The average drum set is easily one of the most intimidating instruments in the world. There are so many pieces, all of which have just as many variables associated with them as any single guitar or amp. Then, you’ve got to tune it, carefully adjusting the tension of every drum to get the best sound possible... and that’s not even getting into the subtle differences between cymbals or drum shells!
As a drummer, picking out the right gear can be overwhelming. While each piece of a kit deserves it’s own buying guide, our focus here today is going to be bass drum pedals. Getting the right bass drum pedal is crucial; ideally it should feel like a natural extension of your leg and foot. It’s a complicated piece of gear, however, and wading through the dozens of models available on your favorite music store’s website (or shelf) can be overwhelming.
However, fear not! If you’ve ever wondered how to evaluate the best bass drum pedal for your needs, rig, and budget, you’ve come to the right place. This article will give you all the information that you need in order to make an informed decision, as well as make 5 great recommendations that will be sure to aid you in your search.
- Bottom Line:An industry standard, and for good reason. It comes in a Turbo version (more consistency) and Accelerator version (more momentum as the beater strikes). Either way, if you can swing the price, this workhorse hits high marks for performance & durability. Best of the Best (Single Bass Drum Pedal)
- Bottom Line:A perfect choice for a beginner, or a veteran who wants a reliable backup. The Iron Cobra's price-to-quality ratio is outstanding. Sure, at this price you're sacrificing some adjustability and bells & whistles, but you'll be amazed at how solid and reliable this pedal is. Best Bang for your Buck
- What is a Bass Drum Pedal?
- What to Look For in a Bass Drum Pedal
- How Did We Select our Bass Drum Pedal Recommendations?
- Top 5 Bass Drum Pedals
What is a Bass Drum Pedal?
Before diving into the finer details, let’s start with the basics - a bass drum pedal is used to strike a bass drum. A bass drum is the largest drum in a drum kit, sitting on the floor under the toms. This type of drum is also known as a kick drum, and hence you’ll also see a bass drum pedal referred to as a kick drum pedal. Bass drums actually started out being used in orchestral music as a novelty instrument. In their infancy the drums were much larger, which resulted in a very low percussive tone. However, because they were so large they produced a definite pitch, which made their usefulness in orchestral music fairly limited.
As the drum shrank it was once again adopted by orchestras. It was also adopted by hobbyist musicians, eventually making its way into the drum kit following the invention of the modern bass drum pedal by William Ludwig, way back in 1909.
A bass drum pedal works by using a footboard to pull a chain or belt, which in turn results in the attached mallet being driven forward into the drum head. The head of the mallet (a.k.a. a beater head) is generally made from felt, wood, plastic, or rubber.
What to Look For in a Bass Drum Pedal
In this section we’ll discuss how to evaluate a bass drum pedal, which mostly amounts to understanding the various components and options available to you. If you’re just starting out, it’s important that you understand what these things are and what they do, so when you ask around for advice you can at least ask the right questions!
The drive is the mechanism that connects the footboard to the beater - in other words, it’s what allows the mallet to move and strike the drum, which is the most crucial feature of a bass drum pedal. Drives come in three varieties: direct drives, chain drives, and belt drives. It’s important to understand that no one drive mechanism is superior - they’re all just different options you have, and different drummers like different ones. They primarily differ in feel and durability. Let’s talk a bit about the three options:
Direct drive is simply a piece of metal directly connected to the foot pedal. The idea behind direct drive is that there is no flex or other unwanted movement, so control and response are tighter.
A chain drive - arguably the most common drive - is a chain connected to the pedal, which makes the mechanism feel a bit smoother than a solid piece of metal. When shopping around you’ll see both single-chain and double-chain (which is exactly what it sounds like). On entry level kick drum pedals, you’re likely to see single-chain drive, which has led to the perception that it’s not as good. Honestly, that’s not really true these days. While yes, that is a characteristic of more budget pedals, single-chain drive can be very high quality, sturdy, and durable, and is actually preferred by many professional drummers.
The third type of drive, belt (or strap) drive, typically uses a nylon, leather, or rubber strap (or even something more extreme like the same material used to make conveyor belts). This type of drive is described as feeling a bit more “lively” than a chain or direct drive. Historically belt drives have been less durable than their chain counterparts, but modern belts are made from heavy duty materials that can equal or exceed the strength of chains. Another benefit some drummers tout is that it’s easier to spot wear and tear on a belt as opposed to a chain, leading to easier maintenance.
A cam controls the acceleration of the mallet. There are two different types of cams: round and oblong/oval (also known as linear and offset, respectively). A rounded cam is more consistent throughout the movement, which allows the musician to have more dynamic control over their drum. Oblong cams work in a way similar to that of a gas pedal where the more you depress the pedal the more force you apply to your mallet.
Pedal length is exactly what it sounds like: the overall length of the pedal. The length of the pedal isn’t as important as the drive and cam, but it will have an impact on your comfort while you’re playing. If you’re a player with a larger shoe size, consider looking for a larger pedal to compensate for that. If you have a smaller shoe size, consider the inverse.
Double Bass Drum Pedals
With the advent of heavier genres of music, the double bass drum pedal’s popularity has grown tremendously. Single vs. double bass drum pedal is probably the most obvious feature to anyone looking at drum pedals. And really, everything in the sections above applies to double bass drum pedals as much as it does to single ones. The only thing that you really need to be aware of is that a double bass drum pedal is going to be significantly more expensive than a single bass drum pedal of similar quality. So, in order to get a high quality double bass drum pedal, you’re not going to want to go for the cheapest option possible. Just use your best judgement, and be sure to always purchase your gear from a store or online retailer with a good return policy.
How Did We Select our Bass Drum Pedal Recommendations?
Our recommendations are always made with widespread applicability in mind. While we recognize that cost generally directly correlates with quality (well, to a point at least), it doesn’t matter how good a pedal is if you just can’t justify the price! We keep in mind both those drummers that want the best bang for the buck option, as well as those that can stretch the budget and go for a more high-end bass drum pedal. To make our top 5 list, we spent hours consulting with our pro drummer friends, tallying up the most recommended pedals in online forums and communities where drummers hang out, as well as watching videos and pouring over reviews online. To make the final list, we went to our local music shop and tested some of the finalists ourselves (with a little help from our friends, who are more experienced and talented drummers than we are). While “best” is a very subjective term when it comes to music gear, we think our top 5 recommendations are all very solid choices, and at the very least will serve as a great starting point to your own research.
Top 5 Bass Drum Pedals
Without further ado, let’s get to our 5 great recommendations for the best bass drum pedals. Happy shopping!
DW 5000 Series Single Pedal
Drive Type: Dual-Chain Drive
The DW 5000 is a fantastic single bass drum pedal. If you consider the amount of pro drummers using it, it’s not a stretch to call it a bit of an industry standard. DW continues to improve on the 5000 series, and this pedal is a testament to their commitment. Everywhere you look, it’s getting rave reviews, and it appears as a recommendation in nearly every “what’s the best bass drum pedal” forum thread we went through. In our panel of test drummers, the DW 5000 was a consistent favorite.
“...the difference between the two is that the Turbo has a chain-sprocket which is centered on the pedal shaft to provide a consistent feel, as opposed to the sprocket on the Accelerator, which is offset to provide a little extra momentum to the beater as it strikes the head.”
The DW 5000 is an absolute workhorse, and excels when it comes to performance and durability. In fact, many drummers like it better than its pricier sibling, the DW 9000. The DW 9000 is more customizable, but many people prefer the feel and weight of the DW 5000. And while the DW 5000 is not exactly budget priced, its price tag is absolutely justified. This pedal wins our Best of the Best (Single Bass Drum Pedal).
Pearl P932 Demonator Single Chain Drive Double Pedal
Drive Type: Single-Chain Drive
Since the DW 5000 is our pick for the best single bass drum pedal, it seems only fair that we have a top choice for a double pedal, and the Pearl P932 Demonator takes that crown. Everything on this pedal just screams quality, from the look and feel, down to the little details.
It’s not as adjustable as pricier pedals, and honestly that’s the biggest sacrifice you’re making with the Pearl P932. Users of it rave how punchy, solid, and smooth it feels. It’s hard to believe such a rock solid double bass drum pedal can be had at this price; all in all, Pearl really nailed it from a quality and value perspective. Best of the Best (Double Bass Drum Pedal).
Tama HP200P Iron Cobra 200 Series Single Pedal
Drive Type: Single-Chain Drive
Whether you’re a beginner looking for a great single bass drum pedal that won’t break the bank, or a seasoned pro who wants a reliable and inexpensive backup, Tama has you covered with the Tama Iron Cobra 200 Series Single Pedal.
Initially our panel of test drummers were skeptical, as they would be of any pedal in the $60 range. However, as soon as they tried out the Tama Iron Cobra 200, all doubts were put to rest. Simply put, the price-to-quality ratio is off the charts. Right out of the box the pedal was set up very well and required very little adjustment. The single-chain drive action is decisively smooth and fast, and the entire pedal feels very high quality - certainly higher than it’s price tag would indicate.
If you’re thinking to yourself, “something’s gotta give,” we thought that too, but honestly it’s hard to find fault with it considering how much it costs. Sure, pedals that cost 2-3 times as much will provide more adjustability and a better fit and finish, but if you’re not interested in paying that much and simply want a single bass drum pedal that will deliver, stop your search here. Best Bang for your Buck.
Tama Speed Cobra HP310L Single Bass Drum Pedal
Drive Type: Dual-Chain Drive
As its name would indicate, the Tama Speed Cobra HP310L is a bass drum pedal built with speed in mind. The footboard is elongated, which absolutely makes a difference when going for fast rhythms. We’re also fans of its very durable double-chain drive mechanism. What makes the Speed Cobra HP310L even more enticing is its budget-friendly price.
Pearl P930 Demonator Chain Drive Single Pedal
Drive Type: Single-Chain Drive
The Pearl P930 Demonator is the single bass drum pedal version of our highest recommended double bass pedal, the Pearl P932. It’s also the little brother to Pearl’s top-of-the-line P3000D pedal.
The P930 has a very streamlined, almost minimal design, and definitely looks pricier than it actually is. You don’t get as many adjustments as you do on the P3000D, but the adjustments you do get make sense and work well. With its single-chain drive, the P930’s action is smooth, quick, and sensitive. The footboard is elongated and feels solid and secure.
The Pearl P930 Demonator carries a very attractive price tag. Sure, the P3000D offers many more adjustments and an overall superior build quality, but whether or not that’s worth three times the price is something you’ll need to evaluate. A very dependable choice for a single bass drum pedal in the under-$100 price range.