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Heel-toe technique is a method of playing double strokes on the bass drum, hi-hat, or other pedals. More recently, this method has been used in the World's Fastest Drummer competition to set speed records.
The technique allows a drummer to play two strokes in a single motion. It consists of two parts:
- The foot is suspended above the footboard of the pedal and the first of the two notes is played with the ball of the foot.
- The foot snaps forward, the heel comes up and the toes complete the second stroke.
The term heel-toe is used because of the appearance of the heel pushing down on the pedal,when in actuality it is the ball of the foot and the toe.
The technique is an asset when playing double kick pedals or two bass drums as it allows for the standard rudiments to be played with the feet. When mastered, drummers can use the method to play complex patterns in the same manner as the hands in addition to rolling the bass drum.
Noted players include Tim Waterson, who once held the world record for beats on bass drum per minute, with a record of 1,057 singles and 1,407 doubles, Jojo Mayer, Danny Carey, James Davenport, Tim Yeung, Hellhammer and Chris Adler.
The technique was pioneered by John Bonham, of Led Zeppelin on the song "Good Times Bad Times" from 1969. Jimmy Page has stated that the highlight of the song is the bass drum work, which Bonham copied from Carmine Appice of Vanilla Fudge, not knowing that Appice used double bass with two kick drums. Bonham also employs the technique throughout his career, with notable examples being "Out on the Tiles", "Kashmir", and Bonham's drum solo, "Moby Dick".
It is unknown who first developed this method. Some drummers also believe that the technique is loosely based on a tap dancing technique used to get two strokes out of every motion. In previous years, the technique was known only among certain circles, but recently it has been a main topic of discussion in many drum forums.
A similar technique is used with the hands when playing congas where the "heel" of the hands hits the skin first followed by the fingers.