By Tim Pedersen.
I’ve spent a great deal of time in the studio on both sides of the glass. I’ve recorded hundreds of songs as a drummer and I’ve recorded at least a hundred drummers as an engineer. In that time I’ve found a simple set of exercises that have a huge effect on the performance aspect of a drummer in the studio.
Drummers are often inconsistent in placing notes in the groove. Controlling where each note falls is a huge ingredient of a sweet groove. One that makes the listener move and become a part of the music. Wherever you like to feel the pulse (in the middle, on top of the beat or behind the beat) doesn’t matter. It’s keeping that position of the time the same throughout your groove and fills. The groove should be hypnotic regardless of the style.
The drum I find to be most problematic is the bass drum. It’s harder to place than the hands. After all, you’re using a pedal to hit a drum, generally with your shoes on, so it’s difficult to feel the bass drum as easily as it is to feel the hands on the kit. Though my years of playing and recording I’ve found that if the bass drum is well placed the rest of the limbs just fall in with it.
If your having a problem getting bass drum notes to fall where you feel they need to give the following exercises a try. Now, before you dismiss the exercises please try them and see if they are effective for you in improving your groove in a couple of minutes in a studio situation.
Though most of you certainly don’t play heel down these exercise are to be played heel down only. They are simply a way to warm up the ankle and get a feel for your pedal. That requires that you anchor the heel on the pedals surface. Use a metronome for consistency of placement. Keep the strokes loose and loud without lifting the ball of your foot off of the pedal.
In exercise one you’ll simply play eighth notes in succession with the only the bass drum for 30 seconds. Use a medium tempo of 120 bpm.
In the exercise two you’ll add the hi hat on quarter notes playing the hi hat heel up. Be sure to still keep the bass drum foot heel down. Again do this exercise for 30 seconds at a tempo of 120 bpm.
In the next exercise you’ll go between eighth notes and eighth note triplets for 30 seconds. Reduce the speed to 105 bpm to account for the increased speed of the triplets.
Finally, in exercise four, you’ll go between eighth notes, eighth note triplets and sixteenth notes for 30 seconds. Reduce the speed to 80 bpm in order to accommodate for the speed of the sixteenth notes.
That’s it. When you go back to playing the grooves for the material you’re recording your foot is warmed up and your bass drum note placement will be greatly improved. Again, I’ve seen this be incredibly effective when I’m recording drummers that are having problems with the bass drum, which are many. Try it for yourself. It works and only takes 2 minutes of your time. It can save a great deal more than that in frustration and studio time.