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Heavy Metal Drumming

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Heavy Metal Drumming & Blast Beats - Live Lesson #15

In this live drum lesson, Jared & Dave had Sean Lang from the band 'First Reign' out to discuss heavy metal drumming and blast beats.

Sean’s unique way of playing this style of music makes this a truly unique and interesting lesson. Even drummers, who don’t necessarily like the heavy-metal genre, will definitely have an appreciation for Sean and his skill on the kit. Give this lesson a try, and besides learning about heavy-metal drumming, fills and blast beats, you can check Sean play to songs “This Ghost of Ours” and “As the Dead Lead the Dead” from his band First Reign and also to Amon Amarth’s “Freewill Sacrifice”.

Heavy Metal Fill

Fill #1

Heavy Metal Fill #1

This is the most basic metal fill of all. You just play 16th notes around the drum kit. You start on the snare and then move around the toms, going from the high tom to the mid tom and ending on the floor tom. To add more intensity to the fill, play quarter notes on the bass drum. Usually in metal drumming, you won’t hear this fill at lower speeds but rather at speeds between 180 and 200 bpm.

Fill #2

Heavy Metal Fill #2

This is a super common fill in metal, because you get more for less by splitting four strokes between the hands and the feet. This way, your hands never really get tired and neither do your feet. If you start practicing this at a very low speed and gradually increase tempo as you get really comfortable with it, this will be an easy fill to get into a nice metal speed. The strokes on the bass drum can be done with either a single or a double pedal.

Fill #3

Heavy Metal Fill #3

This fill is a variation of fill #2. You start by doing a 16th note single stroke roll with the hands on the high tom. Starting on the second quarter note you do two bass drum strokes, with a single or double bass pedal, followed by four 16th notes played on the mid-tom. You end this fill with two extra bass drum strokes and a final stroke between one hand on the snare and the other crashing a cymbal. You can play this fill between any drum and cymbal in the drum set. If you add cymbal strokes instead of drum strokes, you will offset the sound of the fill, making it a little chaotic and at the same time very cool. So, try to spread your single stroke rolls through the entire kit and see what cool variations you can get out of this fill.

Fill #4

Heavy Metal Fill #4

Fill #5 and this one are not stock metal fills. Metal drummers have the habit of trying to play single strokes as fast as they can or splitting a fill between hands and feet, like Sean showed in the last two fills. It is good to try different approaches and not do the same thing over and over again. So, these two next fills are ideas on how to make your metal fills a little more dynamic.

In this one you still split the pattern between your hands and feet but with a different feel to it. It’s going to start with your right hand on the snare drum, followed by two bass drum hits, which can be played with a single bass drum pedal or a double pedal and then one more right hand on the snare. Next we are going to use the left hand on the high tom followed by two more bass drum hits and one more left hand stroke on the same tom. For the rest of the fill you just have to repeat the same sticking you have done previously, but this time, instead of the right hand on the snare you go to the mid tom, and instead of using your left hand on the mid tom you go for the floor tom. Once again, try to use different sound sources to get different ideas with this pattern. Try to use cymbals or other sounds that you have on your drum kit.

Fill #5

Heavy Metal Fill #5

This fill involves a six stroke roll which is: RLLRRL. You start this fill by playing a bass drum hit at the same time as your right hand crashes a cymbal; then you follow this with a left hand double stroke on the snare, a right hand double stroke on the high tom and one final left on the snare drum to finish the six stroke roll. Then, add two bass drum hits and you are basically ready to start all over again with the same pattern, but this time starting on beat three. For this one it is a lot easier to play it with a double bass pedal because you end up by doing a group of three hits with the feet.

Blast Beats

Sean will be going through some of his weird creations regarding blast beats. These beats are based around the Swiss Army Triplet and the Flam Tap. The usage of these rudiments is not a normal procedure on blasting, since these beats are usually played with single stroke rolls, so you can expect very unique blast beats from Sean. With these beats you won’t have the problem of getting tired for overworking a hand, because they will make you spread the work between the two hands. So, when you go to perform a roll on the toms, after blasting for two minutes straight, you won’t be tired and can perform the roll effortlessly. In the lesson, and before teaching his creations, Sean starts by showing a very traditional blast beat that consists of a single stroke roll played between the right hand on the ride cymbal, which is accompanied by a hit on the bass drum, and the left hand on the snare drum. When you get really fast you can use a double pedal, but it is possible to achieve the same effect with a single pedal.

Beat #1

Heavy Metal Beat #1

This is a kind of blast beat cheat, because it is the combinations of a different sticking with both hands, rather than just doing a single stroke between them, which is what is normally done when playing a blast beat. With this approach you will be able to relive tension between your right and left hands, since booth hands do the same amount of work. So, start by playing in unison with your right hand on the snare and the left hand on the hi-hat and follow that with another right hand stroke on the snare. Afterwards, you switch you hands and play in unison with your right hand on the hi-hat and the left hand on the snare following it with another left hand snare hit. Now you just have to combine that with your double or single pedal.

While playing this beat you have to be careful not to flam the two strokes that are played at the same time. If you look closely, if you flamed the unison stroke played between the two hands, that is, if you played a right hand flam or a left hand flam, then when following it with a single stroke you would actually be playing the flam tap rudiment.

Beat #2

Heavy Metal Beat #2

Here you have another beat that makes use of another rudiment. In this case the swiss army triplet. Once again, we are not going to flam it like we would do on the actual rudiment, but instead, play the first stroke between the two hands at the same time, with the left hand on the snare and the right hand on the hi-hat. You follow this combination with another right hand and a left hand on the snare. This way, you keep a constant stream of hits on the snare while keeping time on the hi-hat. Then you just add bass drum hits played with both feet or with a single pedal.

Beat #3

Heavy Metal Beat #3

After learning the two first beats, you can combine them to create different rhythms. You start by repeating beat #2 four times in a row. Then follow this with two repetitions of beat #1. After this you just have to add bass drum strokes. With this combination you achieve a kind of groovy feel while playing a blast beat.

Beat #4

Heavy Metal Beat #4

This is another combination of the swiss triplet blast with the flam tap blast. You can combine them to create blasts with accents in odd time signatures. So, with this one you start by playing blast beat #1 two times, following it with beat #2, this way you will be playing a pattern in 7/8. After getting comfortable with the hand pattern just add in the bass drum hits.

Beat #5

Heavy Metal Beat #5

This last beat is another combination of beats #1 and #2. You start by playing blast beat #2 two times, following it by playing blast beat #1 for the same number of repetitions, which will create a groove in 10/8. Then you just have to add the bass drum hits with a single or double pedal.

Speed Tips

Everything that you play fast, you have to play slow first, really slow and with a metronome. But how slow is slow? It depends on what you are practicing really. A good place to start is maybe find the maximum speed to which you can play a beat, without it falling apart and just go a little bit bellow that. Then work on getting the pattern really tight and solid, and bump up the speed when you are really mastering the groove at that speed. Another thing that helps you on getting speed around the kit is conservation of energy. This can be achieved by doing fewer movements and also by developing your wrists and fingers. Another thing you can do to optimize your movements is to keep all of your cymbals and drums as close as possible to you, making it that much easier to perform any type of quick motions around the drum set.

If you really want to execute fast double bass rolls, you have to strive for less movement also. So, as you gain more and more speed your technique will have to change from big leg movements to small movements that are mainly done by your feet, to make it possible for you to have the necessary control speed and stamina to perform these types of double bass runs. Remember this, time and practice will give you speed.

Bass Drum Triggers

There are a lot of misconceptions about triggers especially on YouTube. Triggers do not make you faster on the drums, but practicing double bass will. Think about this, a vocalist can sing a lot better if he can hear himself sing, and drummers can play a lot better if they can hear themselves. Usually this is not a problem for drummers, but with metal, you have so many sound sources competing with one another, regarding volume, that eventually when you get the kicks going faster, their sound just gets lost in the mix, and just becomes this big rumble. Also, at certain speeds, it becomes hard for the drummer to determine were the actual hits are being played.

With triggers, you get a really definitive attack, so you know exactly where your hits are. In essence, triggers are just a way of a drum to monitor his bass drum hits when he is going really fast and also to allow the bass drum hits to cut through the mix, and be heard and have definition. Another thing, to which triggers are good for, is to give the bass hits that really punchy and “cicky” sound, which is a staple of this genre of music.