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The three main categories that bass drum pedals are divided into are direct drive, chain drive, and belt or strap drive. Each type is equally good and performs the same function, but each provides a different feel for the player. Bass drum pedals come in several configurations to accommodate the playing styles of different drummers. In addition to the main categories, there are subtypes such as double and triple bass pedals, which have two to three beaters, single and double chains, and extended footboards that are often referred to as longboards.
Bass drum pedals are used to strike the resonating skin or head on a floor bass drum that is part of a drum set as opposed to the bass drum that's carried in a marching band and struck with a hand-held mallet. All bass drum pedals have a base plate that provides stability to the pedal and anchors the drum pedal to the floor, a rug, and also to the bass drum itself. The base plate supports the footboard and can be a single solid sheet of metal or a metal frame. The part of the bass drum pedal that the drummer's foot rests on is called the footboard. Striking or applying pressure to the footboard causes the beater to propel forward and hit the bass drum head.
A drum beater or mallet is a metal rod with a beater head on one end. The beater head is the part that strikes the bass drum head. The beater rod attaches to a mechanism that's able to propel it forward with a varying amount of force when the footboard is struck. Beater heads can be wood, plastic, felt, or rubber with a rounded, squared, or triangular shape. Some bass drum pedals allow the height and angle of the beater to be adjusted.
The type of mechanism that's connected to the footboard and sends the beater forward denotes the bass drum pedal's categorization. Direct drive bass drum pedals use a solid linkage to propel the beater and are durable with fast and smooth operation, but often lack adjustability. They are favored by drummers who desire and instant response with no lag.
Chain drive pedals are often adjustable and require maintenance to keep them operating smoothly and quietly. They can have a somewhat heavy feel to them and more lag than a direct drive pedal. A double chain is more stable than a single. Strap or belt-driven bass drum pedals have a lighter, faster feel than chain-driven pedals and are quieter, but generally less durable. Of the three types, belt-driven bass drum pedals usually have the most lag.