The Drums – Feet Technique

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 24,936
    Expert drummer Wes Crawford demonstrates proper foot technique when playing the drum set.

    Wes Crawford

    Wes began his professional music career after graduating with a B.S. in Psychology at Virginia Tech. Soon thereafter, he began performing drumset with the extraordinary Jazz/R&B singer Jane L. Powell, a musical association that lasted eleven years and continues as a managerial relationship. The group toured throughout North America and the Caribbean performing at festivals, universities, resorts, nightclubs, and cruise ships. They opened for such acts as Ray Charles, Melba Moore, Freddie Jackson, Lou Rawls, The Crusaders, Joan Jett, Ernie Watts, and Paula Poundstone, and occasionally performed alongside artists such as Tony Bennett, O.C. Smith, and Dorothy Moore. The 1,300 colleges and universities comprising the National Association for Campus Activities voted the group Entertainer of the Year in 1990, their highest honor, and Jazz Artist of the Year for 1990-1992. During these years of touring, Wes also recorded two albums with Ms. Powell as well as for several outside artists. Wes also conducted electronic percussion seminars at VA Tech and at the Virginia Governor’s School for the Gifted. In 1992, Wes settled with his family in the Washington, DC area as an independent artist on drumset and percussion where he currently performs and records with acts such as Shahin & Sepehr (Higher Octave/Narada world music recording artists), Cocktail Nuts (aka “C-NUTS”- Jazz versions of rock classics, on Wildchild/Mapleshade Records), mrudangam virtuoso Umayalpuram K. Shivaraman (including a clinic at PASIC 2000 and a featured performance at Baltimore Drum Day 2000), Squeeze Bayou (1998 winners of the “Best Non-Louisiana-Based Cajun Band Recording” awarded by the Cajun French Music Association), and Night Life (high-energy show band). Wes has also regularly performed and/or recorded with Aisha Kahlil (of Sweet Honey in the Rock), Eva Cassidy, Catalyst Events’ “Beatswork!,” Zydeco Crayz, Mary Ann Borelli, “Oh Susannah!”, Sugar Jones, and Armadillo recording artist Daryl Davis. His other noteworthy performances and recordings include those with the David Bach Consort (2nd place winner in the 1998 BET unsigned band video contest), Hennesy Jazz Search regional winner Jerry Gordon, and performances with Milestone recording artist Ron Holloway. Wes considers education to be an important link to the future of the percussive arts and teaches drumset privately and at Goucher College in Baltimore, MD. He also performs in public school assemblies with Mosaic, which provided the musical instruction and curriculum for the 2000 Maryland Artist/Teacher Institute. Wes serves as the Director of the annual Drumset And Percussion Camp of the Goucher Summer Arts Institute and as Vice-President of the MD/DE chapter of the Percussive Arts Society. In 2000, Wes started, a site to feature his interactive educational media such as his popular “Drumset Play-Along DVD.” His latest “A Rhythmic Murder Mystery” interactive DVD features a solo electronic drumset concert, which he also performs live. Wes holds Associate Artist relationships with Maryland Drum Company and with Trueline Drumsticks, and he occasionally works as Music Consultant for the not-for-profit Sustainable Environments for Health + Shelter.

    Hi, I'm Wes Crawford and right now we're going to talk about the feet a little bit. We want to have, again, proper technique, efficient technique with the feet to do the job that they need to do in performing on the drum set, so that again we can extend our technique as far as it would possibly go, and we wont get tired too quickly. So, I recommend starting out by putting both feet flat on the pedals. Just about everything I'm going to say about the feet right now, you can find exceptions in situation where you need to vary this a bit, but what I want to stress is to begin your study of drums by using this technique, because this is very natural, but it might be just a little bit hard for you at the same time. Its a very natural technique and will be easy as far as not wearing yourself out. Put your feet flat and forward, I call it the three Fs; feet flat and forward on the pedals. Lets start with the Base Drum. Start with your ankle back. We want to make the strokes with the ankle. We're going to do a quick jab to the Base Drum head and the pedal should rebound to get the most full round sound and the most low fundamental out of the Base Drum. Get used to performing this way. Again, you're going to see people that dont, but get used to doing it this way so that you can when its appropriate, and then you can do other ways when you want a different sound. I'm going to demonstrate this ankle stroke technique. Most of my weight is on the ball of the foot, and as soon as I strike, I'm relaxing so that the spring brings the beater back. You dont want to leave the pedal after you strike the Base Drum head, because then the spring will bring it back and it will wag and it will be out of control. You dont want that. So, you're not just stomping with your toe. Now, you will see a lot of people play with their leg, and they get this kind of action. You can get a lot more power with your leg and you're going to be in situations, maybe playing in a fraternity basement with three guitars turned up to eleven, where you need more power out of your Base Drum, and you can do that, but you're not going to ever be able to play too fast if you're depending on your leg, that's why you want to get used to using your ankle, so that then when you incorporate your leg you have some ankle motion too. I'm doing this even with my leg involved, so get used to that. Now, if you want a muffled sound on the Base Drum, we just hold it in and bring your whole leg down. See the difference, hopefully you can hear the difference. With the Hi-Hat foot it takes some pressure and some strength to keep the Hi-Hat close at first, in particular when you didnt realize it did. So, what you want to do, the resting position of the Hi-Hat you want to think of as the cymbal is being closed, so you're again using the ball of your foot to extend the pressure, to keep the cymbals together, so you're fighting against the spring. So, then when you want to make a sound, a chick sound, you would go (Music). You can do it -- a lot of times we do use more leg here, we need more power to make it speak, and if you're not going fast, but again, I want you to practice with your ankle strokes too. All of this will prepare you for possible double Base Drum pedal playing later on or something too. We also sometimes want to get a splashy sound out of the Hi-Hat for an effect, and that you can do with your ankle, or you can actually sort of stomp down on the pedal with your heel a little higher up, and that can come in handy.

    So, these are the basic techniques with the Base Drum and the Hi-Hat pedals. Again, Base Drum pedal should be relaxed, use ankle strokes. Hi-Hat, you're actually putting physical force down to keep it close, and then you can bring it up to make -- and back down to make it sound, but I do emphasize thinking of the resting position as you close, because most often we're hitting with the stick with the Hi-Hat cymbals closed.