BY BRAD SCHLUETER
The Duallist bass drum pedal could be one of the most innovative and potentially revolutionary drum set products to be released in the last few years. Bold statement, huh? It has won international design and innovation awards. It has numerous patented features. It’s one of the few pedals that is primarily constructed from lightweight yet very sturdy space age materials. It is also a labor saving device. You may be thinking, “That’s all well and good but what’s so different about it?” Well, there is one thing. The Duallist allows double bass drum patterns to be played with just one foot on one bass drum while enabling drummers to retain independent control of the hi-hat. In essence, you play the downstrokes and it plays another note on the upstrokes. It works like a charm.
Out Of The Box. At first glance the pedal resembles a conventional double pedal that’s missing the left foot slave unit. It’s just a bit wider than the average double pedal to accommodate the levers that switch the pedal from single to dual mode. The pedal looked substantial but wasn’t heavy. I noticed two small stickers on it. There was a small Scottish flag sticker on the pedal denoting its country of origin and oddly, a small DuPont sticker on the other side. DuPont? The cow- and drummer-friendly company that makes Mylar® used in drumheads? Further investigation of the Duallist revealed that DuPont collaborated in the R&D of the pedal and that the pedal’s footboard and frame aren’t constructed of metal but of Zytel®, an extremely strong DuPont polymer used widely in the automotive industry.
I think this is a great idea. I play aggressively and am very tough on pedals. I’ve snapped enough hardened steel beater shafts, broken chains and cam teeth, cracked hinges and had enough parts strip and break over the years that I know metal construction is no guarantee of a pedal’s durability. There are metal parts on the pedal, but reading the product literature reveals that many of the parts use more space age materials than the pedals you or I currently play. The advantage of all this is that the pedal is lighter in weight but remains extremely durable. Thank you, NASA. I’d like to see more hardware manufactured from strong lightweight materials like this.
The pedal includes a great four-sided beater that has felt, wood and two differently shaped plastic surfaces. The pedal frame assembly is also a little taller than the average pedal and the beater shaft is about a half inch shorter. I presume this is done to accommodate the higher frame allowing the beater to strike near the center of the bass drum. The Duallist also features a patented sliding hoop clamp that allows you to maximize power and the beater stroke length. This will accommodate a tilted bass drum or Gajate brackets that mount tambourines, cowbells, etc. As on any high-end pedal the beater angle, strap length, and spring tension are fully adjustable. Electronic drummers will be pleased to learn it can be used with inverted beaters too. The toe stop is a molded part of the footboard and is not removable. I find toe stops unnecessary but this one never got in my way. The pedal comes with three Allen wrenches to make any necessary adjustments. One minor quibble I have is that I wish that more of the pedal’s larger screws were adjustable with a standard drum key since I hate to have to carry more things than are necessary in my stick bag.
During the course of this review I had no problems with the pedal’s construction or durability and thought most of the parts were better machined than those on the six double pedals that I currently play and teach on. I could easily adjust the pedal spring tension nut from a sitting position without crawling around on my hands and knees, which is impossible on the other pedals I use.
The pedal also comes with a concise instruction brochure and two videos, one demonstrating pedal set up and the other showing techniques to play different rhythms and styles with it. This was very helpful and I commend their thoroughness. All Duallist pedals are set up properly at the factory, but I found I needed to tweak the pedal a bit and the video clearly showed me how.
In Single Mode. In single mode the Duallist operates like any other bass drum pedal. To engage single mode you must depress the lever on the left side of the pedal. This pulls the left beater back to its resting position, which is about 6″ off the head. This is easy to do, but requires a little more pressure than engaging the pedal’s dual mode. In single bass mode the pedal felt pretty good. I was able to play most of the patterns I play on my regular pedal with just a little more effort. I noticed that I tended to tire a little more quickly when executing demanding patterns on the Duallist. I attribute most of this to the difference between the length of the Duallist’s slightly shorter beaters and my own. If you play with your beaters not fully extended, you might not notice any difference. For those of us who like to feel more weight, a beater weight should do the trick. I didn’t evaluate it with normal length beaters since the manual recommends that dual mode performance is optimal with a beater length of 9cm.
In Dual Mode. In dual mode the left beater rests against the head. Downstrokes pull the left beater off the head to its playing position while the right beater strikes the drum. Lifting your foot then causes the left beater to strike the drum. It may sound a little complicated but it works well. To switch to single mode depress the lever on the left side of the pedal. To return to dual mode, depress the switch on the right. With a bit of practice this becomes quick and easy. The Duallist’s web page (http://www.theduallist.com) shows videos that demonstrate the pedal playing a variety of different styles.
Using the Duallist effectively requires some adaptation of your current playing technique. This is part mental and part physical. On the mental side, playing the Duallist is a little like hearing your bass drum with an echo. You know you only played one note but you definitely heard two. This can take a little getting used to.
On the physical side, there’s a bit of a learning curve. The pedal responds to your downstrokes like a normal pedal, but it also responds to your upstrokes and whether or not you bury your beater into the head. I think the best way to grasp this is through the scientific process of screwing around. I was able to play a Swiss triplet ostinato with one foot within the first 10 minutes of using the pedal. I admit this happened by mistake. And like most of the mistakes I make, I kept repeating it. Some mistakes are too much fun to only make once.
You can get different feels, shuffle or straight, depending on where your foot is placed on the pedal. Placing your foot further forward on the footboard yields more of a shuffle feel, while further back yields a straighter feel. Burying your beater also will affect the rhythm you play. I found I needed to become aware of how I lifted my foot and then control its timing. I couldn’t play one-footed triplet ruffs at first, but after I read the manual I found I had to “play” an upstroke to achieve them. The pattern was up, down, down.
I also found that I had to play a little bit lighter than I usually do in order to get even dynamics from the right and left beaters. I have a powerful foot and generally only play quietly when money is at stake. So while my right beater’s downstroke volume ranged from mezzo forte to fortissimo, my left beater’s upstroke volume seemed to remain in the mezzo forte to forte range. If I played heavy downstrokes I got two levels of dynamics from the pedal. This is not necessarily a bad thing, just something to be aware of.
How easy is it to play? Well, I was able to play sixteenth-note rolls and a sixteenth-note shuffle pattern within a minute of attaching it to my bass drum hoop. My maximum speed for these kinds of patterns was sixteenth-notes at a little over 150 bpm. Above that tempo I found it hard to control. The momentum of the right beater controls the left beater. So the faster the right beater played, the left followed suit, up to that 150 bpm range. Above that, I don’t know if it was a problem with my technique or the nature of the pedal, but things got a bit too sloppy for my taste.
One unique benefit of this pedal and perhaps its raison d’être is that you can retain complete independent control of the hi-hat when doing these patterns. Think about that for a moment. You can play hi-hat barks, heel/toe splashes or polyrhythms against simultaneous double bass drum patterns. Up until now this has been impossible. The polyrhythmic possibilities are actually dangerous. I played a Swiss triplet ostinato in sixteenth-notes with my right foot, under a straight eighth-note ride/back beat pattern with my hands, while doing a heel/toe splash hi-hat thing with my left foot. I got so dizzy I had to stop and take Dramamine.
To Dual Or Not To Dual? If you’re a speed metal demon or a Virgil Donati clone who plays a single bass/double pedal set up and already have developed considerable skill, you’ll have to assess whether this pedal offers enough to recommend its purchase. You’d gain the ability to control your hi-hat but might lose some of the playing techniques, patterns and speed that you’ve spent years torturing your left foot to do. However, if you play double bass with two separate bass drums and used a Duallist on your primary bass drum, you’d conceivably gain the ability to control your hi-hat while playing double bass with your main foot in dual mode. Then by returning the pedal to single mode, you could do all the other patterns you currently play on two bass drums. In fact, I can also see nothing other than musical taste to prevent someone from putting two Duallists on a double bass drum kit. Sixteenth-note flam rolls, anyone?
The Verdict. Before playing the Duallist, I was almost swayed by a friend who thought it was just a well-engineered novelty product that worked well but had limited applications. He even called it a “cheater” pedal. Is it? I don’t know, but you may as well ask if automobiles are cheater horses. It dramatically shortens the learning curve of patterns that might take years to develop on a conventional double-pedal set up. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Bottom line, who cares? It’s well made and does what it’s supposed to.
After giving it some thought, I think there may be a lot of drummers that the Duallist is absolutely perfect for. Who, you ask? Well, I think it’s perfect for the large number of single bass drummers who’d like to play the occasional double bass drum part but lack the time or inclination to play “catch up” by developing the coordination and strength of their weaker foot. It will also give one-legged drummers access to the world of double bass patterns. (I recall seeing a drummer at the ’94 NAMM show using something designed by the maker of Axis pedals that allowed him to play an Axis double pedal with his prosthesis.) It gives standing percussionists the ability to play double bass or percussion patterns with their feet. It also allows set drummers to play left-foot percussion parts while maintaining a steady groove. Plus, the Duallist’s design doesn’t discriminate against left-handed (or would that be footed?) players by requiring a specially ordered slave unit.
Drummers interested in pushing the limits of polyrhythms and ostinatos may embrace the Duallist as an indispensable tool in their arsenals. In this regard, the Duallist might be a little like throwing gasoline on their creative fires. I shudder to think what brilliant insanity is possible with this thing in the hands of someone like Terry Bozzio or Mike Mangini. The only really negative thing about it is if it catches on, the art of drum set transcription may take a giant leap backward.
In the end, the decision depends on how open your mind is. If you get the opportunity, try it out. It’s a lot of fun. It may not be for the herd of traditionalists, but for those looking for an edge over the competition, the Duallist might be just the thing.
List Price: $598
Extras: Instruction manual, one demonstration video, one technical update and setup video, and three Allen wrenches.