I recently sent out an email to some of the members of my mailing list, asking if they had any particular questions about double pedal; and I got quite a good question from Yuri, one of my students from Russia, about leg pain. So I thought I’d do a quick video lesson here for you so that I can sort of give you some answers to this problem. It’s quite common, I think, for people to experience leg pain, particularly in the leg that they use the least. I’m right-footed and left-handed but I’ve experienced quite significant pain in this leg when I’m practising . There’s one main reason for it, is that you’re lifting from the hip flexors and the quads rather than the calf muscle. I thought really quickly I’d give you a couple of tips on what to do about this.
The first one is pretty simple, you’ve got to get your seat height right. The easiest way to get the seat height right is to stand next to the seat and make sure that the bit you sit on lines up with the top of your kneecap. Hopefully you can see that there, it lines up roughly with the top of my kneecap, it’s actually slightly elevated. There’s no guess work then. Everybody’s slightly different, some people are … you know, we all have different hinges on our body and that’s a really, really straightforward way of making sure that you’re sitting roughly at the right height.
The second thing to do, is once you’ve done that, is to take your feet off the ground and put your hands out like that and make sure that you can sit comfortably like that. It should feel very solid. One of the biggest problems is a lot of people are taught to sit towards the front of the seat to keep their back straight; which is fine if you’re playing piano or playing old-time jazz … old-time jazz … so you’re kind of over the kit like that and playing heels down all the time; but for double-pedal it’s useless because as soon as you lift your heels up, which most people would do to go fast, you have to counter-balance because everything’s leaning forwards. What will happen then is a lot of people start to lean back and that puts tremendous pressure here and causes a lot of pain. So sit further back than you think you need to. Particularly with double bass, you want to be quite a long way out.
I’m a former student of Thomas Lang from quite a few years ago, but he sits a long, long way out. I generally have my snare drum actually in front of my knees. Another guy who does that is Romain Goulon from Necrophagist, he’s an amazing double bass player. It gives you a lot of leverage and you don’t … even if you’re kind of quite forceful it’s fairly easy to play. You want to be able to see your laces over your knee without leaning forward. Again, see, if I take my legs away and do that, I’m perfectly balanced. As soon as I sit too far forwards I come off the seat. You can sit quite a long way back.
The last tip I’m going to give is to tell … is a way for you to tell whether you’re lifting from the wrong muscles. Basically, if you follow those first two tips, get your seat height right and your seating position on the stool correct … Take your hands, lean on one of your legs, it doesn’t matter which one, and play your double pedal. If you find you’re doing this or you can’t lift your leg up, you’re lifting from the quad or the hip flexor in here, and you’re going to do yourself an injury. One of the biggest misnomers about playing drums, one of the biggest misunderstandings, is when people play heels up they stamp. Now, I’m exaggerating that, but these muscles here are not evolved to lift like this, they’re not very good at it; they’re for pushing. Double bass, bass drum, all foot control is done from the ankle and the calf. You’ll notice, even if I’m playing heels up … there’s not much movement. If I do double strokes … even there when I’m playing the accents, the accents are coming from my ankle rather than my leg.
Just to recap. Stand up next to your stool, make sure that the bit you’re sitting on lines up with your kneecap. Secondly, sit further back than you think you need to to and test it by taking your foot off the ground, putting your arms out. You’ll look a bit weird, but if you fall forwards you’re sitting too far forwards, basically. You’ll be off balance and you won’t be able to play the pedals properly. Lastly, sit at your kit, play your double bass, lean on your knee like that. You can even get someone else … I do it in lessons when I’m teaching double bass to get this technique … I lean very gently on the student’s leg like that. You can tell of they’re lifting from the quad and the hip flexor because the whole body will move and the leg won’t come off the ground.
I hope that helps. If you’ve for any questions about this or any other kind of tips and things you want me to cover, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and if you want to take this a little bit further go to drumnosis.com and check out some of the free practise lessons we’ve got. If you send us your email address I’ll be happy to send you the first couple of lessons from the Feet Of Fire course. Cool. See you soon. Cheers.