How the Perfect Balance Pedal by Jojo Mayer changed the way I think of drum pedals
Updated: Jan 28, 2020
I’m a huge fan of Jojo Mayer. I like his instructional videos, his music, his drumming his approach to music and his philosophy around music & drumming.
This post is not going to be a review of the Perfect Balance Pedal. I’m simply sharing with you what impact the pedal and the instructional DVD "Secret Weapons For The Modern Drummer II" had on me.
I'm a proud owner of one of the classic Rogers Pedals
I didn't like the Perfect Balance
When Sonor released the pedal at the Musikmesse Frankfurt in 2012, I knew I was going to get one at some point. I got to try the pedal a couple of times in music stores and I didn’t really like it. It felt too different from what I was used to. At the time I was mainly playing the AXIS Longboards (direct drive). Jojo Mayer had mentioned in interviews that he was working on an instructional DVD that was focusing on foot technique. So I had made a decision: I’d buy the pedal combined with the DVD. That way I could make sure that I’d get the most out of the pedal and the most out of my time.
Working on ships I never really had time to practice, so I never got to buy the pedal neither the DVD. In 2017 though, when I decided I’d do my last ship, I finally made the investments.
Direct Drive Axis Longboards; often used by Metal drummers
Sadly, the Perfect Balance Pedal had an issue: The back hinge (where the foot plate’s attached to the heel plate) was too tight, so that you could position the footplate anywhere and it would stay there. I searched the internet to see if anyone else was dealing with similar issues; forums and YouTube were filled with drummers dealing with this problem. I then contacted the store that had sold the pedal to me. They knew the pedal could have this issue and they were really nice about it. They asked me to spray some WD40 on the hinge and check if it solves the issue, if it doesn’t I could just send it back and get a new one. So I sprayed some WD40 on the pedal, and the pedal started working properly!
I was ready to practice with the pedal and the DVD. So I did. And that’s when the pedal and the DVD evoked a thought process in my head.
It's ok to question what you think you know
All my drumming life I was told and taught to rest the bassdrum beater on the head, to bury it into the head. I never questioned those instructions since they came from teachers and great and famous drummers. Also, when I’d try to play out of the head, the bassdrum sound wouldn’t change much, especially did it not change into a sound I liked. How would it… All my life I had been told to tune the bassdrum batter head as low as I could. I was told to tighten the hoop just enough so that the screws would make no sounds anymore. Also, the pedals I was playing really made it easy to play into the head and made it hard to play out of it. Of course, I had heard of drummers that would play out of the head or that would tune the drum differently but I never had a reason to.
Collapsed Perfect Balance by Sonor
If I remember correctly one of the first few topics Jojo talks about in Secret Weapons for the Modern Drummer II is playing into or out of the bassdrum head. His arguments to play out of the bassdrum just made sense to me. The strongest one being the comparison to hand technique. Of course! We don’t bury our sticks into the heads. Maybe sometimes when we’re looking for a specific sound but not constantly and especially not when trying to play fast. Jojo started to talk about rebound on the bassdrum. I’ve never even thought of that! The only rebound I thought I was supposed to have was the one from the spring tension. But it turns out if I tuned the bassdrum higher it could offer me some rebound as well and I could take advantage of it in my foot technique.
The Perfect Balance Pedal strives for linear action
Then the sound. The sound of a higher tuned bassdrum is very different from the super loosely tuned one. But which one is better? It completely depends on what music you play, what sounds you want and what feel you’re looking for. But it’s important to have experimented and to not take everything you’ve been told your whole life for absolute. Because it’s not. When I realized that it felt like a big wake up call.
The pedal is not for everybody
This was the thought that completely changed the way I think of drum pedals.
To me drum pedals were always a one-time thing: You buy one, get used to it and play it. Buying pedals is a pain because when you try them out you’re in a music store for a few minutes. Most pedals have a thousand adjustable features that would take forever to try out and a new pedal always means some adjusting for the drummer. Also, drum pedals are expensive.
Sonor’s pedal doesn’t offer many adjustments. It’s basically a plug and play kind of experience. It’s foldable, it’s quiet and it feels light when playing it. It’s a very uncompromising pedal. It’s up to the drummer to use it to it's full potential.
One of the features that makes this pedal "perfectly balanced": the perfectly round drive cam
The pedal’s uncompromising nature showed me that drummers should think of pedals more like drum sticks. We don’t use the same sticks for a heavy rock show as we would for a small pub jazz gig. For each scenario we want a different feel, a different sound and a different dynamic range. So we pick different sticks. Let’s do the same with pedals. Which pedals you use for what music is totally up to you and your taste. But I’d argue that a Speed Cobra is more suitable for a rock gig than Jojo Mayer’s pedal is. Each pedal offers different advantages and I encourage you to make full use of them.
Obviously we should also experiment with different beaters. Beaters are easy to experiment with since they’re not very expensive and there’s a vast variety of them on the market.
Two things Jojo Mayer’s Perfect Balance Pedal taught me
What we’re told & taught is not absolute, even when taught from the greatest musicians. Teachings are usually generalized guidelines to make our lives easier. Being open to other perspectives and new ideas is important.
To think of bass drum pedals more like we do of sticks. Getting to know the pedal and really knowing what it’s strengths and weaknesses are. This will lead you to a better and more intuitive foot technique.
I hope this post started a thought process in you. The result of that process does not at all have to be the same as mine. But I think it is important to have had certain discussions, to have questioned some of the things we’ve been taught and to be open to other ideas and approaches.