Welcome to the “School of Metal.” Well, not really, but we can give you a few basic pointers on how you can improve your skills as a drummer of a heavy metal band. It’s not as simple as just banging away on your set as hard as you could—there’s a method and an art form to the madness. Below are some bits of knowledge that could be of help to you:
While the key to being a musical genius on any instrument is persistence, that’s not to say you don’t need a little help now and then. If you’re finding it difficult to get the heavy metal sound you’re after, you can always take a few lessons. Places like The Soundlab can help you out with this.
First up, let’s talk about the tuning.
- Toms should be set to anywhere between low and medium.
- A good sign: the floor toms should be showing wrinkles when pressure is applied.
- The bottom heads should be tuned slightly lower than the top ones, thus allowing for a nice combination of sustain and pitch bend.
- Bass drums should be tuned low. You can further improve the sound by reducing the overtones and the sustain.
Tips, tricks, and techniques
In metal, speed isn’t the name of the game—it’s consistency. You should be able to play at the same volume effectively whether you’re drumming slow or fast. If you’re having a problem with this, practice with slower songs initially and work your way up towards the faster songs with more elaborate beats.
Always aim for the center of the drum. Feel free to vary your technique by hitting the rim as well in the process. Doing so should add a bit of sharpness to the snare.
The norm for metal drummers is to play hi-hats slightly open, with the clutch set low so that the double pedal won’t affect the sound. The use of x-hats is highly recommended, as it allows you to maintain an excellent sound despite the constant opening and the closing of the hi-hats. Lastly, never clamp the topmost cymbal to allow for greater movement and prevent it from being damaged.
Metallica’s Lars Ulrich utilizes this technique on the intro of the hard-hitting “Master of Puppets.” It’s done by striking the cymbal and then clutching it immediately with the other hand, although you’d probably be able to do this with the same hand after a bit of practice. This results into a more aggressive sound, which is just the thing metal requires.
Ride the Crash Cymbal
Riding the crash cymbal provides your sound with extra oomph. This works best with bigger cymbals, (those 18 inches or upwards, to be precise) in order to produce the ideal sound.
As you know, your hands aren’t the only ones that are put to work on the drum set—your feet also come into play. Our tip: practice using your weaker foot. It’s great to be comfortable with using any of your feet while drumming and flexibility is always good.
Our parting words: practice, practice, and practice some more. All your hard work will pay off eventually and you may find yourself in the next Black Sabbath or Megadeth someday.