Ok folks, this month we turn away from the more mental aspects of drumming to look at technique: foot technique to be exact. But we are looking at it for a specific reason...
I have had new students recently, who have been self taught, who have complained of shin and muscular pain where the front of the leg meets the foot – about where you would tie shoelaces. So this month we are going to look at the solution.
The problem is caused, playing heel down, when the muscles that lift the foot, in the 'shoelace' area, are used in isolation to execute kick drum strokes. It is not a muscle we use this way very often in normal life and so it becomes fatigued very quickly – causing pain, which can often be felt in the front of the shin.
On occasion, students also complain of pain in the crook where the torso meets the top of the leg at the front – i.e. where it bends to allow you to sit. Again, this is caused by poor kick drum technique, because the entire leg is being lifted by the muscles in this area, but that tends to be when heel up is being used, which we'll look at later on.
So let's look at heel up pain first. The key to just about everything in drumming is relaxation and that includes kick drum technique. Keep the entire leg relaxed, and this is the key: imagine your heel is stuck like glue to the foot plate. Then, focus on your knee, and think of lifting it, at the same time trying to move your heel back – BUT – keeping you heel in place. This action, as if your leg, from knee to ankle is a piston, and the small backward motion caused by lifting the knee but NOT allowing the heel to move, causes the foot to lift – without using the 'shoelace' area muscles or the hip 'crook' muscles. Then, to play the stroke, simply allow the entire combined weight of leg and foot to drop back onto the pedal – allowing gravity to do the work. Of course, you can put more power into the stroke by making a motion as if you are pushing the knee cap and lower leg forward. You'll feel that for yourself when you try it. This technique has worked for me, kept my leg relaxed, allowed fast and accented strokes and kept me pain free. But remember, there are a whole variety of kick techniques, so check those out as well. I can only give you my personal experience in the hope it helps.
Now, heel down: to avoid pain in the same areas, the key is to push the leg up, using the ball of your foot, and drop it back on to the pedal, allowing gravity to do the work. Again, you can put more force in to this if need be, and you will feel this when you try the technique. This keeps the leg relaxed and the muscles in the complaint areas relaxed, and thus keeps you pain free. Again, this works for me, but check out other techniques as well.
Give these a try, and hopefully you'll stay pain free and develop a great kick technique, either heel up, heel down – or both!
This article was written by Ian Bee, a professional drummer, Liberty Drums Artist and tutor from Bletchey in Buckinghamshire. If you would like to learn more about Ian, please visit his website: www.ianbdrums.co.uk
To browse our range of drums, kits, cymbals, percussion and accessories online, CLICK HERE.