Bass drum pedals to your feet are like drumsticks to your hands.
They connect you with your drum kit and with the right practice, you’ll be able to drum fast and rhythmically with them.
With bass drum pedals we want to keep it simple, find a good durable model and (almost) never have to worry about it ever again.
But be warned, you’ll be overwhelmed by the choices out there!
So, here’s a quick guide to choosing your bass drum pedal.
We’ll cover the following, click on the section to skip to it;
- What is a bass drum pedal?
- Parts of a bass drum pedal
- 4 things to look out for when choosing a bass drum pedal
What is a Bass Drum Pedal?
The bass drum pedal is a mechanical device that translates “feet-stomping” motion into beater action that sounds the bass drum or kick drum.
In short, it allows you to play the bass drum efficiently.
Often times, drummers tend to fuss over their drums, drumsticks and technique while ignoring the importance of a bass drum pedal.
It is the experienced drummers who appreciate the ease of speed and fluidity that comes with a good bass drum pedal.
Parts of a Bass Drum Pedal
The bass drum pedal is a simple device with a handful of key parts;
- Pedal Drive
The “stick” that hits your bass drum.
The size and material of your beater will affect the volume of your bass drum.
The choice of material is also dependent on your drum set up.
For example, if you’re playing on a silent mesh bass drum head, you’ll want to make sure to avoid felt beaters as these tend to wear out mesh heads fast.
The cam is the component on your pedal hinge that connects the drive system to the beater.
The shape of the cam determines how responsive the pedal feels to you.
There are two common designs / shapes to choose from; Round and Oblong.
Round cams provide direct feedback. i.e. you control how fast or loud your bass drum is.
Oblong cams aka offset cams magnifies the hitting force according to how deep you step onto the pedal.
Oh, Direct Drive bass drum pedals do not have cams.
Pedal Drive Type
The “drive” refers to the system that converts your downward motion into forward beater action.
There are 3 different pedal drives you can choose from:
- Direct Drive
- Chain Drive
- Belt Drive aka Strap Drive
What is a Direct Drive bass drum pedal?
Direct drive pedals have the footboard linked directly to the beater.
These type of bass drum pedals provides fast response and more power to the beater.
What is a Chain Drive bass drum pedal?
Chain drive pedals have their footboard and cam linked by a chain.
There are single and double chain drive pedals available in the market.
Single chain pedals tend to be more affordable, but are known to be flimsy, less durable and less efficient.
Double chain pedals are preferred over single chain pedals as they are relatively more sturdy, durable and comfortable to drum on.
In general, chain driven pedals are known to provide smoother playing and are popular among a wide genre of drummers.
What is a Belt Drive bass drum pedal?
Belt Drive pedals have the footboard and cam linked by a ‘belt’, frequently made from nylon, synthesized rubber or leather. They are also known as ‘strap drive pedals’.
The belt provides a slight bounce when the pedal returns to its original position. This provides a subtle feedback that feels more natural.
The footboard on belt drive pedals tends to follow the movement of the drummer’s feet closely as well, allowing for better control.
Here’s a good summary of the drive types:
Although the best way to feel the difference is to experience it for yourself on the drum kit, here’s a great comparison video.
It highlights the (subtle) differences between a direct drive vs double chain vs single chain pedal:
Sorry, the belt drive pedal was not included.
Footboard designs are rather stagnant, with two major classes;
- Traditional Footboard
The footboard refers to the (commonly) metal piece that you step on to play the bass drum.
Traditional footboards have a shorter moving region as compared to the longboards.
Depending on your foot size and playing style, you might find that longboards provide greater leverage when you drum.
The function of this spring is to ensure that the beater returns to its original position after you’re done playing.
Although there are spring-less pedals, most pedals will come with at least 1 spring. (in rare cases, there are more…)
Different drummers like spring tensions of different strength.
In general, stronger tension allows for louder and more powerful drumming. On the flip side, weaker tension allows for better control and response.
Here’s a good guide to deciding the right spring tension for yourself:
You’d usually have the option to replace the spring to a stronger one if you’re a drummer who likes to play at higher spring tensions.
These are the 5 main parts of a bass drum pedal.
You can find bass drum pedal parts sold individually, hence it’s useful for any drummer to know about the different parts.
It’ll come in handy if you ever need to repair or upgrade your pedal.
4 things to look out for when choosing a bass drum pedal
Now, let’s get to the meat of this article!
Here, I’ve arranged the 4 important features into a step by step bass drum pedal selection guide.
I think you’ll find it more useful to think through the 4 features in this order;
- Pedal Drive
- Playing Feel
- Ease of Maintenance
As with most things, it’s always easier to set a budget before you start shopping for a bass drum pedal.
Decide on your budget beforehand in order to narrow down your options while you research.
If you’re on a tight budget, you’ll find our roundup on the Best Budget Bass Drum Pedals very useful.
Pedal Drive / Design
With your budget in mind, the pedal drive design is the first feature that you should be looking into since it will affect all subsequent considerations.
In short, here are the key differences in a table:
|Subtle Bounce on Pedal
|More (direct) Power
|All-rounder pedal drive
|Used by professionals
|Used by most drummers
|Less popular than chain drive pedals
Direct Drive Pedal
Its quick response allows for fast drumming and the direct link between the footboard and beater allows for less loss of power when you drum.
Direct drive bass drum pedals are the most expensive type of pedals and tend to be preferred by professional drummers, especially the rock and heavy metal guys.
btw, if you’re a heavy metal drummer, our article on the best drumsticks for heavy metal drummers might be interesting to you.
Chain Drive Pedal
Most common choice of pedal drive for single bass drum pedals. They come in two options.
Single chain drive pedals are the cheapest types of pedals you can get. You’ll usually get these with lower budget drum kits.
They tend to feel loose with wobbly footboards, are less responsive and don’t last. The chain might break with overuse. Even if you’re on a tight budget, I’d advice you to avoid single chain drive pedals as you will probably need to find a replacement pretty regularly.
Double chain drive pedals are sturdier. They feature a double chain that makes the pedal feel heavier. Conversely, this weight helps to increase power.
If you’re not sure where to start your research on bass drum pedals, start with double chain drive pedals.
Belt Drive Pedal
These feel more natural due to the bounce from the belt as the pedal returns to its original position.
They are great for playing fast, although you might need some time to get used to it.
Plus, they tend to be more durable than single chain drive bass drum pedals.
Many chain drive pedal models are being offered as belt drive pedals as well.
Now that you have a rough idea on the bass drum pedal that you might want, it’s time to give it a “test-drive”.
Check with your local music store or local distributor for testing options.
You might want to ask a few questions while you’re testing the pedal;
- Does it suit your playing style?
If you’re switching to a different drive type, you will want to take note of any difference you feel.
Another thing to note is, depending on the make and model of your desired bass drum pedal, it might require more strength to play.
This might lead to fatigue or injuries if you plan to play fast or play for prolong periods right off the bat.
Oh, if you are able to play fast on the bass drum, you’ll want to test if your current technique works well on your potential bass drum pedal.
Some techniques work better on direct drive vs chain drive pedals, so make sure that you can get used to playing on your new bass drum pedal!
- What is the available spring tension range?
If you’re changing pedals, you’ll need to compare this against the pedal that you currently own.
The spring tension range of most bass drum pedals would overlap, with very slight differences at their extremes.
If you feel that the pedal is too light or heavy during testing, you might want to check the range to ensure that you can find a suitable spring tension.
- Does it feel responsive?
Does the pedal move according to the movement of your feet? Or does it feel lethargic and slower than you expect?
This will affect how fast you can play as well as your timing on the drums, so make sure you check for this.
There are ways to tune your bass drum pedal for more response after you make your purchase. You’ll need to make sure that the model you’re looking at allows for such tweaking.
Somethings to look out for are:
- Spring Tension adjustment
- Beater Angle Adjustment
Drum Magazine provided 6 ways to fine tune your bass drum pedal, you can read it here.
- Does the pedal feel fluid and smooth when you play or does it seem to jam up at certain angles?
If a pedal feels rough at certain angles during testing, you might need to check if the test model has been in use for a while. It might be due for a regular oiling.
Direct drive pedals tend to have a slight advantage here.
If you are going with the more affordable chain drive pedals, this is one thing to look out for. It’s always good to be able to test the pedals in person.
However, in the case that you don’t get to, it’s good to refer to YouTube reviews or Amazon reviews for a rough idea of how the pedal feels.
Ease of Maintenance
A well maintained bass drum pedal will last you (almost) forever.
You should be lubricating your pedals regularly, and cleaning up any goo that accumulates especially around the ball bearings.
With that said, you’ll want to prepare yourself to do regular maintenance work.
Depending on the design of the bass drum pedal, this could range from “a walk in the park” easy to “hair pulling” difficulty level.
Most manuals will provide maintenance guidance. But if you’re not confident about taking apart your pedal, you might want to check if your desired model can be maintained easily without having to take anything apart.
I hope this article has give you a reliable fundamental on which to select your bass drum pedal.
As a summary, you’ll need to take the following steps when choosing a bass drum pedal;
- Decide on your budget
- Decide on the pedal drive system
- Test the pedal
- Check if the bass drum pedal can be maintained easily