RhythmArt Blog

A day in the life of a percussionist

RhythmArt Blog

Foot operated Snare Drum

December 7th, 2009 · 8 Comments · community concerts, gear, video

A project I’ve been experimenting with off and on over the years has been adding a foot-operated snare drum to my drumset. This really stems from my goal of playing the role of drummer AND percussionist at the same time in live playing situations. There may also be some boredom motivating it as well!

In an interesting tangent, this experiment somehow led to the writing of my drumset method book, Building Grooves, which is going into pre-release this week, and will be officially out on January 14th. I’ll be doing a drum clinic and release party on that date at 2112 Percussion here in Raleigh, so be on the lookout for more information about that coming soon!

So, back to the floor-snare (I’m still trying to decide what to call this thing!). The problems that I kept running into really came down to instability (of the drum, not me personally). The drum itself would wobble and topple over, the pedal I was using to hit it would wobble and scoot out of position, and I could never get the angle between the two of them to work right in order to get a good attack on the drum.

Pearl mount connected to pedal

Pearl mount connected to pedal

So, finally I got the right combination of hardware to make it work! Step 1 was using a floor tom to bass drum conversion kit made by Pearl. This gives the bass pedal something to connect to, making it much more stable. It also adds stability to the drum itself, as it is made (in conjunction with some legs) to brace a floor tom.

snare mounted on floor bracket

snare mounted on floor bracket

Step two was using a small snare drum. I’m using a 5×13 drum that comes with the Pearl “Rhythm Traveler” drumset. The smaller size of the drum helps keep the whole assembly from tipping over. Also, in this picture you can see that I’m using the Rhythm Tech “Active Snares” instead of standard snare strands. This helps keep the snares in position against the bottom head (gravity is working against us here) and also takes away some of the weird sound you hear when listening to the “wrong” side of the drum (check this out if you haven’t noticed it – a snare drum sounds dramatically different from the bottom! I can even tell a difference if I put too much of an angle on the drum to compensate for my traditional grip ).

slave pedal next to main bass drum pedal

slave pedal next to main bass drum pedal

Step 3 is using a double pedal instead of a single. The double pedal helps in a couple of ways. 1, a double pedal tends to have more mass and a wider base than a single, so that helps with stability. And 2, it means I’ve got a lot more flexability in positioning, as I can put the drum past my floor tome and still have the pedal in a convenient position. I can get it within inches of my bass pedal, and not have to worry about finding it on the floor! I’m guessing this will also help with projection, as the snare doesn’t have to be hidden behind any other drums.

So there you have it! Below is a video showing the drum in action (my mics weren’t set quite right, so apologies for the sound quality). And, be sure to check out my clinic on January 14th, 2010, where it will be making an appearance as part of some pieces I’ll be playing!

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8 Comments so far ↓

  • Richard Groulx

    Hello Andrew,
    Great blog you have here. I really enjoyed the kinkos story re: giving yourself permission to print your own copywrited material. Hilarious.

    I’ve come across your blog because I too am a musician who has been trying to figure out how to best set up a snare drum for foot pedal operation. I’m actually a guitarist so finding this blog post is great. I had a few of my own ideas but who knows if they would have actually worked?!!

    I’ve got a 6 x 14 snare (I think it should still be pretty stable)

    I do have a few questions for you though (since I somewhat uninformed regarding drum hardware etc)

    1) It’s my understanding that in addition to the JS16 converter kit I will also need
    a) Pearl BT-3 tom mount bracket
    and b) Pearl IS1216SL ISS Mount 12″ to 16″

    for more on this, see the comment and recommended other purchases at this link: http://www.amazon.com/Pearl-JG16-Jungle-floor-converter/dp/B0002F4TBO/ref=pd_sim_MI_2

    Is this what you would recommend to best connect the snare to the JG16? I consider you the world wide web expert on this topic so thought i would run it by you before I made a purchase.

    2) I can’t seem to find any of those nifty old style ‘regal tip cowbell beaters’ do they go by another name?

    and 3) how did you attach the JG16 support legs to the snare. It looks like you have the legs attached to the snare in the video but I can’t see them in the still pictures.

    I appreciate any light you can shed on these questions Andrew.

    Thanks kindly.

  • Andrew

    Hello Richard, thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment! I’ll answer your questions as best as I can…

    1) You’re right. I thought that the “Jungle Gig” conversion kit came with the tom mount, but now that I see it in the catalog, I remember that the ISS mount was separate (I just happened to buy them at the same time!). I think the BT-3 is integrated into the ISS1216 though, so it shouldn’t be an additional purchase.

    2) The beater is called the “Reyes Mounted Cowbell Beater”, seen here: http://www.regaltip.com/phpshop2/?page=shop/flypage&product_id=75&category_id=14e8b5f200b2d475350eb34e36a0d629&PHPSESSID=c3caf5fa848c47ca44779de777b905de. It looks like they’ve changed teh design several times since I got mine, but it should still work. I’ve thought about trying one of the “Iron Cobra” style wood beaters as well, as they seem to have a smaller impact point, but I haven’t gotten to it yet!

    3) I found that using a small drum with a double pedal, I don’t need any legs attached to the drum. One of the things I DIDN’T want to do was have to drill into a drum to attach hardware, so that led me to the 5×13 snare. With a larger drum though, you may have to either add some brackets for legs, or brace it from the bottom somehow.

    Hope that helps, and please keep me posted on your own experiments and progress – we may just start a trend here!

  • Stebs

    Hey, I’m a musician from the philly area and I recently have gotten into playing drums with only my feet. I started doing it at a guitar lesson where I was sitting at my students drumkit and just started walking back and forth between bass drum and hi hat while playing chords and singing.

    I then did some research on the internet and found sites and videos like yours and http://www.farmerfootdrums.com This is getting me excited to see how much mileage I can get out of just my feet. My fantasy is to play a convincing, albeit incomplete, rock kit with my feet while singing and strumming on a guitar. I’d like to get your opinion on some logistical considerations.

    I figure I could have about six pedals for each foot, to control the following pieces: bass drum, snare, rack tom, floor tom, hi hat, ride, and crash. Some of the pedals would be double pedals so that I can get rolls and different coordinations from the same piece. The set up might look like this, from left to right, on two ‘levels’ of pedals:

    Crash Rack Floor Rack Floor Hi-Hat
    Hi-Hat Snare Ride Snare Bass Crash

    I also figure it’d be cool to keep some of the pedals close together so that you can hit two of them at the same time (like hi-hat/snare, bass/crash, if you turn your foot diagonal snare crash)

    I also think it’d be cool to possibly have some sort of clutch on the hi-hat so you could switch from tight to loose sounds.

    Not being a drummer primarily, I wonder if you think this would actually work out logistically, if it would be convincing, and if I’m missing anything necessary.


  • alt drumz

    I’ve been playing a snare with my left foot for over a decade now, and it’s pretty easy transition. I’ve used several snare drums, starting with a 1940’s ludwig wood field snare
    for some umphh. Now, I use a 1928 George Stone 3 x 13 snare, with a leedy pedal dating to the 20’s. ( in my current band, TheyWillHateUs I play kick and snare, and cymbals with my feet – while playing guitar, banjo, autoharp, mando, and a few other stringed instruments. ) – I find it comes very natural, and the drummer always shows up for the gig !

  • Ryder

    Farmer foot drums have some great instruments. but at the moment, mainly because of my budget, I am focusing creating a foot snare like andrew’s. if anyone has some tips on putting a foot snare together, it would be much appreciated. Play guitar and keyboard and need something more in my music. i don’t wan’t a drummer because i prefer to be a solo performer.

  • Jim

    Hello, Side Kick Drums has a Snare Kick Riser Stand for a foot operated snare drum.

  • Luke

    Hello thanks for the info. Just something I’ve done is make a kick pedal mount / snare drum holder out of wood. Took the kick pedal rubber piece off the rod and duck taped a brush stick to hit the snare. The snare is supported on its side by the wooden contraption and the snare legs (stand) are tipped 90 degrees to sit on the floor like normal. It actually works great then I use a kick drum with my right foot and the snare with my left foot. Then my guitar makes up for the lack of the high hat. Then all I need is a bass player and who ever else to join in. Wala a weird looking band.

  • Andrew

    Sounds like a great setup! Send me a link if you’ve got any video – I’d love to see it in action!

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