Voetpercussie: drummen zonder handen - Doe het zelf!

Guest-blogger and multi-instrumentalist Nigel Hubée reveals how he bumped the foot percussion of the acoustic duo he’s one half of (The Tickets) up to the next level with a mix of self-contrived drums, a fresh take on an old-school hi-hat, and modern digital technology. Read on and learn!

The Stompbox Principle

Stompboxes that allow solo performers to back themselves up with rhythms are nothing new for most buskers and singer-songwriters. These bits of kit started out as simple wooden boxes that could be tapped to lay down a beat, and since evolved into more compact, often battery-powered units complete with a built-in piezo pickup system. A great solution for clean set-ups, piezo-fitted percussion stompboxes are passive by design, meaning they require no power supply. Also, you can easily go even further by simply slipping a foot tambourine on the other foot.

Voetpercussie: drummen zonder handen - Doe het zelf!

The Next Step: A Digital Percussion Stomp Box

For the band, I was looking for something a little closer to a real drum, mainly due to the fact that Dave Hardy, the other member of our band, The Tickets, started his music career as a drummer and knew what this could do for our sound. Following a bit of research, we went with a velocity-sensitive stompbox loaded with digital kick drum samples – a wee box that weighs next to nothing and offers feedback-free bass drum sounds that can be easily routed to a PA mixer or audio interface. It sounds great even without any EQ tweaks, which is particularly great if, like us, you play your gigs without a fully-fledged mixer by your side. The downside is that the whole thing is so lightweight that not even the anti-slip underside is enough to keep it from shifting. Luckily, that’s nothing a drum rug and an extra anti-slip mat can’t solve. To lock it down some more, I’ve also taped down a strip of wood behind the stompbox just in case. Do bear in mind that a digital percussion stompbox like the one we got does require an active power supply, e.g. a battery or a power adapter.

Check out the Ortega Stomp Box Series for a range of analogue and digital foot percussion stompboxes.

Voetpercussie: drummen zonder handen - Doe het zelf!

The Low Boy Hi-Hat

Since the other goal in our search for unique foot percussion was to find something that allowed us to play using a real drum pedal, we initially set up a standard hi-hat. While it actually sounded just fine, it was also often in the way and its bulky construction didn’t make lugging our gear to gigs any easier either. Then I randomly bumped into some pictures of 1920s swing-orchestras which included what’s basically the original hi-hat: the low-boy. Back in the day, low-boys were exclusive to swing and were played with the foot to create the backbeat, which made it exactly what we needed. I immediately started browsing to look for antiquated drums or ideas on how to build one. As it turns out, the popularity of cajons has led to a wide range of modern foot percussion gear, including the DW Drums Low Boy which we’ve now been using for over four years – and happily so. We’ve also added a hi-hat tambourine for that all-important, extra bit of sparkle. Have a listen to our rendition of Elvis Presley’s Blue Christmas below to hear our kick-drum stompbox and the Low-Boy in action.

The Foot Tambourine

In addition to the nice-and-short ‘click’ of the hi-hat, we wanted the slightly more fleshed-out sound of tambourine, preferably something vintage-flavoured so it would match our style. Along with a handful of other triggerable tambourines, we looked at a pretty nice and rather unique tambourine-beater by Latin Percussion but ultimately decided it wasn’t for us. What we really wanted was a foot-controlled beater in combination with a fixed wooden tambourine, so a set-up that basically offered woody thuds followed by the sound of ringing jingles for a laid-back feel.

Voetpercussie: drummen zonder handen - Doe het zelf!

Since we couldn’t find what we were looking for in the form of a pre-made bit of kit, I decided to build our own tambourine-drum using a tambourine and a kick drum pedal I had lying around. I started out by glueing up pieces of chipboard to build a block-style frame which I furnished with a cut-out so it could be secured to the kick pedal, before painting the whole thing black. I then used threaded rods and a little strip of metal to secure the tambourine. While it’s a fairly straightforward contraption, this one-of-a-kind foot tambourine plays a key role in our most popular video to date which is a cover of Under My Thumb (The Rolling Stones). Check it out and notice the slightly slowed-down backbeat. And yes, we’re purposely hitting it with the hard side of the beater.

» Tambourines
» Bass Drum Pedals

I hope this humble blog helps you lift your foot percussion game to the next level. Feel free to leave any questions or remarks below!

See Also

» Ortega Stomp Box Series
» DW Drums Low Boy
» Hi-Hat Tambourines
» Foot Tambourines
» All Tambourines
» Bass Drum Pedals
» Farmer Foot Drums
» All Drums, Percussion and Accessories

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Guest-Blogger Nigel Hubée (The Tickets)

Slinging rhythms since 1968, Nigel finally got to the point where he could make music full-time in 2017. Besides music, he’s been interested in computers and IT since the first proper commercial PCs popped up in the 1980s. Currently, Nigel and his long-time mate Dave Hardy form an acoustic duo called The Tickets.

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