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Heel up nitty gritty

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  • Heel up nitty gritty

    I realize this has been covered approximately 7 billion times on the internet but the specific info I’m curious about is much rarer.

    So I am very new to drumming as of a few weeks ago. Been working on heel up and am still not quite sure I have the FEEL of it right. What do I mean? I mean the specifics of what is supposed to happen on each stroke.

    Near as I can tell, heel “floats” at anything more than quarter notes at very slow tempos (like 60bpm), can rest on back of footboard between strokes slower than that. Ball of foot stays in contact ideally at all times with board, and the “effort” is through the heel itself, even if the heel itself never touches the board. In other words, tap the heel, feel it through the heel, energy transfers to ball of foot which actually ends up moving the pedal. Basically like tapping your heel in time to music. This is as opposed to feeling it through the ball of the foot, pressing with the ball of the foot. Does that make sense and do I have it right? It feels more right, more relaxed, which is what all the drummer advice says (relaxed/no tension etc.)

    The problem? When do this I often get double strokes...a regular powerful stroke followed by a much weaker accidental stroke from the rebound.

    I can prevent it by actively holding back a little, lifting my leg slightly so that even when it falls it doesnt fully fall and relax, but now that’s basically a form of tension, right? actively holding my leg up a little and lifting the weight right after the stroke to prevent that rebound stroke. Maybe that’s the norm but seems like it’d be exhausting after a short time (I havent really tried to play anything through yet...still mostly screwing around at this).

    If it matters I have a Pearl power shifter pedal, pd100 or something close to that. Also I am short and have feet to match so if I hang my feet half off the back of the board like many guys in the videos I get no stroke at all, gotta get my toes about 2/3 or all the way up the board to get anything.

    Yes I know about the other technique where heel perpetually floats and ankle does the work, seems like this is usually for faster speeds. I am nowhere near there yet.


  • #2
    When playing heel up, think about using your thigh as the motor. Your foot has to be somewhat firm so that the ball of your foot can hit and hold the beater against the head.

    If you try to think heel as the driver then the foot isn't firm enough.

    That said - playing heel up almost always means you're burying the beater. Some people can play heel up and not bury the beater but they either float (which puts a load on the thigh) or they rest heel down between slower strokes.

    In the end I think you have to still think the ball of the foot when playing heel up.

    TD-25KV, Yamaha DXR15, MG10. Senn 280HD.


    • #3
      Agree with billgtx. There is a use for that rebound sometimes too, I recommend practicing both styles and developing a one-foot roll by doing heel-toe with that nice little bounce.
      E-kit: TD50KV with KD A22, SPD-SX, BT-1, Acoustic: DW Custom, Maple Mahogany, Zildjian K Customs, Sweet and Darks, Pork Pie Thrones, Tama Speed Cobras and DW HW, Zildjian sticks. Midas 32C, MD421, EV ND46, ND96, SM57, SM81. Past kits include Roland TD9 Mesh and TD30K.


      • #4
        One more thing to think about...

        Don't think too much. Many drummers just play whichever foot technique feels most natural to them. Some play heel down because that feels natural to them. I play heel up because that feels most natural to me.

        If you're doing what feels natural and getting double bounces then you need to make an adjustment. Either the head is too tight or you're not putting enough force into the pedal to keep the beater buried and you get chatter.

        I'm guilty of over analysis instead of just playing. Cobus is a great example of just playing and letting your hands and feet do what feel natural.

        TD-25KV, Yamaha DXR15, MG10. Senn 280HD.


        • #5
          I would put some attention towards understanding your ankle function rather than focusing so much your heel (which is completely passive in this process).
          Start to think of the ankle in context of the wrist, it is the main joint that is making the "stroke" on the pedal. The thigh is not unlike the forearm in this process.

          Hardware: TD20SX --> Roland UA-25EX --> MSI GT780DX w/ i7 2670, 16-GB of Ram, Windows 7
          Software: Superior Drummer 2.0, Metal Foundry SDX, Metal Machine EZX, Toontrack Solo - - Sonor X1 Studio - -


          • #6
            Ive been intentionally NOT burying the beater even though it really doesnt matter cause its an electronic kit, but by many it’s considered bad technique (subjective/context specific, I know). Another thread I read somewhere said that thighs (the muscle that is) are big and slow compard to the smaller muscles like the calf, which some folks say youre supposed to work from. One guy described it as the same thing you do when you bounce your leg impatiently while sitting.

            Im also sitting far back on the youre supposed to be able to lift both feet and not have to rebalance yourself. And its as low as it can go, still have a greater than 90 degree angle between knee and thigh.


            • #7
              You're mixing concepts up.

              When playing heel up you can either move you're whole leg down or play from your calf and just move your foot using your heel as a hinge, but holding your leg up for a whole song much less a set will get old fast!

              But you'll figure it out.
              TD-25KV, Yamaha DXR15, MG10. Senn 280HD.


              • #8
                I cannot do much with my ankle yet when floating. More when heel down but still weak, I’d say. I know it sounds weird to overthink it to this degree but it’ll help me to know what’s “wrong” or “right”, hard to tell always from videos. I say calf vs thigh cause playing with thigh seems clumsy, right now. Im not lifting my leg per se, just slightly elevating, not letting it rest, only way so far to not bury the beater or get the bounce/rebound/double strokes when playing heel up.


                • #9
                  If you're set on not burying the beater, then I recommend getting Matt Ritter's Unburying The Beater. He also (or used to) do Skype private lessons.

                  Me? I just bury the beater like most drummers. Jeff Porcaro is not a bad example.
                  TD-25KV, Yamaha DXR15, MG10. Senn 280HD.


                  • #10
                    Interesting. I thought it was generally not advocated, bt maybe that’s only for certain styles. I am a rock guy, don’t see myself playing latin jazz or anything.


                    • #11
                      I have always said that you need to learn both techniques cause when you play a gig, the chances are that in the first set you will need to keep the volume down, and playing heel down gives you more control at lower volumes. Once the tempos and volumes increase, then its heel up. Get the power from your thigh and flex the ankle to get the more intricate timings. Generally its what works for you but as far as I am concerned, you need to learn both methods.
                      Last edited by John.b; 03-09-19, 12:00 PM.


                      • #12
                        Thanks. Not that I won't for personal satisfaction but I don't plan on probably ever playing out as a drummer. I've been playing guitar for 20+ years and have a band where that is my primary duty, drums are just something I'd had an interest in for last several years and finally pulled the trigger. But again, doesn't mean I won't work on it just 'cause.

                        Also last night I tried some beater burial...apparently I still get a bounce unless I very deliberately push down after each stroke; it's not enough to just let my full weight rest on the pedal, I have to concentrate and push (toward the toe of the board, no less) or I get that quiet second tap.


                        • #13
                          Yes. The drums are a physical instrument.
                          ​​​Foot cam of Duncan Phillips from The Newsboys.


                          TD-25KV, Yamaha DXR15, MG10. Senn 280HD.


                          • #14
                            Right, but pretty much all advice I’ve seen about drumming is about being relaxed/no tension. Seems if I’m having to press that hard I’m doing something wronfg. Anyway ai discovered the other night that I’m probably sitting to high, even with the lowest height my throne will go. Tried sitting on an ottoman which was probably TOO low but I definitely felt more “connected” and in touch with the bass pedal sitting lower, so now I’m on the hunt for a somewhat affordable throne that goes lower.


                            • #15
                              On a related note. I play at another church sometimes. The drummer there has the pedal spring tension very high. I have to work my right leg more when I play there.

                              So there are a lot of factors in play. Head tension, pedal spring tension, technique, muscle strength and endurance and as you are questioning, seat position. All of this you have to work out for you.

                              Some drummers sit very high. I think Jared Falk from Drumeo sits pretty high. Some sit pretty low.

                              There is no one rule. It's what works best for you and your body.

                              TD-25KV, Yamaha DXR15, MG10. Senn 280HD.