Of course there’s the obvious distinction between single and double pedals, but when you take a close look at each available option, you find a staggering amount of variation. Chain or belt drive? Single or double chain? What about direct-drive pedals or longboards, in contrast to the standard split footboard? By the time you’ve finished this article, you’ll have the knowledge necessary to find the right pedal for your needs.
When we talk about pedal drives, we’re describing the mechanism that connects the footboard to the beater, allowing the pedal to function. The three main types are chain, belt, and direct drive.
Chain-drive pedals are the most common among drummers, and there are two types: single chain and double chain. Jim Haler of Yamaha says, “In most cases, the double chain’s main advantage is durability under extreme use. There is also less of a tendency for a double chain to flex from side to side, thus reducing friction and side-to-side movement.”
Double-chain drive is more prevalent than its single-chain counterpart, with the latter being most common on entry-level pedals or models designed to be less expensive. But as Scott Donnell of Drum Workshop points out, that often falls to perception. “Initially, we moved to a double-chain-and-sprocket design on our classic 5000 series pedal to add more stability,” Donnell explains, “but it doesn’t necessarily make the pedal more playable. The single chain and sprocket is still found on our retro-inspired 6000 series pedal, and it’s a quick, responsive pedal. In fact, some of our artists request a custom single-chain 5000 to this day. Again, it’s all about perception. Today’s players see single chains on less expensive models, so they think it’s a lesser pedal.”
Belt-drive pedals, as you might imagine, replace the linked chain with a solid belt, reducing friction and (in some drummers’ opinion) leading to a lighter feel. In the past, belt drives suffered from having a much shorter life in comparison with chain-drive models, but today’s belts have drastically improved in terms of durability. Pearl, for one, crafts its belt drives from the same material that conveyor belts are made from. “A modern belt is just as dependable as a chain and maybe even more so,” Pearl’s Gene Okamoto says. “Master links sometimes fall off chains and give the appearance that the chain is broken, even though the links are okay. Belts don’t have master links and modern belts are very robust, so the failure rate is extremely low. In addition, you can monitor wear on a belt, whereas on a chain wear is less obvious. Chains are flexible and can collapse onto themselves on the upstroke when you’re playing. When this happens, control is lost for a split second. Belts, on the other hand, are stiffer and give a better connection between the footboard and the beater—they act somewhat like a direct-drive pedal in this regard.”
Direct-drive pedals feature a solid bridge between the footboard and beater. This maintains a perfect connection throughout the entire stroke, with no chance of any of the flexing or give that can occur with chains or belts. This can lead to increased response, power, and control. As such, direct drives are often popular with drummers who place high value on speed, precision, and technique—though this, too, can be subjective. “Many heel-down players that I know prefer a direct-drive pedal,” Haler says, “but heel-up players have told me that direct-drive pedals are less controllable than a chain or belt drive.”
Axis longboardFootboards can come in all shapes and sizes, but the most important distinction is between the standard footboard and the longboard version. Most pedals have a hinge by the player’s heel, providing a flat base at the end that does not take part in the playing action of the pedal. By contrast, longboard pedals lack that hinge, so the entire length of the footboard acts as a viable playing surface. The longboard style is particularly popular with drummers who utilize heel/toe or rocking techniques in an effort to facilitate rapid double strokes. Longboards can also give increased comfort to players with larger shoe sizes.
Cams are the assemblies that attach the drive to the beater and supply the radius around which the drive will pull the beater in response to the footboard. The two types are linear and offset. Okamoto gives a very useful description and delineation of cams: “Linear cams maintain the same radius throughout the travel of the beater, and the beater speed is constant from the beginning to the end of the stroke. Direct-drive pedals and pedals with round cams are examples of linear-drive pedals.
“Offset cams generally accelerate the beater as it gets closer to the head. Offset cams typically have a nautilus shape, where the radius increases from the center. When the beater starts its rotation, the radius and leverage are at their greatest and the feel of the pedal is light. As the beater gets closer to the head, the radius and leverage decrease and the feel gets heavier. Many drummers experience a whip action and a sudden burst of speed at the end of the stroke, especially from cams with the greatest difference in radius. Pearl’s Eliminator pedal features patented interchangeable cams that allow the drummer to choose from two linear and four offset cams to customize the pedal to his or her preference.”
Like Pearl’s Eliminator, some other models aim to maximize the player’s range of choices via pedal customization. For example, DW’s 9000 series features an infinitely adjustable cam.
It’s All a Matter of Opinion
This article gives only a glimpse at the range of variability within bass drum pedals, and ideas and opinions on the same features often differ among drummers. Are you daunted by complexity and customization and yearn for straightforward playability and the beauty of simplicity? Perhaps you’ll agree with Jim Haler at Yamaha, who says, “I think some pedals have a lot of features that are more the ideas of engineers, not drummers. For every independent adjustment, that’s another screw that can be stripped, another place for dirt to accumulate, or another chance for a squeak or a rattle to occur. Rather than spending a lot of time fiddling with adjustments, I want to sit down at my kit and play. You can tweak the feel, but I like that our pedals are simple and well built, and they feel great out of the box so you don’t have to mess with them.
For example, Tama Speed Cobra still make two very nice pedals—the FP-7210A single chain and the FP-8500B belt drive—that don’t have solid base plates. They fold up nice and compact for storage and transport after the gig. A lot of drummers want a simple, reliable pedal that plays great and doesn’t need its own case to transport it.”
But maybe you like to stay on the cutting edge of pedal technology. In that case you can look into Pearl’s Demon Drive, Tama’s Speed Cobra, or Axis’s A21 Laser pedals, to name a few. For the extra-adventurous there’s the unique symmetry of Sleishman’s double pedal or the many iterations of Duallist’s multi-beater pedals. Whatever the case, as long as you’re familiar with some of the basic concepts, you and your drumming clientele can find a world ripe with inspiration.
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All drummers require hardware of some kind. Knowing what kinds of packages are available from your favorite brands, as well as becoming familiar with individual solutions to common mounting requirements, will help you find what works for you. In this article we’ll look closely at some of the different types of cymbal stands.
Descendants of the foot-operated low-boy cymbal crasher of the early twentieth century, the hi-hat stand is something that nearly every drummer uses. Two-leg, no-leg, and cable-operated models have expanded the field, but it’s the three-leg collapsible models that you see used most often. The inclusion of sturdy baseplates, tilting bottom-cymbal cups, and swiveling tripods are a few of the innovations that grace more recent models.
Generally you want to look at what kind of weight requirements you have, and whether you’re looking for something as sturdy as a Cadillac or as affordable as a Kia. Nearly all of the major manufacturers offer at least a few different models, ranging from light and simple to heavy and feature rich. What diameter of hi-hats do you play? How hard do you hit? Do you use a double pedal? Are you touring in a van or truck and lugging your own gear in and out of venues? Also consider the diameter of the pull rod when suggesting a hi-hat stand. They’re not always the same, which can make finding a replacement clutch in a pinch a lot more difficult. Always pick up a spare!
The most simple and sturdy of the lot, straight stands offer light to heavyweight options that can be a great solution for simple setups and are most commonly used for ride cymbals in more complex setups. It really comes down to positioning options when choosing between straight and boom stands. For example, is the ride cymbal going to be placed in the usual spot next to the bass drum, or is it going six feet in the air above some Octobans and slightly to the left of a gong?
These models offer the most positioning flexibility and are commonly used for crashes, splashes, and effects cymbals. Models featuring disappearing booms, or booms that collapse inside the upper joint of the stand, offer the most flexibility, as they can function as straight stands too. Factors such as single versus double bracing, the number of vertical sections, and the length of the boom should be chosen based on the size and weight of the cymbal or percussion instrument the stand will be used to suspend. For example, a lightweight, single-braced model should be fine for positioning an 18? crash a few inches off the stand’s center of gravity, while a double-braced model with a long boom arm and counterweight would be better suited for mounting a heavy ride or China in more extreme positions.
Add-On Boom Arms
These handy accessories come in a variety of sizes and are sometimes packaged with clamps that can be used to add them to existing stands. They’re a great solution for smaller effects cymbals like splashes, mini Chinas, cup chimes, bells, and crotales. They’re also great for mounting tambourines and electronic pads. We wouldn’t recommend add-on boom arms for mounting heavier cymbals or cowbells, as the added weight will tend to make the arm bounce excessively during play and possibly come loose and move out of position.
Clamps are staples in today’s more complex drum and percussion setups, because they offer the ability to add instruments in spots where it’s physically impossible or awkward to use a full stand. Simpler models feature one-to-one clamping options, whereas more complex models offer one-to-two or even one-to-three capability. Brush up on the various clamps that the different hardware manufacturers offer.
These short extenders help drummers customize their setup by allowing cymbals to be placed on top of an existing stand. Typically, smaller effects cymbals will be stacked on top of crashes and Chinas, but there’s no end to the creative ways drummers will find to use accessories like these.
These contraptions offer rails and clamps for drummers to mount drums and cymbals, in order to avoid having a forest of tripods on the floor. Gibraltar, Pearl, DW, and others offer racks in a few different configurations. Do some research to find the various options, advantages, and applications of each in terms of your individual needs.
Springs, Sleeves, and Felts
Though relatively inexpensive, these accessories can make or break a drummer’s performance. Cymbal springs involve the cymbal being mounted on a heavy metal coil that attaches to the threaded end of the stand. This allows the cymbal to react to the forces of playing differently from the way it would when mounted traditionally on a threaded metal rod. Some players like to use cymbal springs for Chinas, but they’re not typically used on larger, heavier cymbals, such as rides.
Sleeves, felts, washers, and other accessories help to protect cymbals from damage that can happen over time when the hole in the center of the cymbal rubs against the unprotected metal post of the stand. Not using sleeves or proper felts can cause cymbals to keyhole, which is when the hole becomes elongated due to the friction, or cracks can begin to emanate from the center of the cymbal outward.
Many clever accessories are now available that combine the washer, sleeve, and bottom felt into one convenient piece. These are a great, simple solution to preventing cymbals from being damaged. Beware not to over-tighten the wing nut that holds the cymbal on the stand, as doing so can also lead to premature cracking.
When looking for the best hardware for your needs, it’s a good idea to start with a brand that you already own or like. At your favorite drum shop, be sure to check out a variety of mounting choices and ask about the strong and weak points of different stand options. Good luck, and happy drumming!
Modern Drummer Magazine