by Libor Hadrava
As drummers, we usually don’t take practicing our feet as seriously as we should. I have developed several exercises that will help your feet get more comfortable with tasks that are second nature to your hands. It is possible to train your feet to be as skillful as your feet. They could become your second pair of hands, if you will.
One of those exercises focuses on double stroke roll that comes very handy in many situations—besides the famous Virgil Donati inverted double stroke roll, which after practicing for couple of months, I personally found a lot easier than a single stroke roll. Four stroke ruffs with your feet are simply 2x doubles phase shifted. Keeping a double stroke roll ostinato between your hi-hat and bass drum or an auxiliary pedal mounted percussion instrument becomes a great foundation for an improvised solo on top, etc.
It is very important to practice all of these exercises very slowly at first to expose your muscles to the right motion and technique. Create a good muscle memory to use later at faster tempos or when creating multilayered composition when independence plays an important role. Bad habit, unfortunately, is also a muscle memory “gone wrong.”
In order to use both of your feet together, it is very important for both to be equally able. Your left foot should be able to do everything that your right can.
Exercise #1: Right foot doubles
Start very slow at first. When you are comfortable you speed it up a bit.
Exercise #2: Left foot doubles
For non double bass players, you could use your hi-hat for your left foot. I often practice hitting both pedals (bass and hi-hat) with my left foot. It strengthens your L-foot, plus it comes handy when orchestrating your feet.
Exercise #3: Exercise #1 and #2 combined.
It is very important to be able to make a seamless and smooth transition/switch from one foot to another.
Exercise #4: Alternating Doubles
Make sure to start very slow.
Now go back and start with your foot as apposed to your hands on snare drum. It is similar but not the same.
Remember this is just the beginning; do not underestimate any of these steps. This is our foundation that we will rely on next time and the time after. Have fun and see you next time!
Libor Hadrava is an author, educator and professional musician based in Burlington, USA, Find him online here.