There are literally a hundred options to choose from when deciding on which drum pedal is the right one for you. Long or short board? Chain or belt drive? What’s a “cam” and what does it matter if it’s “offset”? And that’s not to mention all of the companies to choose from. Here are the most important aspects to consider in order to narrow your choices to what’s the right fit for you and your playing style.
Start with finding the right footboard. Ask yourself: Are you the kind of player that hits the kick with the heel/tow method or with your foot flat on the pedal? While short boards usually do the job for a flat-footed player, a longboard provides a bit more action and options. Not only is it best suited for the heel/toe player, it also helps a player execute double strokes with a little more ease. Another advantage of the longboard is that it’s better suited for players with a large shoe size. The larger board provides a bit more real estate for a larger foot.
How hard do you hit? If you have a gentle feel, a direct (or belt) drive may be your best bet. It has a lighter feel on the foot than the chain drive does. However, if you tend to bury the beater into the kick drum, a chain drive will likely suit your playing style. They provide a bit more stability and durability for rugged players. Some pedals offer the option of single or double chain drive. A double chain equals increased stability and durability. However, a player may feel less response or less “in sync” with the board rebound. Ultimately, you’ll just have to play a few options to see which suits your playing style.
The last option to consider are cams. Cams are built between the area where the bottom of the drive and the top of the board meet. Not all pedals provide options on cams, but those that do will allow the player to possibly have an offset cam for a better “whip” action with the movement of the foot. The cam may be adjustable, which will allow the player to find a setting that best suits one’s style and feel.
Now that the basics are out of the way, let’s compare a couple of options that fall into similar categories at different price points: The PDP Concept Series Direct Drive and the DW Machined Direct Drive. The PDP Concept has an extended length footboard in brushed aluminum and a low-mass cam, and it’s a solid performer that rivals much more expensive models. It also has a DW style spring rocker adjustment, lightweight aluminum base plate and the new DWSM101 air beater, which is standard on both single and double pedal models. While durable, it also has a fairly light feel which makes it an excellent option for either the beginning player who’s still finding their playing style, or the experienced player who’s performing a variety of styles ranging from jazz to rock. If you’re looking for something more responsive that will make you believe your foot has grown a kick drum extension, the DW Machined may be what you’ve been searching for. The Drum Workshop Machined Direct Drive boasts a huge number of features that can be adjusted to suit your playing style, including some exclusive DW innovations like the Tri-Pivot Swivel Toe Clamp, 110 Control Weight/Impact Adjustable Beater and Optimized Fulcrum Geometry Linkage. The pedal itself is incredibly streamlined with a quick response, and has a smooth, balanced feel. From the lightest of tappers to the heaviest of plodders, the DW Machined Direct Drive can take anything you throw at it, all while responding perfectly in sync with your foot.
Both of these pedals are also available with the chain drive option. The PDP Concept Chain Drive was designed to be PDP’s flagship pedal; it’s fast, smooth, and it’s unlike any other pedal in its price range. On top of the unique look and longboard design, it has a brushed aluminum footboard and low-mass cam. All this creates a pedal that delivers a smooth feel with unrivaled response and power. A DW-style spring rocker adjustment, beefy steel base plate and PDP beater are all standard on both single and double models. Just like the direct drive model, this pedal is perfect for the beginner or the multi-styled player, while the chain drive allows for a little more heft from the hitter. As for the DW Machined Chain Drive, the most striking difference is an adjustable, sprocket-less cam that incorporates a gear shift-style lever. This lever gives the player the option to quickly shift between the any of the chain-drive cam settings. It is also easily accessible when mounted to a bass drum. Other notable features include an all-aluminum footboard with a matching contoured heel plate. It also features a Tri-Pivot Swivel Toe-Clamp, V.E.R.T. Vertical Spring Adjustment, and 110 Control Beater. The DW MFG carrying case is also included, and the recently released MDD Hi-Hat compliments the MCD pedals perfectly. This pedal is ready to tackle any gig you have and perfectly compliments your foot with its response and feel in the process.
Figuring out which type of footboard is right for you will take some trial and error. Two good options to compare would be the Tama Iron Cobra 900 and the Tama Speed Cobra 910. The similarities between these two models are vast. Both have chain drives, the LiteSprocket Rolling Glide cam, and includes a custom-made hard shell carrying case. Both pedals also have a specially designed 3-piece Hinge Guard Block at the heel to provide a more durable hinge point and to also lengthen the footboard for better leverage. However, the Speed Cobra’s footboard is more elongated than the Iron Cobra. This is the main difference between the two and it could make all the difference in deciding which pedal is right for you. The elongated footboard will likely be better suited for drummers who use the heel/toe method or if they need a little help nailing some rapid double strokes. Or it may be as simple as your shoe size is a bit larger than average. If so, the Speed Cobra’s larger footboard may be the only difference between the two, but it’s the one detail that can make all the difference in your performance.
If a larger footboard is the single detail that will make the difference in your performance, the Yamaha FP-8500B will likely do the trick. This belt drive pedal has a smooth response and is friction free. If you’re looking for more dynamic control, then
dialing in the perfect feel and foot response can get even more precise by experimenting with interchangeable cams. In addition to offering both a belt and chain drive edition, the Pearl Eliminator Redline pedals offer the player four interchangeable cams to tune into your playing style even further. Each cam allows the player to vary the acceleration and rebound action on each kick stroke. While the black cam allows the pedal to react like a traditional legacy pedal, the three other cams offer varying degrees of beater response. The blue cam is ideal for the player looking for a powerful Bonham-style sound by allowing the player more forward action with each stroke. If you’re looking for a little help nailing those 16th note speed metal kick patterns, the clear cam will certainly help you achieve that edge. Last but not least is the red cam. It’s off-center Radical Progression Action will give you much more response than the other cams, which is receptive to the lightest of touches. With all these variations and options, there’s not a player or style that the Pearl Eliminator Redline series can’t cater to.
A single or double chain drive may seem like a small detail, but this small detail can ultimately make a big difference. For example, let’s compare the DW 2000 and 3000 series pedals. Both pedals allow the user to dial in stroke adjustments via the spring tension and beater angle. The built-in spurs also allow the player to adjust the footboard height on each pedal, which further allows the player to fine tune the stroke distance of each strike. With these two pedals, the difference between the single and double chain comes down to your reaction to each pedal’s sturdy feel and kick response. The softer touch of a player not using the heel/toe method may be ideal for use with the 2000 while the double chain of the 3000 allows a player with a harder kick to have solid support with quick response. While the cost difference between the 2000’s single chain and 3000’s double chain is minimal, the 3000 may be ideal for the more powerful player. However, with all of this information being said about every pedal examined in this article, ultimately the best way to determine which pedal is right for you is simply by trying a variety of options. Whether it’s a belt or chain drive, a single or double chain, a varying footboard size, or adjustable cams, it all comes down to which pedal allows you to kick comfortably in a style that’s unmistakably your own.