Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rock Band #108: Drum Lessons (2)

In my lesson last week, I learned two things:
--the basic drum beat for "Hell's Bells" by AC/DC is the same as the basic drum beat for "Cocaine" by Eric Clapton.
--using a real kick pedal is totally different from playing Rock Band.

Trying to hit a bass drum with a kick pedal and produce a loud, fat sound is very hard. I was particularly anemic. Plus, the kick pedal on the real drum kit felt so different (less spring tension) than the Rock Band pedal that it was very tough to adjust to.

A week before that lesson, I'd ordered the Omega pedal. It's a turnkey mod for the Rock Band drum kit that uses a real Pearl P-120 pedal and just plugs into the Rock Band kit.

As it turns out, that was the same pedal that I use in my lesson.

So I got the pedal early this week and picked out a few songs that have really frustrating (for me) bass beats: "Maps" on Expert, and "Waves of Mutilation" and "Celebrity Skin" on Hard. I haven't passed Maps on Expert, and I haven't been able to 5-star WoM and CS on Hard.

I decided to start out by playing "Gimme Shelter" on Hard as a test. I can 5-star that song with no problem, and it has a steady beat, so I though it would be good as a warm-up.

718 notes later, I had my first FC on Hard, and it was my longest note streak ever.

The pedal felt absolutely great.

Maps? Passed it on the first try. Maps has this incessant bass drum line--just totally relentless--but I was in the green for almost the entire song. Then I 5-starred Celebrity Skin and almost 5-starred Waves of Mutilation. I really, really have trouble with 4-beat measures where there's a note on 1-3 and the bass drum on 2-4, particularly if it lasts for a while.

I can manage those sections now, and while I'm not giving 100% credit to the pedal, it's certainly helped.

Yes, the pedal is $89. Don't try to talk logic with me about Rock Band. But over half that price is the cost of the Pearl P-120 itself. Plus, like I said, it's a turnkey mod. All you do is plug it in and it's ready to go.

So when I went in to my drum lesson today, I was very confident that I'd be much improved on the kick pedal. And I was, except I found out something else about technique.

The way I've always played in Rock Band is with the pedal pressed down and my heel up. I let the pedal up and press back down for a note, but the default position is with the pedal down.

It's very comfortable to play this way--great for reducing leg fatigue--and it's worked really well.

Today, though, my instructor noticed what I was doing and he stopped me. On a real bass drum, if you play this way, the beater is always against the drum, and the beater doesn't rebound after a note.

In other words, I was really doing it backwards. And this doesn't matter in Rock Band, but when I needed two bass beats in a row on a real kit, the second beat sounded very weak.

He told me to try heel up, but with the pedal in the up position.

That resulted in much better sound from the bass drum, and about 5x more fatigue for my leg. Seriously, how in the world does anyone have the stamina to do that? Damn, it was brutal in terms of fatigue, and I was playing a song with 5 base notes in an 8-note measure. After three minutes, I felt like my leg was going to fall off.

It was very boom boom boom, though.

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