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Bass Drum Execrices

   I've been getting alot of mail from folks who want to know how to improve their bass drum skills. So this month we're going to take a break from the hands to work on the feet.

The Concept

   Many drummers ignore the feet when practicing. After all, with all the emphasis on Rudiments and the hands, it's no surprise. Most of the exercises we've done up to now have focused on the hands. That's good, because your hands are very important!

   But, drummers often don't realize how important the feet are until they get into a gig situation and find their feet haven't kept up with their hands in skills development. That's generally easy to fix, if we begin paying attention to the feet and spend some time with them.

   Getting started, of course, is often the hardest part, so this lesson will give you some starting points in feet development.


   Before we get into the first printed exercise, let's cover some basics. First, you can do the same Rudiment exercises with your feet that you do with your hands. Go to the Rudiments page to review these, print them out, and start using them on your feet.

   "But wait," you say. "I don't have a double bass pedal. How can I do these with my feet?" Easy: use your hi-hat! Really. This will help you develop those important feet skills, and give you some ideas for different rhythmic variations. It will also give you a head-start when you do get that double pedal!

    So, as we move on to the first printed exercise this month, I'm going to assume that you've printed out the Rudiments page and have begun a program of foot development using these. Right? Good assumption?


   Now, on the following exercises, some will be written out for a single pedal, and some for a double pedal. If you have a single pedal, use the hi-hat for the double exercises. If you have a double pedal, do the exercises as written. If the exercise is too hard for your single foot, tough! Don't cheat and use the other pedal: use the exercises to develop your single foot work. Then, do the exercise again, using both feet.

    Bass Drum #1

   The first exercise is a simple Paradiddle done betwen the feet and hands. Now, I haven't written this out, but it's important to remember that on this exercise, use one hand only! Don't play R, F, R, L, F, R, F, F. Play it R, F, R, R, F, R, F, F. You'll see why in a minute.

Bass Drum Exercise #1

   Remember how we do these? Slow-fast-slow, three reps? Get used to it; we'll always do it that way!

   Now you've played this exercise using your right hand and right foot. Here are the variations; do them all:

  1. Right Hand, Right Foot.
  2. Right Hand, Left Foot.
  3. Left Hand, Left Foot.
  4. Left Hand, Right Foot.

   OK? Note that there are two patterns per measure. You can now mix them up by playing each of the above variations for one pattern, like this: RH, LF, RH, RH, RF, LH, RF, RF. There are many variations of this little discipline. Use your noggin' and figure them out for yourself! (Write them down so you can do them next time.)

   You can make things even more interesting by alternating measures of Exercise #1 between the hands and feet with measures using only the hands or feet. Like this: RH, LF, RH, RH; LF, RF, LF, LF; LH, RH, LH, LH; LH, LF, LH, LH. Et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum.

    Bass Drum #2

   Let's divide the time up a bit. This exercise is intended to help you develop those quick double-hits. Remember, use only one foot!

Bass Drum Exercise #2

   We can also vary this one in the same way we varied the first one: RF, RH, RF; or LH, RF, LH; RH, LF, LH; use your imagination and come up with your own.

   Have you bought your Staff Paper Notebook yet? Why not? You want to be a musician, right?

    Bass Drum #3

   We'll stick with just the feet on this one. You should start this as an exercise for single feet, then do it as a double-foot exercise, alternating the feet evenly. Use your hi-hat if you have a single pedal. (Notice, all you double-bass players out there, that if you vary between the two feet each measure starts with a different foot.)

Bass Drum Exercise #3

    Bass Drum #4

   This exercise continues the double-hit work above, but adds the snare. Notice the last grouping is six sixteenth-note bass drum hits. Seems like alot?

Bass Drum Exercise #4

   You should use this exercise as a template. There are many variations:

  1. RH, RF, RF, RH, RF, RF, RH, RF, RF, RF, RF, RF, RF.
  2. LH, RF, RF, LH, RF, RF, LH, RF, RF, RF, RF, RF, RF.
  3. RH, LF, LF, RH, LF, LF, RH, LF, LF, LF, LF, LF, LF.
  4. LH, LF, LF, LH, LF, LF, LH, LF, LF, LF, LF, LF, LF.

    You can slip into a double-bass pattern for the last four sixteenth notes, too: RH, RF, RF, RH, RF, RF, RH, RF, RF, LF, RF, LF, RF. Using the above variations as a guideline, how many different exercises can you come up with using double-bass hits on the last four sixteenth notes?

   As an added variation, you should put three and four bass drum hits between the snare notes:

  1. RH, RF, RF, RF, RH, RF, RF, RF, RH, RF, RF, RF, RF, RF, RF, RF.
  2. Et cetera. Ad infinitum.

   Fill your Music Staff Notebook up with these, and practice them everyday.

    Bass Drum #5

   This one might seem like the previous one, but the bass drum groupings are triplets, so the feel is going to be very different.

Bass Drum Exercise #5

   Notice the last grouping is flipped; it begins with the bass drum pattern and ends with the snare. It's an easy thing to make variations on this exercise by adding another "flipped" pattern or two and changing the order. Of course, we also have our standard variation technique of changing the sticking and footing.

   Using your Staff Note Book, write out your own variations. If you vary the sticking and footing like we did above, and the placement and configuration (flipped or not flipped) of the patterns, how many different exercises can you come up with?

   A lot.

   And if you alternate single hits with one foot for a pattern with double hits with both feet for the next pattern, you get even more variations! I could write all these out for you, but I think it's time you started doing that for yourself.

    Bass Drum #6

    This one moves on by combining single bass drum hits with double bass work. Folks with a single pedal should use their hi-hat.

   You can do many different sticking and footing variations of this exercise. Using previous exercises as a guide, can you come up with your own variations?

Bass Drum Exercise #6

    Bass Drum #7

   This exercise combines eighth-note groupings with triplet groupings.

Bass Drum Exercise #7

   Once again, you should vary the patterns as we did above. Here are a couple I did to get you started:

  1. RH, RH, RF, RF, RH, RH, RH, RF, RF, RH, RH, RF, RF, RF.
  2. LH, RH, LF, LF, RH, LH, LH, RF, RF, LH, RH, LF, RF, RF.

   You can drive yourself crazy with the number of variations you can come up with....

    Bass Drum #8

   This one's tricky. The snare drum is on the beat; the bass drum hits are before the beat, like the grace notes of a flam. So, the bass drum doubles will sound like grace notes, in a sense, and the whole thing will sound like a mighty flam of doom!

   Add a ride ostinato on top of this and you have a power bass drum rhythm that will get people's attention!

   You should practice this both with a single foot (vary the feet), and with two feet (vary which foot starts).

Bass Drum Exercise #8

    Bass Drum #9

   Here's a great exercise for developing bass drum work. This is the drum part (without ride ostinato) from Led Zepellin's "Immigrant Song." You should all know this!

   The first pattern is just using the feet. The second pattern uses a snare grace note in place of a bass drum note. When I play this song, I use the first pattern for the chorus, the instrumental section, and the end; I use the second pattern (a bit quieter) for the verses. Breaking it up like this helps make it more interesting.

Bass Drum  Exercise #9a

Bass Drum  Exercise #9b


   If you're astute ("How dare you call me A Stute!") you'll notice three things:

  1. How each exercise builds on the previous exercise.
  2. How I forced you to come up with your own variations as this lesson progressed.
  3. How I am requiring you - if you want to get good - to go out, get some staff paper, and develop your own ideas.

   Why am I doing this? To get you to start thinking about the music, and how you can create your own rhythmic patterns based on some simple foundations. A good musician will not only know how to play his or her instrument, he or she will be able to read and write music.

   Think about it.

   As always, let me know how you've done!

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