Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Readers question 5: Pedals

Well its been a long time but again I have a readers question, yet again stemming from Sophie merely asking questions so here we go: What are the difference between strap, chain and direct drive pedals. On the end of this I will also briefly go into cam and sprockets too (ooohhhh exciting!)
SO lets start with the most basic question, what is a pedal? Well if your a drummer its that funny little thing under your foot you stamp on to make a lot of noise, to everyone else it is a mechanism. When you press down on the pedal this pulls down a chain/strap/mechanism which then turns a bar directly above the pedal holding the beater and projects it towards the head of a drum. An easy way to show this is get an elastic band and loop the band around it. Then pull tight and wrap the other end around our finger. Then turn your finger and you will see it turns the pencil, same principle.
So now we get to the different types of pedal. First up we have the industry standard, the chain pedal.
As a chain pedal it simply means that the mechanism to pull the beater to strike the drum is a chain. Chains are rigid and so any pressure applied to the pedal is applied to the beater almost instantly. They are also flexible (rigid and flexible? HOW?! Well a chain pulled tight becomes rigid, think of it like pulling an elastic band and  pressing down on it, its a lot harder than pushing down on a non-stretched elastic band) so they have a bit of spring in them. This means that when the pedal bounces back and you bring your foot up the pedal bounces a bit higher. A lot of players enjoy this as it gives more power to each beat as it has to travel further.
Next up we have the strap pedal:
The strap pedal, you guessed it, has a strap instead of a chain. In essence it works just like a chain.It pulls down the beater and goes rigid when stretched, however being fabric it has a bit more elasticity in it. This has a very different effect on the pedal. When you stomp on the pedal the strap stretches slightly, then as it regains it rigidity it accelerates to retain its standard size (again, when you stretch an elastic band you can feel it pulling as it wants to revert to its original form) this causes the pedal to accelerate faster and strike much harder against the bass drum. In essence it is just a more powerful version of the basic chain pedal. However being fabric they are much more prone to breaking.
Finally we have the direct drive pedal:
Now as you can tell straight away, such pedals are VERY different. Firstly there is no cam or long bar holding the beater. In fact these pedals are very different. Instead they incorporate what is known as a direct drive mechanism, which is a series of metal bars directly attached to the beater so that all and any pressure on the pedal is directly transferred to the beater. This means the pedal is utterly unforgiving. Everything you play even as an accident will be played. They are super sensitive but lack the power of the other 2 pedals. The actual mechanism is a replica of a knee joint. When you apply pressure to the pedal it acts as a muscle and springs open your leg as if you are kicking. Ball bearings help make the pedal as smooth as possible and create the most sensitive pedal out there. However with so much going on, if something breaks on one of these pedals it can be very hard, and sometimes impossible, to fix.

Part 2: Cams and Sprockets
What is a cam and sprocket? Well these are what the chain/strap is attached to. Now you may think "hey its just a circle that the strap or chain is attached to, how can they be special at all?" Well, its down to the shape of them. Sprocket cams are mostly completely circular and quite thin meaning they can only hold a single chain. However being light and round they offer a more balanced feel.
Most sprocket pedals are for beginner pedals, but some such as this camco pedal, are reserved for professional usage due to there unique feel.
A cam pedal works slightly differently. They have a unique shape which changes the way the pedal feels.
The cam generally has less surface area in contact with the chain than a sprocket pedal and is generally angled forwards so that more power can be taken from each strike.

So there you have it, any questions and feel free to ask :)

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