The Best Bass Drum Beaters for Country Drumming
Country music covers an incredibly wide range of musical styles. With so much ground to cover, it can be a real challenge for drummers to choose the right bass drum beater for each musical situation. In this gear guide, we’ll hear from Low Boy artists across the country music spectrum about which beaters they use and why.
Country music covers an incredibly wide range of musical styles. Classic country has elements of folk, bluegrass and Americana, while modern artists draw heavy influences from pop, rock and even R&B. With so much ground to cover, it can be a real challenge for drummers to choose the right bass drum beater for each musical situation. In this gear guide, we’ll hear from Low Boy artists across the country music spectrum about which beaters they use and why.
These drummers play with some of the biggest names around, and they all have slightly different approaches to getting that perfect kick drum tone. Some switch beaters constantly, while others have found a sound they like and stick to it. For these accomplished and resourceful drummers, it’s not just about the sound, but also the feel and vibe.
What’s the difference between wood, leather, felt and lambswool striking surfaces for country drumming? Put on your headphones and hear for yourself.
Low Boy artist Donnie Marple holds down the drum chair with country superstar Lee Brice and uses a pair of Standard Leather Daddy beaters. “I like having that snappy attack on my kick drum and it’s just my sound. And with the leather, if you play soft enough, you can still get away with ballads like ‘A Woman Like You’ [one of Brice’s four #1 hit singles]. You can hit it lighter and it still has that special element. To me it’s just right down the middle. It’s kind of like your favorite ride or snare. It takes care of multiple different spectrums of sound depending on how hard you hit. It’s just how I like it in my ears.”
Along with the sound, Marple (who also won the 2007 Guitar Center Drum-Off) zeroes in on the 95-gram weight of the Standard beater as an important piece of the puzzle. “I feel weird using any other beater. I’ve become very spoiled with having that type of weight the way it’s thrown into the kick drum and the sound it produces. I’m picky! I like it to sound a specific way. Usually you have to work a lot to do that. It’s a beautiful thing.”
He also loves how Brice’s music gives him a chance to showcase his diverse musical background and double-pedal setup. ”With Lee, we get to really shine and spread our wings. I grew up a big Carter Beauford fan and when I went see Dave Matthews Band live, one thing that stuck out to me was that right when you got to a bigger moment, Carter would pull out that double pedal and hit you in the chest.”
While Marple sticks mostly with the Leather Daddy beaters, Low Boy artist Mike Meadows changes his setup constantly for different musical scenarios. As a Nashville session player, Meadows works with artists like Hayes Carll, Willie Nelson and Shawn Colvin and also has a new solo record coming out where he plays every instrument called “My Best Daydream.” Along with playing a traditional kit, Meadows employs a variety of hybrid percussion setups with cajon, hand percussion and the innovative Swan Drum, which he helped design.
“Most of the time I’m using a standard felt beater because I like the weight. I like the Leather Daddy for stuff that smacks. I prefer my pedal to be loose and I want my beater to have a lot of weight and that’s one of the things I love about the Low Boy. The one I use here at the studio is made out of purpleheart, which is a really dense wood. I just love having that weight for a 24-inch kick drum. That weight, combined with the surface area is what gives it that nice warm, fat tone I’m looking for.”
Meadows also talks about how the weight and shape of the standard beater helps him play with proper foot technique. “I don’t want to have to slam the pedal in. I want to get a full sound and I want the pedal and beater to do most of the work. I’m a big fan of Moeller technique and applying it to the bass drum pedal. I used to hang out and jam with Dave DiCenso and I think he has the best bass drum technique on the planet. It’s all about being relaxed, coming off the head and getting that nice, open tone. If I’m playing a train beat I’ll usually bury the beater. There are some train beats with Willie Nelson where I want that tight, four-on-the-floor vibe.”
He also hones in on the positioning of the beater relative to the head as an important element that often flies under the radar. “The other thing that people don’t think about a lot is that where the beater is hitting is just as important as what type you use because everyone sets up to hit right in the center. The center is actually the least point of resonance. If I’m playing a train beat, I want it in the center, but for a ballad I’ll move slightly off center to get a different tone.”
Meadows is also creative and resourceful about finding new sounds and has come up with a number of unique ideas to modify his beater. “I met the Low Boy guys pretty early on. I took the wood beater they gave me and took scotch mounting tape with a little foam on it and put it on the beater. I also put some sheepskin chamois [a porous leather material pronounced ‘shammy’] from an auto parts store on there. You can play buzzes and stuff through it and bounce it better than through a teacloth. It drops the pitch too. It’s like a chamois-daddy! I use that one on a lot of stuff. I used it on a Kris Kristofferson record that got nominated for a Grammy. With Shawn [Colvin] it’s usually the Felt Daddy. With her, I change it up based on what we’re doing. For live shows and in the studio, the felt is the one I’m using the most. I’ll use the leather or the wood depending on how much attack I need.”
Though he plays everything from small clubs to stadiums, Meadows feels that the music, not the venue should dictate what beater to use. “I think playing and experimenting is an important part of creating your sound and supporting the music. It’s all about the tempo and feel of the song. That’s gonna dictate which beater I use. I did a show with Willie Nelson in front of seventy-five thousand people. It doesn’t matter if you’re outside. Your sound is your sound.”
Low Boy artist Garrett Goodwin has spent a lot of time outside himself playing massive stadium shows with country superstar Carrie Underwood for over 8 years. He primarily uses the Standard Leather Daddy beater, but switches it up occasionally when the situation calls for it. “The first time I used Low Boy beaters, there was something special about them for sure. I’d say that for 90 percent of everything I do, I use the leather. I bury the beater when I play, and for me the sound is a little less round and buries a little better. But the wood beater has a little more attack and I use that for certain things too. I’m a hard hitter and it drives me crazy when a pedal doesn’t have tension or if the beater isn’t heavy enough. It’s too easy! There’s something about that torpedo effect where there’s weight behind it. When I first got them, I liked the standard weight. It was exactly what I needed. I don’t remember the last time I didn’t use a Low Boy beater.”
Goodwin has also found another innovative and unconventional use for the wood beater. “I’ve also used these beaters quite a bit as auxiliary pieces. I have a massive 36-inch kick drum mounted on a stand and I’ll hold the beater in my hand and hit the drum to make different loops or some trippy, ethereal sounds. It’s never a hard hit, but with the wood beater on that big drum there’s something about it that always works.”
Along with his time with Underwood, Goodwin runs the Nashville Sampling Company which sells packs of his recorded drum sounds. Many of these samples feature the Leather Daddy and wood beaters. “We recorded most of the samples in a 60,000 square-foot warehouse and you could really hear the attack of the wood in the big room. You could actually hear the hit point. But we also did some closer samples for a tighter pack where I used the leather and it had slightly less attack. When I’m playing unplugged stuff live I still use the leather, but I also think the felt beater would be cool for some of those broken-down, acoustic-vibe situations too. That takes out some of the attack which, especially for studio things is really needed sometimes.”
While the Low Boy Lightweight and Puff Daddy beaters can bring an element of finesse and tonal diversity to more stripped-down musical situations, many of these country artists gravitate to the Standard Leather Daddy, Felt Daddy and wood options both onstage and in the studio. Meadows touches on the importance of these details in a recording context. “I use a lot of different beaters and vary it up a lot in the studio. If I’m recording train beats, I use the Leather Daddy to get some smack and attack as opposed to a more open sound. I want it to have that definition. There’s so much you can do by changing the beater. By changing this one thing, you can create a completely different sound. I think it’s underutilized a lot. It’s the little things that matter, man.”
When it comes to studio work, Marple agrees that it’s all about the details and actually conducted his interview from the historic Muscle Shoals Studio as he was tracking an album with Rob Williford (guitarist for Luke Combs). “We set up and the first thing I gave [the engineer] was kick drum. He didn’t know what the beater was – it just sounded good! I almost felt like he didn’t have to do as much work. The way I have that little extra snap with the leather makes it so he doesn’t have to add stuff – it’s already there naturally.”
Though he mostly sticks with the Leather Daddy beaters onstage and in the studio, Marple does have one useful application for the wood beater. “What’s nice about the wood is that if you have an electronic drum set, those mesh heads aren’t too good with rubber and plastic, so it’s nice to have something that will work with a Roland kit. I use that on my electronic kit and it’s not harming the mesh and it’s super safe for it. There’s less friction.”
Goodwin agrees, adding ”there’s definitely certain things I use the wood for. But the leather is my go-to for big and small shows. That’s my starting point.”
Marple concludes by talking about the special feeling that comes with having a handmade beater. “I’m all about customization. I think there’s something special about Low Boy offering these which makes me look forward to the next thing. You can think about these beaters almost as a collectors’ item and a piece of your history. I like the fact that every beater is different because of the grain of wood or maybe a knot in the wood that makes it look unique. It makes you feel special. I believe in the product and think a lot of people would like having it on their pedal. Why not treat yourself? Life is short! Have a custom bass drum beater.”
For the best experience, please listen to these bass drum beater audio samples while wearing headphones. All sounds were played and recorded by Rob Mitzner.
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By Rob Mitzner
New York-based session drummer and writer Rob Mitzner has recorded for Billboard Top-10 charting albums, films, and Broadway shows, and performed at Lincoln Center, The Smithsonian, Caesar’s Palace, The Blue Note, Boston Symphony Hall and for President Obama in his hometown of Washington D.C. He has been featured in national publications such as Downbeat magazine and Modern Drummer, and his credits include over 60 commercially available albums across many genres. When he’s not playing and touring, Rob spends his days at C-Room Studio in Brooklyn cutting drum tracks, shedding funky electric bass and writing articles. His new book “Drumming in a Band: Stuff You Can Use” is due to be released by Hudson Music in early 2022. Rob holds a B.A. in Music and Political Science from Brown University, and is a proud endorser of Paiste Cymbals, Remo Drumheads, Hendrix Drums and Drumdots.