The double kick drum pedal is becoming a drumming staple – but why would you need one?
The double kick drum pedal seems to have transformed from being something that, if not a novelty, was certainly atypical, to being everywhere.
Nowadays, you see double kick pedals being used by everyone – from players that have just started, through to professionals.
What is it that makes them so desirable, and so useful?
One foot good, two feet better?
The history of the double kick goes back to the 1940s and legendary jazz drummer, Louis Bellson. He had the idea of a double kick at the age of 15, when he sketched out a kit with two kick drums in his art class.
Later, he made this dream a reality, with his now classic arrangement of two kicks, a tom and two floor toms, making the kit both louder and lower in pitch. Aside from the increase in power, it allowed him to play more complex kick drum patterns.
In a standard, 5-piece drum arrangement, one foot is employed to use the kick drum pedal, and the other to open and close the hi-hat. Freeing the hi-hat foot to play another kick part means that the drummer can play more intricately and faster.
It wasn’t really until the rock bands of the ‘60s that double kick drums were truly taken onboard (Ginger Baker being a proponent of twin kicks). Then, in the ‘70s, the technique was truly embraced. Neil Peart, Tommy Aldridge, Bill Ward and Billy Cobham all became fans.
The problem was, unless you were rockstar with a gang of roadies to get your gear around, you were going to struggle to transport your kit. Plus, suddenly the drummer had to stump up the cash buy two kick drums, and two skins when they needed replacing.
Thankfully, 1968, an Aussie drummer named Don Sleishman came up with the idea of a pedal that could play two parts on the same drum, and by 1971 it was available to buy.
Though there is a type of double kick drum pedal that uses just a single pedal, the most popular by far is the twin pedal design. This has two beaters that sit next to each other, one of which is controlled by the pedal in front of them, the other controlled by another pedal, connected by a bar that rotates when the pedal is pressed. The pedal with the beaters clamps to a kick drum hoop in the same way as a standard pedal.
In this way, it offers the freedom of expression that two kick drums with two pedals would.
So who uses a double kick drum pedal?
These days, all sorts of player use them. Everybody from Jazz players, looking to employ some added complexity, to rock players, to (by far the most widespread users of the double kick) metal players.
Extreme styles of metal employ extreme drumming techniques, and with machine-gun-like blast-beats commonplace, the twin kick pedal is the only tool for the job. Perhaps ironically, many of the techniques used are derived from those developed by pioneering Jazz double kick players(!)
One drawback of the double kick pedal is that low frequencies of air take some time to move. As a result, fast kick parts can sometimes sound muddled and unclear.
This is why metal drummers often tune kick drums to higher pitches, and use skins to enhance the sound of the drum’s attack (sometimes using Falam slam pads to add even more ‘click’).