October 26, 2009

Gearhead Thoughts: Back to Single Bass, For Now

Lately, I've been having mixed emotions about my recent decision. Last week, I sold my Tama Iron Cobra double bass pedal. So now, I'm officially back to single bass.

I sold my double pedal out of necessity and because of artistic reasons. To be honest, finances are quite tougher right now, with my new studio room and all the bills. I need some added funds to pay for my quarterly insurance bill, and I'm glad the sale was able to help me out with that. Musically, I was thinking of going back to single bass for quite some time, in order to go back to basics and concentrate more on my right foot. This idea is now fulfilled.

I've been playing single bass for a week now, which is quite a challenge for me because I've been playing double bass for so long that I got so used to it. My right foot is doing more work right now, while my left foot seems wired for playing two pedals that I need to adjust. It's funny because there were times during our gigs when I was about to instinctively play a double bass lick, and my left foot would naturally respond by shifting from the hi-hat pedal going to the twin pedal's slave pedal, only to realize that, "Oops, no more double pedal!" It has become a challenge especially during K24/7 gigs, where I found ways to integrate double bass in our style of music.

I guess I have to agree with my bandmate Paolo when he told me that double bass has become my trademark. It's a pretty unique quality, considering the idea that double bass is unusual on most mainstream musical styles, which includes R&B and hip-hop. I'm not really a heavy, speed demon type of double bass player. I choose when to use it in our music. I also have this goal or artistic intention of applying double bass on popular music.

When fellow drummers and musicians ask why I play double bass with K24/7, I would ask back, "Why not?" Drumset drumming is a constantly developing modern art form; it's still evolving up to this very day. Why not integrate double bass drumming on R&B, hip-hop, pop, and most popular, groovier styles of music? I think it's an interesting idea. Some drummers, mainly the younger ones, would often think that double bass is about speed and is intended for rock, metal, and heavier styles. It saddens me whenever there are some immature, close-minded, know-it-all types who criticize me for having a double pedal with K24/7. I know I'm not an advanced-level double bass player, I know I need to improve further, and I intend to work harder on my double bass technique when I go back to double bass. Personally, double bass is not limited to certain musical styles. It's all up to our creativity, and we can only be limited by our imagination. Plus, all double bass drummers should keep in mind that the guy who began the art of double bass drumming was this jazz/big band drummer.

We should keep in mind that in today's very modern times, thinking out of the box can be a very fruitful and wonderful thing. For example, we now see modern progressive rock/metal drummers who choose to play on small set-ups, instead of the stereotypical gargantuan multi-tom monster set-up. We all have the freedom to choose.

I have a strong admiration for dominant double bass drummers such as Virgil Donati, Derek Roddy and Mike Portnoy. I do wish I can someday reach their level of footwork speed, precision, and power. Yet, I also have a great admiration for tasteful double bass drummers like Simon Phillips, Tim Alexander, Steve Smith, Vinnie Colaiuta, Steve Gadd... and the list goes on. They are the types who are not so heavy and uber-technical on double bass; yet, when they choose to use it, their executions are very musical. Having a double bass pedal doesn't mean that you have to play it all the time. It's like a pianist has 88 keys on his synth, and that doesn't mean that he/she needs to use all those notes in one song. We need to pick our drum parts wisely, tastefully, musically.

Anyway, going back to single bass... Like I said, my drumming-related reason for going back to single bass is because of my intention of going back to the basics. And this includes my right foot technique. I feel like I need to work more on my right foot. When I was starting out back in the 90's, I was pretty much on the right track. I was so into those single bass grunge drummers - Matt Cameron of Soundgarden, Dave Kruzen and Dave Abbruzzese of Pearl Jam, Sean Kinney of Alice In Chains... I also dug the drumming of Eric Kretz of Stone Temple Pilots and Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers... And thanks to these guys, I went back in time to discover the excellence of the late great John Bonham of Led Zeppelin... Thank Heavens for Bonzo's mighty, lightning-quick right foot!

I was so determined with my bass drum foot back in the day. Until one day, my heavy metal bandmates back in high school persuaded me to learn double bass, so that we can play some Metallica and Pantera tunes. At first, I wasn't so fond with the idea. Then after one jam session, they lent me a double bass pedal so that I can start practicing with it. From that moment on, and by the time I discovered the great progressive rock drummers, I got hooked with it.

Now I'm bringing back my enthusiasm for single bass. I've been playing single bass on church services in the last three years. The songs we play do not require double bass drumming. I once brought my double pedal at a church service, but I never really got to use it. I think I was only able to use it for a climactic ending for one fast song haha! Realizing that, I know that I'll just be fine without a double pedal with K24/7. It's just that, I got so used to playing double bass with my band. I find myself adjusting some of my drum parts. I'm missing double bass. I miss playing those "quad" fill-ins, those straight-ahead singles, those crazy song endings... I miss sneaking those double kick licks on songs like Icebox, Four Seasons of Loneliness, and our old-school MJ-EWF Medley.

I know I'll be going back to double bass sooner or later, and hopefully be able to score a better set of twin pedals. In the meantime, I'm rocking and grooving on a single bass pedal. I'm going to buy a nice single pedal soon...