Foot Techniques

I use a variety of techniques with my feet depending on the instrument (muffled or open BD: normal, spoxe, or china HH; piccolo foot tom etc.) which all respond and feel differently.

I have used DW cam-action nylon strap pedals since they started making them(and I used the Camco predecessor before that!). I find that the cam enables you to get multiple strokes by using rebound more easily than anything else I’ve tried. This way you work less to get more, much like my hand technique.

I keep my bass drum pedal springs pretty loose. My TB tonal beater is very light and adjusted to be as long as possible. The angle of the beater is about 45 degrees so its pretty close to the head and I play with my foot about half way back on the pedal board which means I don’t have to move my foot up and down as much as someone who plays up at the top of the pedal (there is less travel to make contact the farther back you play).

I use a heel down position for softer/faster playing, for open BD & HH work and for a lot of my ostinato patterns, especially the odd or unsymmetrical ones. This is because of balance problems that can happen when your leg is bouncing in the air and you are reaching for a tom or cymbal.

The technique is similar to the hand technique in that you tap from the heel down position almost allowing the foot board to leave your foot.If you snap back with the foot to the up position, the pedal will rebound back up to your foot which is all ready to play the next stroke. This allows the BD head or HH cymbals to ring freely.

For louder, closed sounding playing I use a heel up technique. This is where the stroke starts in the down position with the weight of the leg keeping the beater against the head or the cymbals shut. By flexing the ankle the leg is raised and allowed to drop and make the stroke making a loud dry thump on a BD or a chick sound on a HH.

For multiple strokes, the ankle flexes while the leg is in the up position (using the same technique as in heel down, but with heel up) and on the last of the strokes the leg is allowed to drop, keeping the beater on the head (or the HH cymbals closed).

I use this technique when playing constant 8th or 16th note double bass patterns, fast double bass/tom fills, most rock and jazz-fusion beats, and 1/4 note or 1/8th note HH patterns. Most of these types of beats and patterns are symmetrical, so the leg can bounce up and down in time like a piston, and balance is not threatened.

All of my instruments feel different and lend themselves to certain types of techniques. The piccolo foot tom and concert BDs don’t sound good with the beater left on the head. So when I play them heel up I allow the beater to come off the head by dropping my heel to let them ring. I use that approach on china HHs some times as well.

When the snare is switched on the piccolo foot tom, I play heel up and leave the beater on the head but you have to be careful not to let it bounce or buzz because it’s so small and tuned tightly.

Finally, with 9 pedals all adjusted to the same resting angle and about an inch or so apart, I can place my foot between any two adjoining pedals and get two sounds at once. The techniques for playing are the same, but you have to get used to the feel of the extra weight and mass of each combination.

Hand Techniques

I use a combination of hand techniques which I find appropriate for doing different things on my drum set.

Firstly, I would say my basic snare hand technique is a matched grip following the G.L. Stone school as taught to me by my teacher Chuck Brown who studied with Stone.

The principles are to hold the stick between the thumb and first joint of the first finger (for light playing) or thumb and second joint of the first finger (for heavy playing), creating a balance or fulcrum point from which the stick is free to pivot.

Then the second, third, and fourth fingers are slightly curved around the stick and line up down the shaft towards the butt end of the stick. The wrist is positioned palm down so that the tip of the stick, the thumb/finger pivot point, the wrist, elbow, and shoulder joint are all in a straight line when the upper arm is allowed to hang naturally at the side.

Up=Closed. Down=Open.

In the up position, the wrist is drawn back, and the fingers in (closed), so the stick points straight up. In the down position, as you strike, the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th finger are relaxed and extended (opened) to release upon impact, allowing the stick to rebound freely and eliminate any shock to the wrist or fingers. The wrist and fingers then “get behind” the rebound and lift and close into the up position.

This pulls the sound out of the drum or cymbal by setting it in vibration and allows it to continue vibrating by getting off of it as quickly as possible. If you don’t do this you A) choke the sound, and B) damage your tendons, joints, and ligaments.

Now, if multiple strokes are to be played, the wrist stays down on the first stroke and the fingers remain open and play the next strokes by finger bounce – taking the energy from the wrist stroke and catching the rebound, then by slightly closing the fingers for each additional stroke to literally “dribble” the stick with the fingers.

This uses the smaller muscles of the fingers instead of the larger muscles of the arm and allows less effort to be put out when playing long, fast single stroke rolls.


To get from one drum or cymbal to another, I try to position my hands or arms in between the instruments in order to eliminate moving my arms from the shoulder(which would involve using the larger chest, shoulder and upper arm muscles). This enables me to pivot the stick from the wrist between two toms, for example, in a sort of windshield wiper fashion arcing from side to side. To do this the wrist is bent slightly into the up position and is moved by twisting the wrist at the forearm. The same principle is used to pivot between my high positioned cymbals and lower positioned drums : by raising my upper arm at the shoulder, I can position my wrist at about shoulder height between the drums and cymbals. Then, I can pivot at the wrist to go between them using the smaller muscles of the forearm with less effort than lifting up and down with the shoulder, upper arm and chest. This technique can be expanded to the whole kit. Just place your wrists in the center of a group of toms or cymbals and try to pivot with out having to move your arms too much(for example, if you were to cycle around 4 toms, place your hands in between tom 2 & 3 and see if you can pivot to tom 1, 2, 3 & 4).