Bass drumming is an activity that takes a very special mind. Thinking in tandem with a group of other individuals to achieve movements and sounds that rival only that of multi-tone instruments. Running plays like a football team, each person with a specific job to do, is not an easy mindset to have. Personalities and abilities play a huge role on the bass line. Those setting the line must be extremely careful:
1st Bass – Confidence and initiative! This player cannot be scared to engage, as he/she will be initiating most of the bass runs. Quick hands and rhythmic consistency are also a must in a position where all the other bass drums follow and watch (no one likes dirty unison parts). A lovable personality is also favorable, as he/she is sort of the face of the bass line.
2nd Bass – Hands, hands, hands! This player must have chops, and super fast ones! Playing all the off-beats and setting the patterns for volume and tempo control is a HUGE job. Bass 1 and 2 should be two peas in a pod, every move and every note in sync, inseparable. 2nd is typically your most talented player on the bass line.
3rd Bass – This is the training ground. This position is meant for young hands as it has almost no initiative or controlling responsibilities and generally it’s notes fall in “easier” places. This is where the young guys get to either develop into an upper bass player or a lower bass player (or show you if they shouldn’t be on the bass line at all). This is where you put players who show some great potential for the future.
4th Bass – This can also be a training ground, but power now starts to come into play a bit. Your bottom basses will almost always be expected to posses the ability to play with great force. And this begins with bass 4. He/she will still have some important parts on the runs though, so having a bit of chops helps a lot too.
5th Bass and beyond – These players have to be power houses, and not only because they are bottom players. Bass runs are like sentences; talk, talk, talk, and then you need a period, a way to end the sentence. That period is your bottom bass. A strong and powerful bottom player means that your bass runs will have a better chance at ending with that same strength. The strength thing also helps when your mallets look like one side of a dumbbell, counteracting all that weight to attack the head at the same time as a 1st bass player is not an easy task.
Each drum has its own special job, while still having the ability to all think as one. It takes a very special person to play a bass drum. And it takes a group of special people to bring a proper bass sound to the drum line.