A little background on the situation…
In recent months I’ve become increasingly frustrated with my Demon Drive double pedal – not through anything in Pearl’s design or through any physical fault of the pedals themselves: they just simply work against the techniques that my body naturally wants to use for playing the bass drum.
The same can be said for just about any other pedal on the market that a player simply doesn’t like the feel of – some of us prefer a super strong feel over a very light feel, others want long/short footboards, offset cams and infinitely adjustable parts and so on. For a long time I thought the Demon Drive was the answer to an old injury that had slowed me down and hampered my control and, in all fairness, it was…for a time.
As I got stronger and redeveloped certain muscle groups I began to find that I couldn’t set the Demon Drive the way I felt I needed it to and the huge number of variables (in terms of adjustable parts) certainly wasn’t helping the situation one bit. I went back to my chain driven Eliminators and although things were a little easier it didn’t change the fact that I was still overwhelmed with variables that weren’t helping me to find the settings I needed.
On many an occasion I found myself thinking about the pedals I’d owned previously to the Eliminators. Once I graduated from my first double pedal (a Pearl P102) I spent 2 years really getting to grips with everything on a Pearl P122 and it was these pedals where I really felt most at home – they were simple and straightforward, there were no gadgets and adjustable parts other than spring tension and the footboard/beater angle on a single adjustment and Pearl’s Powershifter heel which I never tinkered with anyway.
And so the answer became clear – what I really missed was the simplicity of the older pedals I’d owned. Aside from tweaking the springs and footboard/beater angle there was nothing else to it and it was impossible to get bogged down in fiddling with lots of options only to settle on something through not really being able to find the desired positions and feeling.
I set about researching online to see what pedals existed now that would meet my new criteria: whatever I was looking for needed to be as tough as the high-end pedals I already owned and able to withstand lots of playing and lots of traveling, it needed to be smooth to play on both sides (as I often play left foot lead and need both to feel as close to one another as possible), it needed to be well engineered so that it would run silently during recording sessions (this shouldn’t be difficult for top-end pedals but can be much harder to find than you’d assume) and (most importantly) it needed to be simple in it’s mechanical design (as few points of adjustment as possible).
In all honesty, there wasn’t much that came up in my searches as almost all modern high-end pedals have a lot of adjustable parts and gimmicks.
One design had come up several times but testing one had proved impossible as they weren’t carried by any drum shops and I didn’t particularly want to buy anything from my research without the chance to really try it out fully. So I needed to investigate further.
Haven’t I heard of The Duallist?
If you’re a drummer you probably have and you’ve probably got a strong opinion about the company and it’s products based on one or two “controversial” designs that they’re well known for. Many a drummer I know has had a rant about the infamous D4 Pedal, “that plastic contraption” that allows double bass grooves to be played with only one foot and I can fully understand why – many of us have spent years honing our abilities and it’s only human nature that we rebel against something that can give that ability to another player without them having to work for it in the same way.
I can see it being handy for percussion players, helpful if you want to apply hi-hat ostinatos to double bass grooves and it could even allow those who might not have the full use of both legs on the kit to play double bass grooves themselves. So, relax, it’s not going to take your job overnight – it’s a tool like any other pedal and I’m sure at one point in time we would have all been called “cheaters” for wanting to use double bass patterns in the first instance and I know from experience that there are still people who take that stance.
BUT…the D4 wasn’t what caught my attention: I don’t own one, I’ve not played one and talking about won’t actually change the way in which terrifies some of us.
The important thing is this…
The Duallist make “regular” pedals too!
That’s right, straightforward single and double pedals just like the ones we all use but with a major exception – apart from a few parts, almost everything about the Duallist range is made from ultra-tough / ultra lightweight DuPont Zytel. Basically, these pedals are lighter than anything else (but they’re still sturdy and stay where they’re put) and probably stronger than anything you’ve ever used. They’re actually in use in some seriously high-profile shows but you might not have even noticed – Machine Head, Living Colour, Saxon, Beyonce…heard of those?
So, they had the road-worthiness issue covered and they definitely had the simplicity angle too – the D1 and D2 use linear cams, chain drive and their only points of adjustment were clearly limited to beater length, spring tension and an all-in-one footboard/beater angle adjustment.
On paper this seemed to be the answer I’d been searching for but one problem remained – how would I even try one out to be sure if they would help?
I realised that I was already connected to one Duallist artist via Twitter (the ace Mr Rick Henry) and it didn’t take me long to reach out to a few others (including the fantastic Michael Brush who has been ever-so-helpful) and all the artists I spoke to were very honest and took the time to answer some of the questions I had relating to feel, build quality and so on but there were still some very technical issues I wanted to investigate – I’m meticulous and I’m drawn to details, I’ve owned a range of pedals over 10 years from all levels of the Pearl catalogue and I’ve had the experience of working on most of the other major brands at some stage or other so I know exactly what parts wear out and have the likelyhood of failing on-stage after months of use.
I went straight to the source, I contacted Kevin Mackie, the Duallist designer himself and inquired about where I might find a D2 double pedal that I could look over and test. The answer wasn’t hopeful, as there are almost no current stockists as the company sells directly and of the few I found there were none I could hope to visit.
I fielded my questions to Kevin by email and this is where he really surprised me – not only did we spend around 45 minutes on the phone but he addressed every single question I had in great detail and proceeded to offer to send me a D2 pedal to try out (along with an invitation to join the artist roster if I felt it was right for me) when one became available as they take some time to manufacture and no “loaners” were currently in stock. I could hardly say “no” could I?
A few months went by and then a package arrived from Scotland about 6-7 weeks ago. Much to my surprise this wasn’t a D2 that had been out with an existing artist or used at trade shows – this was a brand new, freshly built D2 double pedal for me to experiment with!
Straight out of the box the D2 looked very sleek and fantastic – totally matte black with the exception of the few parts of chromed metal and the silver Duallist logo on the footboard. I looked it over in great detail as you’d expect and was extremely impressed – every part had been painstakingly thought out and assembled and I couldn’t find anything misaligned, loose or wobbly. It was indeed incredibly light but didn’t feel at all weak or flimsy and the connecting drive shaft was chunky and well built. Both pedals had also been fitted with a strip of velcro around the heel area to assist in keeping them in place – if a pedal doesn’t have this as standard I always add velcro anway so it was a nice touch to see it already in place.
It’s worth noting that there wasn’t an included carry-case but this shouldn’t be a problem to source for most of us without spending too much and a worthy investment for any piece of equipment.
There was also a full manual included in the box, two small allen keys, a combi-drum/allen key and a set of Duallist GigGrips which I will test and review at a later date.
And then I put it all together and popped it on the kit.
I was quite honestly blown away by how smooth and direct the D2 felt – far more “direct” than the actual direct drive I was used to. The slave side actually did feel very close to the master pedal and I had no issue with playing left foot lead with it. I only made a single adjustment – I changed the footboard/beater angle slightly to give me a little more “swing” as the D2 is assembled in a way that results in the beater being a little closer to the head than I liked. The only problem now was getting in enough hours to see if it suited me before it had to go back to Scotland as I only had a week if I didn’t want to keep it.
So, for the first hour I was OK with the D2 but obviously muscle memory always craves whatever we normally use even when we don’t necessarily like what we’re using. I packed up what I needed and headed to my local rehearsal studio (Playing Aloud in Lincolnshire) and put in two more hours and once I was properly warmed through the Duallist seemed to be more and more comfortable.
But that was seven weeks ago…
…and the D2 still hasn’t gone back to Scotland.
Within five days it’d already been out on it’s first studio job where not only did it perform perfectly but it also caught everyone’s attention with it’s peculiar “none more black” look and surprising lack of weight – not to mention the super slick slave pedal (which has only gotten better now that the drive shaft is a little run in).
I’ve still not touched the spring tension – all I’ve done is add some rubber to the base of the hoop clamp with some double-sided sticky tape. Did it need it for more grip? Not at all but it’s there for my own peace of mind and to further protect my own bass drum hoop a little more – it’s a personal thing more than anything else, my mind rests easier at the kit knowing that those two little rubber pieces are there.
Drums are a physical instrument that involves our entire bodies so no two players play the same way, we all like different sizes, sounds and positions so there really isn’t a “one-stop” anything for any of us. I’m not going to say “buy one of these it’ll make you amazing” because that’s simply not true – whatever is most comfortable for you is what will help to make you amazing at what you do.
It’s all too easy to get caught up in a race to own that single special piece of equipment that’ll change everything and advertising plays us with that: every new pedal or innovation is touted as the “game changer” and for you it might be but it could just as easily not be.
I’ve had some fantastic game changing moments in the last few years with sticks and cymbals to name a few instances and every change in equipment I’ve made has been because I’m comfortable with it and not because I’m convinced I should be before I start – each one of them has been a true “upgrade” rather than just another purchase that I hope makes an improvement.
In all honesty I’m really enjoying working with my new D2 and I’m extremely proud to put my name to it – the pedals don’t “make me play better”, they make me feel comfortable and relaxed about what I’m doing because they agree with me rather than fight against me – and that’s what makes me play better. There’s no gadgets or gimmicks in my way anymore, it’s just me…getting on with playing and feeling comfortable with being able to just let my body do things it’s own way again.