An educated left foot.

Nacci

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There was a point a few years ago during my practicing that I noticed my left foot was getting off easy. Besides controlling the "Chirp" it wasn't doing much else. I made a decision at that point that if I wasn't on the hats then that left foot was going to be marking time with a solid pulse almost metronome like constantly. It took a lot of dedication to stay on top of that but now that is ingrained in my playing. I feel at this point that my left foot works as hard as any of my other limbs. Often when I watch other Drummers play I look to see what they are doing with their left foot and I'd say that, double kick players and lefties excluded, the majority of them don't do much with it.

Are there any other players here who have put that left foot on notice and really work it? Can you think of any famous players that made that left foot really earn it's keep?
 

tris66

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Still don't know what I'm doing.... probably about reaching the skills of the average 9 year old drummer. LOL. At some point somebody on the board suggested setting up drums lefty (if you are a righty) some time ago to help develop some ballance. I have a partial kit that I set up from time to time and do just that. One thing I have noticed is that even though lefty isn't so great on the kick pedal righty has a much more difficult time on opening the hats. He knows how to stomp them closed pretty well, but the brain-muscle connection for a kick pedal doesn't seem to be quite the same for opening hats. Righty also seems to want to keep the batter buried when I use some pedals. I think making him play the hats has helped that a bit. So I look at it as a pretty balanced exercise for both feet and the weary brain in between them.
 

bernard

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Check the "Big Time" DVD with Billy Ward, keeping the pulse in the left foot is one of the main messages.
 

repete

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I use my left foot quite a bit. I'll use it to play different patterns when playing the ride cymbal or I'll try and get creative opening and closing it while playing it. When I'm not "playing" it I use my heel as a time keeper while my toes keep the cymbals closed.
As far as Masters, check out Max Roach or Steve Smith under Mr Hihat
 

"poppies"

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Every time I've seen Tain, his left foot is active at almost all moments. It's like it belongs to a separate personality or something, totally crazy.
 

moodman

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Purdy makes his 1/2 time shuffle so cool with his hat work, so smooth.

I can't get the 8th note thing, but I can play the 3 side of the clave, the clave, 'chick' the upbeats ('ands'), bark the hats or double bark them, and when using HH tambourine, I can open and close, not playing the jingles or playing them.
 

60's Drummer

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Last reggae groove i learned was to go with a rhythm guitar doing the upbeat "&a" (straight 16ths) and i matched the hh to that, as if the one drop wasn't enuff to keep me in 'take it sloooooow to learn it' mode.

Use it like a crash splashin' open with the foot. Capture accents using the "crash it w/stik open then close it immediately" technique.

When I heard first heard Danny Carey (Tool) use it in a three pattern in a 4/4 groove (Eulogy), i shedded that. Check it out at about 4:50 in aaron edgar's lesson:
 
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mfryed2112

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Keeping time with my left foot on the high hat never happened for me until test for echo from Rush came out in the mid 90s. The quarter note is easy eighth notes I still can't do .
 

xsabers

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My left foot mostly keeps me from falling over...
 

hefty

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I worked on the Rudimental Ritual several years ago and that shored up my left foot a lot. Working through that you can play almost anything over the top of a quarter note hi-hat pulse (actually it's hats on 2 & 4 in the Ritual). I've lost some of that facility since though and have to be more conscious when I want get that pulse going. On a recording not long ago during a jam out section my left foot was doing almost random stuff (although not out of time and kind of interesting maybe?) which makes me think I need to address this again...
 

Tmcfour

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Try doing 4 on the floor with right and then mess doing patterns on the hh with your left while playing you ride. As that gets easier start dropping or adding beats with your right. Or, take the book "Syncopation" and play rl, rl on the patterns in that.

I've also set up left or just used my left kick pedal instead of my right. My left is pretty good on its own for kick drum but still needs work for hh work.
 

tnsquint

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Just a few thoughts:

- the metronome with the left foot chick when playing something besides hi-hat with your lead hand is a great skill to develop. That said, consider if the piece of music is improved with that steady 1/4 or 1/8 note feel added. Oftentimes it is but sometimes not.

- work up to feeling comfortable playing the offbeats with your left foot. It can add a lot of lift to a section of music. It can also be useful to simply play straight quarters with your lead hand on a ride and the offbeats with your left foot. This feels very different than straight 1/8 notes on a ride cymbal even if you are accenting or alternating between bell and bow. It can also really open up a ballad making it feel like there is far more space between counts while still moving the piece forward.

- consider playing more "percussion oriented parts" with your left foot. Maybe something like the "e ah" before the two and four. You would have to be quick and develop a short stroke to get two chicks on subsequent 1/16th notes, but it is a cool sound if you can master it.

- the occasional "splash" with the left foot can be very useful. Most commonly used in jazz contexts but could also work well for a pop ballad doubling the snare drum perhaps every other time or every fourth time or just once leading into or out of a fill. Something along those lines.

- one of the coolest things I have seen in the subtle but "what the heck" use of a hi-hat. Vinnie playing with Sting for an unplugged segment and they were doing a 12/8 piece. Vinnie was playing all 12 1/8 notes on the hi-hat except he played 1-3-5-7-9-11 with his right hand on a closed hat and 2-4-6-8-10-12 with his left foot with a tight chick. You never heard the right hand play a partially opened hat so he was leaving his left foot down until the last millisecond and then just a quick, light "chick". It made the hi-hat feel a lot like a shaker and it had a beautiful lilt to it. That exercise alone should keep you busy for a few days. I've never mastered it. I can do it, but it is not as clean and flowing as what he did.....by a long shot.
 

Nacci

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moodman said:
Purdy makes his 1/2 time shuffle so cool with his hat work, so smooth.
I agree completely. I spend a lot of work on my half time shuffles and specifically have a lot of love for what Bernard Purdie did with "Home At Last". I think it is almost a modulation of the high hat pressure on that song, maybe the slightest of sizzles. Very sophisticated work.
 

Drumstickdude

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I don't do much with my left foot, mainly just the old 2 and 4. The only time I really got into doing a lot with it was during a period of studying the new breed drum book by Gary Chester, of which my brain and body have long forgotten, sigh. Sometimes just sometimes I can do the occasional coordinated independence lick. Thing is, it's like a lot of drum technique things where your playing with a band and they and you ( maybe) just don't have the time to put that sort of luxury into the playing, I wish it wasn't like that though.
 

Castnblast

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tnsquint said:
Just a few thoughts:
- the metronome with the left foot chick when playing something besides hi-hat with your lead hand is a great skill to develop. That said, consider if the piece of music is improved with that steady 1/4 or 1/8 note feel added. Oftentimes it is but sometimes not.
- work up to feeling comfortable playing the offbeats with your left foot. It can add a lot of lift to a section of music. It can also be useful to simply play straight quarters with your lead hand on a ride and the offbeats with your left foot. This feels very different than straight 1/8 notes on a ride cymbal even if you are accenting or alternating between bell and bow. It can also really open up a ballad making it feel like there is far more space between counts while still moving the piece forward.
- consider playing more "percussion oriented parts" with your left foot. Maybe something like the "e ah" before the two and four. You would have to be quick and develop a short stroke to get two chicks on subsequent 1/16th notes, but it is a cool sound if you can master it.
- the occasional "splash" with the left foot can be very useful. Most commonly used in jazz contexts but could also work well for a pop ballad doubling the snare drum perhaps every other time or every fourth time or just once leading into or out of a fill. Something along those lines.
- one of the coolest things I have seen in the subtle but "what the heck" use of a hi-hat. Vinnie playing with Sting for an unplugged segment and they were doing a 12/8 piece. Vinnie was playing all 12 1/8 notes on the hi-hat except he played 1-3-5-7-9-11 with his right hand on a closed hat and 2-4-6-8-10-12 with his left foot with a tight chick. You never heard the right hand play a partially opened hat so he was leaving his left foot down until the last millisecond and then just a quick, light "chick". It made the hi-hat feel a lot like a shaker and it had a beautiful lilt to it. That exercise alone should keep you busy for a few days. I've never mastered it. I can do it, but it is not as clean and flowing as what he did.....by a long shot.
Im not a dbl bass drum guy, and I have spent a lot of time working on my left foot as well. IMO above is a good post with great suggestions.
I think many drummers do not take the time to work on foot HH because the reward is not immediately apparent. As drummers we are dailed in to hitting things that can make big sound and impact.

Working on left (or right) foot HH technique can really feel like a thankless endeavor (at first), but if u hang in there the benefits are huge.
For me, I think it has really helped shape my overall sound. Offbeat steps to lift a chorus, implying shaker sounds with tight steps on "e's and ah's" etc are subtle things that can really fill out your sound. Great topic OP
 

atomicmorganic

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One of the keys to me for learning 1/16th note patterns with the BD was to play eights with the left foot. Made it easy.
 

speady1

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If you haven't every checked out Jason Isbell's fantastic drummer, Chad Gamble, you should. His left foot is just incredible.
 


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