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drummers practised double bass drum

Famous Drummers Who Practised The Art Of The Double Bass Drum 

by Martha Simmonds

The double bass drum—it’s heavy, thunderous, and a challenge for any drummer, even the legends.

Double base drum sets can be massive. For your average drummer, they are not always accessible. But for someone with big shows, large crews, and crowds of roadies, there is no problem.

While listeners and musicians nowadays associate the double bass drum with heavy metal, it was a high schooler named Louie Bellson who first thought of the new instrument in 1939.

The arrival of rock in the 1960s began the first serious incarnation of the double bass drum. The setup became the new creative movement in the world of drumming.

Here, we’ll look at this powerful instrument and the era that continues to influence popular music today.

The Development of the Double Bass Drum Set

Reviewing the development of the double bass drum in the mid and later years of the 20th century reads like a Who’s Who of rock royalty.

Keith Moon from ‘The Who’ and Mitch Mitchell from the Jimi Hendrix Experience started popularizing the use of two bass drums in the 1960s. Everything these exceptionally talented drummers did gained attention.

Cream was another band with a massive influence on the music scene, and its legendary guitarist Ginger Baker was an early proponent.

Baker played his drums in a left/right alternating fashion, but he also used them simultaneously to produce more power and keep up with the monstrous amperage of the guitarists. The advent of television spread the word about this powerful new playing style.

In the 1970s, this trend continued with Bill Ward from Black Sabbath using technical footwork. Then the best double bass pedal performances by Neil Peart in the late 1970s followed after that, substantially increasing the popularity Rush experienced at that time.

However, heavy metal drummers became the real experts at this instrument. The headbangers demonstrated the true art of playing the two bass drums loud and fast.

Metallica, Motley Crue, and Slayer used huge double bass drum sets live and set the drums alive with their skill.

What Difference Has the Double Bass Drum Pedal Made?

Today, double bass drum pedals have become more popular than full kits. They get around the problem of owning, moving, and setting up multiple drums.

The first double bass drum pedal was a slow burner and didn’t start to achieve real popularity until the 1960s by a few pioneering musicians. The 1980s and 1990s saw an explosive demand for its heavy sounds. But is it a cop-out? What do the purists think?

Most of today’s top drummers will opt to play a double bass drum pedal over a drum kit, and we’re not just talking about keen drumming enthusiasts but also seasoned pros.

It’s quicker, more consistent in production, affordable, and saves time transporting and setting up more than one bass drum.


The double bass drum pedal is not a poor relation to the drum set, far from it. Some players consider that having two oversized drums is just for show, and with a real pro drummer who plays very fast, it is almost impossible to discern the second beat anyway.

But in fact, the double bass pedal has a part to play in many different music styles. It allows powerful, fast, thunderous performances that have paved new paths in musical innovation.

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