A musical tradition that has no boundries.
Some of the earlier forms of foot percussion have been unearthed by archaeologists in the form of 'foot drums' found in several southwestern and central-Californian US Native American archaeological sites inhabited, or formally inhabited, by the Maidu, Miwok, Aztec, and Hopi Indian tribes.
These drums were often semicircle, cross-sectioned hollow logs laid over wood covered 'resonating' pits positioned according to custom in kivas or dance houses. The foot drums were played by stomping on top of the hollow log with the structure's poles used for steadying.
Modern foot played percussion had a renaissance of sorts in the early-20th century, especially in jazz and dance hall music popular at the time. It was also during this time that the term "trap set" came into use, being short for "contraption." This was meant to summarize the array of mechanical setups used by a drummer of this era. The photos below offer just a taste of the instruments used in the early years of mass production and innovation. They were manufactured by companies Sonor, Max Flemming, Duplex and Viktoria. The "low boy" (or "snow shoe") by the Walberg company (middle photo with cymbals) was one of the few instruments that survived due to the 21st century, albeit in an evolved form. One will recognize it today as the hi-hat.
Cha Cha Pedal, 1956 SnowBoy, Boosey & Hawkes, 1934
Triangle Pedal, c. 1920 Flemming Combi Pedal, c.1930 The Original Lowboy
Other traditional forms of foot percussion are more rudimentarily seen in clogging. It's roots are in traditional European, early African American,and traditional Cherokee dancing. These dancers often had various styles of particular footwear that were used musically by striking the heel, the toe, or both in unison against a floor or each other to create percussive rhythms. These moves were sometimes accompanied by the dancer playing a fiddle, guitar, or banjo. Clogging later became a social dance in the Appalachia Mountains as early as the 18th century and is gaining popularity today in the folk revival of the 21st century. Depending on cultural variances, clogging is also known as flat footing, foot stomping, buck dancing, jigging, or other terms. What has united these styles is the emphasis on the downbeat of the music.
When I started the business of manufacturing and innovating foot-played percussion in 2005, I had no luck in finding anything acoustic and pedal played that was designed to be played by a guitar player. As I delved deeper into the research, I saw that there was a strong and growing enthusiasm in the 1950s and 60s from folks who wanted to express their inner beat; as seen with Jesse Fuller, Joe Hill Louis, or Hasil Adkins with hi hats, bass drums, and other mechanical contraptions. I also soon learned that there were many folks out there today who were like me and thought: 'how can I make more compelling rhythmic music?' While many musicians have resorted to the foot played electric stompbox, or plugged in a porchboard bass to add beats to their songs,others have come up with DIY percussion setups, simply stomp their foot, or rely on preprogrammed beats or loop machines.
However, none of those tools felt to me to be honest, flexible, or dependable in the real world. While the old standby of finding a reliable drummer to haul his or her gear around is still the most dynamic means to add percussion to your music, it is not always feasible and/or ideal if you seek creativity in playing music when you want, and how you want. Playing your own foot percussion means that you have much more control over their practice time (no more flaky drummers), can change their tempos, and are able to improvise with ease. But perhaps the biggest bonus to playing foot percussion is you have MORE FUN and connection with the music you're into!
While some people claim they are 'slow learners', adding foot percussion is actually an easy and instinctual thing to do. Oftentimes it is the beat that is the backbone that drives a song and the key sound that prompts even the least musically inclined person to be able to follow your music. If you think that tapping your foot to the beat is difficult, ask yourself how it is we are able to: dance to music with arms, legs, feet, and hands in closely synchronized movements; or why we are asked by music teachers to tap our foot at the earliest stages of music education; or how on earth anyone could learn to actually play something as complicated as a guitar with 6 different stings over 20 or more frets using the coordination of all ten fingers AT ONCE! If the idea of becoming a 'one man band' or 'multi intrumentalist' seems like a turn off to you, consider this: Bob Dylan is considered a multi instrumentalist with a harmonica wired to his mouth and guitar in his hands to accompany his voice. Musical instrument additions such as these are so common now, you don't give them a second thought. Bottom line, the acoustics and looks of a Farmer Musical Instrument are timeless, intuitively designed, and as well made as your Made in America Fender or Martin guitar - so try one out, I guarantee you'll get a thrill out of the possibilities of being your own percussionist!
If you are curious about the other instruments commonly used by a typical "one man band" or multi instrumentalist, you will be able to refer to the Book of One Man Bands published by Dave Harris of Victoria British Colombia, Canada. His exhaustive research features the multitudes of instrumentals, DIY foot-played percussion,s and more from across the world. There are too many past and present musicians to list here. It is a fantastic resource and an inspiring look at musicians around the world!