicing away from the instrument, including great drummers like Ari Hoenig. There have even been studies showing the benefit of mental practice. This well-known Harvard study showed that those who mentally practiced showed similar gains to those who physically practiced.
Drawbacks to practice Pads:
While practice Pads are a great tool for any drummer, they are not perfect. There are some issues with exclusively using practice pads that you need to watch out for.
The first thing to watch out for is rebound and feel. The way a practice pad responds is different from the way a drumhead responds. This is due to a variety of factors, including:
Practice pads are typically made of rubber, while drumheads are made of different types of plastic. This material affects the way the pedal bounces off the head, which makes pads feel different from an actual drum.
Because a bass drum typically has 2 heads, the tuning, and resonance of the drum affect the way the head reacts to the bass drum beater. This is because when you strike the batter head, it moves the air in the drum, which affects the feel of the drum. Bass drum practice pads are solid, so they don’t have the same kind of response
This difference of rebound and feel means that there isn’t a direct one-to-one translation of technical execution from pad to set. Things that come easy to you on the pad may not be as easy on the drumset.
Practice pads can also mess with your touch on the instrument. Practice pads are designed to be quiet, no matter how hard you hit them. This is different from an actual drum, as the force with which you hit the drum affects not only how loud the sound is, but the timbre too.
This means that if all you do is practice on a pad at full force, you might not have the dynamic range needed for a variety of playing situations. It may feel awkward to play at softer volumes on the drums if all you’re used to is the practice pad. It’s tough to accurately practice dynamics on a pedal pad.
It is also difficult to practice certain techniques like burying the beater, versus playing the bass drum open on the pad for the same reason. You’re not going to be able to hear the timbral difference of burying the beater of playing the bass drum open on a pad
These drawbacks do not mean that pad work is useless or bad. What it does mean is that it’s important to spend time on an actual drumset to understand how an acoustic bass drum reacts. For a well-rounded practice routine, pad work and kit work are supposed to complement each other, not detract from each other.
What to practice with your new Bass drum Pad
Now that you’ve got your brand new bass drum pad, You’re probably wondering what to do with it. There’s a lot of stuff you can work on with your bass drum, which comes down to two basic principles:
- The technique (how you play the bass drum)
- Exercises (things to practice to develop fluency)
There are two primary foot techniques used to play the bass drum. These are:
As the name of these techniques implies, They deal with how you hold your foot on the pedal.
To play heel-up, you bring your heel off the bass drum and play the pedal with your toes and the ball of the foot. This method is great for getting power out of the bass drum, making it popular with rock, funk, and gospel drummers. People will typically bury the beater into the bass drum head when using this method.
The heel-down technique is when you rest your entire foot on the pedal when playing. The back part of your foot never leaves the pedal, to play the bass drum you simply tap the front part of your foot. This method is great for having dynamic control over the bass drum and playing the beater off the head. This makes it a popular technique for jazz drummers.
I primarily use the heel-down technique, as it suits my musical needs better, but both techniques are effective ways to play the bass drum. I also recommend getting some fluency with both methods, as each has applications in different settings.
Techniques to get multiple Kick strokes
Once you have a basic understanding of the primary foot techniques, there are special methods to play consecutive bass drum strokes, such as doubles. The two primary methods are
- Slide Technique
These techniques, much like the Moeller technique, use an economy of motion to get multiple notes out of a single larger gesture.
Slide Technique is an extension of the heel-up technique. There are two strokes involved in executing the slide technique. The first stroke is a regular heel upstroke, followed by a stroke higher up on the pedal using just the ball of your foot. They call it the slide technique because your foot slides across the pedal when using this technique at faster tempos.
I see heel-toe as an extension of the heel down technique, but it also involves the heel up technique. Like the Slide technique, there are two primary strokes. The first stroke is lifting your leg and letting it fall on the pedal, which creates a heel strike. The second stroke is a heel upstroke that you perform while lifting your leg for the heel stroke.
For learning doubles, I recommend using whatever technique feels the most comfortable to you. I tend to use heel-toe when playing 16ths or triplets on the bass drum for extended periods.
Check out this video as an excellent primer on these four basic bass drum techniques. This will give you a better understanding of how these techniques work visually.
Now that you have a basic understanding of how to play the bass drum, the question becomes what do you play. There are a couple of good exercises to practice to build up both endurance and coordination when using the bass drum.
The first exercise I like to do is permutations of double and triple strokes in a backbeat context. Not only does this build endurance, but it also helps you become more comfortable with different parts of the beat. This exercise would look like this:
To start I would recommend practicing the doubles and triples separately. I recommend practicing each permutation for 4 bars and then switch to the next one. This is a great way to practice this exercise because it’ll force you to play some more consecutive notes in the transitions, which builds endurance.
Another favorite exercise I like to do is fill in 16th note triplets between the 8th notes of a backbeat. This is a signature of John Bonham’s playing, and you can hear it on songs like “Good Times Bad Times.”
Another great exercise to develop coordination is to play rudiments between your hands and the bass drum. A common way of doing this is substituting your right hand for the bass drum. This is great because it frees your right hand to outline time on the cymbal. Try rudiments like doubles and paradiddles while playing quarter notes in the right hand to start.
Double Pedal Exercises
One of the great things about practicing the double pedal technique is that a lot of concepts you use to work on your hands apply directly to double pedal work. You can use singles, doubles, paradiddles, or any other sticking, and split them between your feet.
When starting with double pedal, I would recommend using a simple backbeat ostinato (snare drum on 2 and 4, and quarters or eighths on the hi-hat), and go through singles, doubles, and paradiddles as 16ths. This is not only a great endurance tester but helps build coordination.
Another great endurance exercise is to play all singles between the feet, but alternate between 16th and 32nd notes. This is a real endurance tester and calf burner.
There is also a multitude of great books for the development of the bass drum technique. One of the most famous is Colin Bailey’s Bass Drum Control. This book is full of great exercises to facilitate control of the bass drum.
Another classic bass drum text is Rockin’ Bass Drum. This book is great because it shows various bass drum patterns in a rock context. It’s a great text to build up bass drum fundamentals in a groove context.
As far as double pedal books, I recommend using texts like Stick Control and just substitute your hands for your feet.
A great bass drum pad is an excellent addition to any drummer’s arsenal. It’s important to remember that a bass drum pad is a tool, much like a stick or a pedal. Like any tool, it’s all about how you use it. A pad alone is not going to make your bass drum technique better, practice is.
That being said, a bass drum pedal is an excellent practice tool. You can use it to work on different exercises, even watching TV or relaxing. So good luck finding the right pad for you, and happy shedding!
John Dalton is a Boston based drummer, composer, bandleader, and educator. He is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. He performs regularly as both a leader and a sideman. His modular ensemble “Spheres of Influence” has recently released their debut album, Indigo Skyline. You can find out more about him here : https://johndaltonspheresofinfluence.com