27 Oct 2011

Constant Release Foot Technique


   Today, I shall be talking about the debated drum topic... yep! you guessed it, Foot Technique. This article is going to be based around the Constant Release Technique. This technique involves two main motions; the heel-down stroke (push) and the heel-up stroke (drop). However, before I dive into details and such things, I want to say two things:

Some Pointers

  1.   This article is not the 'Official Method' or the 'Proper Approach' to this technique. In my opinion (and probably a few others), there is no proper way to applying a technique. There is only YOUR way, the way that feels right to you and you only. Sure there are ground rules but without those ground rules, it wouldn't be that particular technique would it? Think of it as a sandwich; the pieces of bread are the ground rules and the filling (ham, cheese or whatever) is your approach, your way of using that particular method. But without bread, there is no sandwich. You need that bread, those fundamentals. (Also, there is no best technique, there is no fairy gold dust, again its down to you). Think about it, it should be obvious what I am trying to say.
  2.   I would like to think this as the technique that John Bonham used. I say this because in the video of 'Bring It On Home' by Led Zeppelin playing live at the Royal Albert Hall, when the drums enter the song, there are a few seconds of footage of his foot technique and it looks similar to the Constant Release Technique (at least to me). Anyway, more on this later on.
What Is The Constant Release Technique?

  The constant release technique is a foot technique used to produce multiple strokes from the bass drum. It can produce fast or slow doubles, broken triplets, triplets, gallops or quads. It involves two main motions; the heel-down and heel-up movements. To play doubles, I simply use the two main motions (this also applies to broken triplets). Playing triplets and quads though, is slightly different. It still involve two motions but for the third or fourth strike to the bass drum. I just simply repeat the heel-up stroke but with a higher ankle position for triplets (so the first stroke would be heel-down, then a normal heel-up stroke but instead of dropping the heel onto the foot-board, we push up even higher to play the third and final stroke. The third stroke is a high heel-up stroke and then when this played, we drop our ankle and foot onto the pedal to start again. (Video enclosed at the end of article to show what I am describing).

Why Use It?

  As Tommy Igoe says a lot in his amazing DVDs, 'I'm all about options'. So this approach to bass drum technique is yet another option (and a good one to). Since there are so many different techniques for the foot, the options are almost limitless. So why choose this one? Well for starters, it another option so it can be a great tool in your drumming library and can also serve as your primary technique towards playing the bass drum. Not just this, but you can achieve multiple feats using this method as stated above. Those two points are probably my main reasons for using this method. Who knows, you might hate this technique; but you will never know until you try.

The Technique Itself

  The Heel-Down Stroke - A normal heel-down stroke but at the end of the motion, push up from the toes and ball of the foot so you end in a heel-up position. Hence the 'push' motion.
  The Heel-Up  Stroke - Once you switch from a heel-down to a heel-up stroke, play a normal heel-up stroke and drop your ankle and foot into the heel-down position. This is what I call the 'drop' motion (from the dropping action of the foot).

  Once you can play these two motions at a slow speed, you can try to steadily speed up using a metronome or you can remember the motions in your muscles (muscle memory) and play these at a decent speed - this is what I did. (Remember that accuracy is more important than speed. With control and accuracy comes speed).

  When you achieve a certain amount of fluency, it should become a sort of rocking/bouncing motion in the foot (the knee should be pumping; going up and down). Since I grew up using the heel-up method, I started playing the Constant Release Technique with my heel completely off the foot-board at speeds of around 200BPM (Quarter Notes). This tempo is quite low, I know, but I just want to write about this little variation, (that already exists) and this is a perfect example:

Variation 1: Heel-Up
  Still using the same two motions described above, you can use this technique with your heel completely off the foot-board (heel-up). The heel-down stroke becomes a heel-up pushing stroke and the heel-up dropping motion doesn't drop down to heel-down position but to the first heel-up position described in this paragraph. Think of it like this:

 First Stroke - Heel-Up Push = Moeller Tap Stroke

Second Stroke - Heel-Up Semi-Drop = Moeller Down Stroke

(if you unaware of the Moeller Technique please research it on the internet).

  Not a very good example but its the best I can think of so please forgive me about this.

Variation 2: Slide
  I'm not going to describe this in detail because its fairly obvious but this variation is just the normal Constant Release but sliding the foot up the pedal between strokes. (Again, if you are not aware of the slide technique, Google is going to be your best friend to solve the problem). So heel-down is the start and the heel-up stroke is the slide up the pedal.

  Now for some video's in relation to this confusing but hopefully helpful article :

  The John Bonham Clip is around  1:40 in the movie.                                   

                                                Steve Smith: Constant Release

                           A great video with good examples of different applications: