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Pedal Control

Technique by Stephane Chamberland // July 17 2014
Pedal Control

What is technique? We, drummers, have had so many debates about the right technique. Hand technique remains a very important topic for serious drummers. First, we must clarify the word technique. A technique is a way of doing something. 

During a recent lesson, I was asked by a student wanting to work on technique to show him the paradiddle. This is interesting—a paradiddle is not a technique but a rudiment. The way you play a rudiment is the technique. The more techniques you know, the greater the number of tools you have in your toolbox to complete a desired task. 

I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to study with great technicians such as Dom Famularo and Jim Chapin for many years. Along the way, I have studied techniques such as those commonly known as the free stroke, the Moeller technique, the pumping motion, upstrokes and downstrokes in both formal and informal applications. I was searching for a long time for teachers who understood in detail all the tools necessary for me to achieve amazing results within my own playing. Watching drummers like Jojo Mayer, Dave Weckl, and Steve Gadd, one can’t help but be impressed with the sets of techniques they have. 

As both a student and a teacher, I believe that when one is given precise direction, one will more quickly attain the goals one wishes to reach in one’s own playing. 

What about your feet? 

I was blown away when I started to realize that all the techniques I was learning for my hands were also applicable to the feet. At that time Dom Famularo and Joe Bergamini were working on this new book, Pedal Control, that would explain in detail all the techniques for the feet in much the same way as their prior text, It’s Your Move, did for the hands. 

Its Your Move is arguably the best book available for learning technique. I was fortunate to have been asked by Dom and Joe to join them in working on this amazing book. The first section teaches the techniques and the second section gives lots of practical exercises to get comfortable with and develop what you studied in the first section. It covers basic foot techniques like the heel down, heel up (ankle), heel up (legs), and entire legs techniques. 

In music we use dynamics to play from soft to loud and different techniques to play from slow to fast. This diagram illustrates well the range of expression of how each style fits into each technique needed:

We can use different positions and velocities for what we want to achieve. Look at this diagram to understand better how to adapt your technique for your musical situations:

Building a great technique is like making a great salad. We select different elements to make up the salad. Separately, if we take the time to choose quality ingredients, it will affect the final result. If we choose the best vegetables, the finished salad will be amazing when we put everything together. Technique is the same. We learn and master every single technique first; then we start mixing them together. The final result would be to know all the positions, all the techniques and all the possibilities to put them together. So, while grooving, in the same way we play dynamics on snare and hi-hat, we can do the same for the bass drum. We can play accents, flams and drags on the pedals. We will use heels down, heels up, legs and ankles, and entire legs to better serve the music. 

Hand and Feet at the Same Level 

The final goal is to work hard enough to be able to have total freedom to bring our foot technique to the same level as our hand technique. This is actually very much the same concept. All the techniques that you use for your hands will also apply to the feet.  I highly recommend books like Stick Control by George Lawrence Stone, Master Studies by Joe Morello, Bass Drum Control by Colin Bailey, and Pedal Control by Dom Famularo and Joe Bergamini. 

The next step would be to read actual notation for the snare drum but played on your pedals with your feet. Here is an excerpt from Pedal Control (Wizdom Media – Alfred Publishing) that will show you how cool it could be to play a real piece with your pedals. 

Imagine now how you could incorporate such amazing ideas into your grooves. Double bass or single pedal (one foot on the hi-hat) you will be blown away by the myriad possibilities. Watch drummers like Bill Stewart, Tomas Lang, Claus Hessler, and Virgil Donati, who really push the art of pedal technique to the next level. Have fun and be patient with your progress. Practice little by little on a constant basis and you will see the evolution. Ask a great teacher to help you in the process and make sure your equipment is in good shape.  There’s an old saying, the devil is in the details. It’s in the details that you will see the difference.



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About the Author
Stephane  Chamberland

Stephane Chamberland has studied drumset with many respected teachers in New York, New Jersey, Toronto and Germany, including Claus Hessler, Dom Famularo, Jim Chapin, Rick Gratton, Billy Ward, Robby Ameen, Jeff Salem, Paul DeLong, Joe Bergamini, John Favicchia and Aldo Mazza. He went to Manhattan School of Music and studied with John Riley and Bobby Sanabria. Stephane also studied at the Conservatory of Music in Quebec City and with several teachers in the area. Visit Stephane online at www.stephanechamberland.com

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