Should you play heel up or heel down on the kick drum?
This is another well debated topic which should not be debated at all. Iˊm confident to say that the answer is: Play with whatever you prefer that is comfortable to you. You can play heel up or heel down or even alternate both styles and youˊd still be right.
Drumming is a highly physical musical task and the uniqueness of each individualˊs physical attributes make most choices in drumming styles a matter of preference. Each player should be able to feel and know which is suitable for him or her that works best.
It has been said that playing heel up delivers more power. This is true and obvious since playing with the heel up means stepping on the pedal with the added weight of the thighs or even a portion of the body. Although heel down produces less intense kicks, Iˊve seen some players who have mastered the heel down position delivering fast and powerful kicks.
As a drummer, I prefer using both styles alternating them depending on my physical condition or the riffs I need to deliver. I used to be in a traveling band for the past 20 years and doing 3 to 5 sets a night was just another ordinary day, 6 times a week. At first, It was physically draining and muscle fatigue from all parts of my body became the norm. Either I quit or I had to find ways to make each gigginˊday more easy.
When I feel that parts of my foot or lower leg is worn out, I shift positions but I wait for the right song to do it. Heel down for ballads and heel up for rock songs which need power.
Aside from shifting styles as you go from one song to another, you can also change inside a song as long as the difference in volume or texture of the notes you deliver are almost the same. By doing this, you can go on for hours and hours of playing non-stop without complaining.
Now, here is the good part - you can actually use the shifting of the heel up and heel down positions to achieve bass drum chops which are very hard to do with just one position. There are numerous chops but try to do fast kick triplets in a row or even continuously. Even if you can do it, the strain on your foot and lower leg would be felt hard.
An easier way would be to use both the heel up and heel down position within a riff. In sequence, it goes like this:
1. start with heel up starting slightly from the left side of the pedal for the first note
2. center pedal and slightly lower heel for the second note
3. almost flat foot for the third for the completion of one triplet
4. move on quickly to a heel down for the fourth note or first note of the second triplet
5. mid and center position for the fifth note and lastly,
6. back to heel up and the original position for the third note of the second triplet or the sixth note of the whole sequence.
Youˊve done two fast and powerful bass drum triplets in a row!
Try to do this very slow at first making sure that the positions and how you attack the pedal is right. With the proper disciple and hardwork, youˊll be surprised at how accurate you can deliver such chops.
Summary tip of the day: Heel up or heel down? - Play with what youˊre comfortable with.