Ryan Bloom Interview: Double Bass Drum Technique Q&A
1. Is it important that the beater comes ALL THE WAY back between strokes? Why or why not? Does this factor change as the tempo increases?
This is an interesting question. I think the answer depends on the type of stroke. In a double stroke situation I think it makes sense for the beater to rebound only a little bit between each half of the double. The motion of a double is exploiting the pedal's innate characteristics so however far back the beater bounces between the first and second strike is the right amount. As long as it sounds good. In a single stroke situation the full rebound would be desirable between each note. Getting the full range of motion out of your foot and out of the pedal allows for the best response from your muscles and from the hardware. I don't think this changes with tempo at all. It might change with dynamic, however. Quieter notes may need less rebound than louder ones.
2. Have you ever hit a plateau in your double bass speed? Do you know of any strategies for overcoming such a barrier?
I think everyone hits a plateau at some point. Otherwise we would all be infinitely fast, right? There is a definite limit to how fast your muscles can twitch. This is just anatomical. The key is to figure out if you have really hit the limit of your muscle twitch or if you have hit the limit of your technique or pedal. My best suggestion is to practice in short bursts at 1 or 2 clicks above the tempo at which you are stuck. When you can hit 4 notes at that tempo, try 8 notes, then 16, then several measures. Always stop before your pace falls too far off. You will be able to extend your bursts out to useable lengths after a while and then you can move up 1 or 2 more clicks. A common pitfall is to try and jump 10 clicks or 15 clicks at a time. This is too big of a gap if you are already at your maximum capacity. Also, if speed is your goal you need to treat it like a sport: warm up, cool down. stretch, listen to your muscles and don't over do it in any one practice session. Eventually you will push your way up to your goal.
3. How frequently do you recommend a drummer practice double bass:
a) As a beginner.
A beginning drummer probably shouldn't play double bass at first, but if you mean a beginning double bass drummer who already knows the basics then I suggest practicing double bass several times a week, just to get the coordination down. Plus, I would recommend trying to incorporate it into your regular jamming grooves just to see how it fits.
b) As an intermediate player really trying to improve quickly.
If serious improvement is your goal, daily practice is the only way to get there. Or at least as often as you can. I know people have lives...
c) Once you are comfortable with your playing, just to maintain your speed and endurance.
If you just want to maintain what you have, I think checking on yourself once a week or every other week is essential. If you don't touch double pedal for a month and you go back you may find you lost a bit of speed or finesse that you had before.
4. Thomas Lang recommends accenting the second stroke when playing doubles. Do you have any thoughts about this?
I have to agree with Mr. Lang. I teach all my students to play "inverted" doubles with their hands (where the second note is louder, to make their rolls more even) so that makes sense for feet too.
5. Do you have any links to videos we can see of your playing?
I have a Youtube channel where, among other odd things, I have videos of myself teaching and playing live.