This kick drum pedal guide will help you choose the right setup for your needs, whether this is your first pedal or you’re upgrading to the best you’ve ever owned.
Anatomy of a Kick Drum Pedal
Let’s break it down with what to look for in each feature.
Starting at the point where the percussionist physically attaches to the drumhead. The essential music-producing element of his instrument. The footboard accepts the physical action of the drummer. Playing style and foot size determine the preferred footboard.
A shortboard bass drum kick pedal is the most common type. There is a heel plate for heel-down playing. The shortboard personal “sweet spot” for each drummer is somewhat higher and smaller than the longboard. The shortboard type of kick pedal is easier to use for people with smaller feet. With less material, shortboard kick pedals are relatively lighter and faster.
Drummers who play heel-up and those with larger feet may prefer the longboard bass drum kick pedal style. The larger surface area provides a lower and larger sweet spot. So more forgiveness of player inconsistencies.
A footboard translates the physical energy of the percussionist to the…
Chain drive is the most common type. Strong and responsive, a chain drive generates a lot of power while allowing for a big and powerful bass drum sound.
Direct drive bass drum kick pedals are linked with solid metal pieces between the footboard and the beater. Eliminating any slack in the system. Direct drive kick pedals are fast and precise, but tend to be harder to control.
Strap drives, the least common system, split the difference between chain and direct drives. Strap drives are a little faster than chain drives but not as powerful. Giving a little more forgiveness than direct drive systems.
All kick pedal drives attach to a…
Chains and straps move over the cam as the footboard is pressed. The cam is usually round or flat, though mixed and custom shapes are available. There are other systems that allow cams to be changed as required. A round cam keeps the beater moving at a consistent velocity throughout the stroke. This is a definite advantage for drummers looking for better control. A flat cam accelerates the beater faster than a round cam. Helping drummers needing the speed required to play double-bass sections or double/triple strokes.
The function of any cam is to propel the…
The beater is mounted to the terminal part of the kick pedal. It’s performance and the sound it delivers is determined by beater shape, size, weight and material. We’ll talk about material in a minute; here’s a discussion of the first three.
- Shape: Beater shape makes a difference. Flat faced beaters provide the most drumhead contact. So, they produce the most attack, depth, and volume. Round beaters have less surface area and give a softer sound. Line beaters attempt to split the difference.
- Size: Similarly, larger beaters create bigger sounds because there is more surface area to interact with the drumhead. Smaller beaters offer less attack, volume, and depth.
- Weight: Heavy beaters boost power. Light beaters produce speed. A single band performance may include marches, waltzes, movie themes, and jazz. The kick pedal needs of a drummer change quickly. So many percussionists opt for a medium weight beater for better balance and versatility.
- Materials: Harder materials give you a crisper sound. Softer materials create deep and soft sensations. A full range of beater materials gives modern drummers the ability to respond to the needs of the music.
Let’s get specific.
The harder the beater, the crisper the sound. Hard beater materials produce sharp, edgy, bright sounds that cut more noticeably through music. So, they're ideal for rock, pop, metal and other hard-driving sounds.
Wooden and plastic beaters vary in size and density. Still, most provide strong bass attack and depth of sound. They often have a brightness similar to wooden drumsticks.
Plastic beaters max out stroke definition so they cut through even the loudest accompanying music.
Metal beaters are uncommon, but offer the biggest punch and the most powerful sound. The rest of the drum set is likely to wear out before the metal beater. Consider adding a bass drum patch to protect any drumhead regularly subjected to a metal beater.
Yes, they are called “fluffy.” These are great for quiet, smooth playing and the recording studio. Fluffy beaters at the business end of a kick pedal produce warm, low drumbeats with an undefined attack. Something like the DW Black Sheep and Vater Vintage Bomber are ideal for jazz, R&B and soft rock.
Beaters made of felt are the most common. An excellent combination of strike definition and a full bass drum sound. Considered the middle road of kick pedal beaters, felt has a great moderate attack that lends itself to pop, R&B, rock, and country. Each felt beater (and the drum sound it produces) softens over time.
The softness of the materials make fluffy and felt beaters wear out quicker.
A rubber beater’s sound is round, compared to harder materials like wood or plastic and provides good definition. A good mid-range beater material, rubber is sometimes too bright-sounding to perform well at low volume. Therefore, rubber beaters can play any music well but they might not be ideal for your sound. Jack of all trades, sort of thing.
Kick Drum Pedal Options
Here is a quick scan of some kick drum pedals you might consider and a little bit about each one.
The Drum Workshop 5000 series kick pedals provide footboard, drive, and cam options. Well-known among drummers, the DW 5000 balances power, speed, and adjustability. High-quality components provide years of trouble-free play.
Many professional drummers use the Pearl P930 Demonator single chain interchangeable cam Powershifter. Versatile and smooth, the Demonator has good speed and response. All-metal construction, adjustable beater, and interchangeable cams make the Demonator a premium kick pedal without the premium price.
The Ludwig Speed King (bottom of the page) is the classic kick pedal. Retro good looks are upgraded and reissued for 2020. With stronger cam and heel plate bearings and a tougher linkage for modern play. Adjustment is limited, but the Ludwig Speed King has a light, fast action at a reasonable price.
(Note: at the time of publication, this pedal was only available for pre-0rder and the MSRP looks like $199.00 US.)
How Did We Do?
As I've said from the outset, while music is a very important part of my life, I am NOT a drummer. To be able to put together guides and reviews means I have to work with researchers and writers. They scan the brand sites and reviews to produce something that's not just MY opinion. I strive to get as wide of an impression as possible. Noting the pros, cons and standout features of each type or piece of gear we write about. I believe this gives you guys a much better feel for each subject we write about.
As you can imagine, this is the start of a new series for the Snare Drum Reviews brand. In coming months, we'll be adding more pedal and snare reviews. So stay tuned.
In the mean time, if there's any particular gear you'd like to see reviewed please drop me a line from the contact page. We'll do our best to make that happen.
Stay safe and keep getting better!