Double Bass Drumming

DOUBLE BASS DRUMMING

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Basic double bass drum pattern

In many forms of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock, as well as some forms of Jazz, Fusion and Punk, two bass drums are used, or alternatively two pedals on one bass drum. One of the first people to popularize the use of the double bass drum setup was jazz drummer Louie Bellson, who came up with the idea when he was still in high school. Double bass drums were first used initially by jazz artists such as Ray McKinley and Ed Shaughnessy in the 1940s and 1950s, and popularized in the 1960s by rock drummers Ginger Baker of Cream, Mitch Mitchell of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Keith Moon of The Who and Nick Mason of Pink Floyd.

Double Bass Drumming later became an integral part of Heavy Metal, as pioneered by the likes of Carmine Appice, Ian Paice, Cozy Powell, Phil Taylor and Tommy Aldridge. American Thrash Metal band Slayer’s drummer Dave Lombardo was named “the godfather of double bass” by the magazine Drummer World.

Double Bass Legends : Enter the Headbangers

The hard rocking, glamorous Metal bands of the ’80s often featured well-designed, flashy double-bass drum kits on stage, but certainly more bands had them than played them. And though Hard Rock music was not the only popular music, it was the style most likely, outside the waning camps of Prog-Rockers, to include double bass drumming. Drummers that took it beyond solos and big endings include the ever-present, ever-exciting Tommy Aldridge, Gregg Bissonette, Aynsley Dunbar, Tommy Lee, Lars Ulrich and Alex Van Halen.

The well-coifed Rock bands of the ’80s took the pendulum so far that a backlash was inevitable, and Grunge was born. This next generation of rockers were influenced both by Punk Rock — clearly not a haven for double bass drumming – and the joy of Marshall stacks. But even during this era, Hard Rock mutated into a style that was very friendly to double bass drum users.

Double Bass Drumming

Dave Lombardo (Slayer) with his drum set

Whether Speed Metal, Thrash Metal, Death Metal or Black Metal – it all was played hard and fast, loud and crunchy, by young men full of ideas. Band like Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth and others layered guitar riffs over double bass licks, but nobody on the Speed Metal scene would have as much influence as Dave Lombardo did with Slayer.

Slayer re-wrote the book of Dark Rock that Black Sabbath penned so perfectly back in 1970. Sabbath played slow, sludgy tempos, and drummer Bill Ward hardly played many double bass beats in songs. But Slayer’s 1986 release Reign In Blood, which continues to be mentioned as a favorite and an influence by notable drummers, features both machine gun double bass and speedy tempos. Lombardo, with his fleet feet and his ridiculous endurance, emerged as the poster boy for a new direction in double bass drumming. Slayer was crowned the princes of this new style of Metal : faster, darker and heavier.


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