SKIPS

1.  x••••••x

2.  x••xx••x

3.  x••xx••xx••x

DOUBLES

4.  xx••••••

5.  xx••xx••

6.  xx••xx••xx••

Skips and doubles are very similar.  (4) is the same as (1) but shifted by 1 beat (it can be interpreted as a 1/16th or 1/8th note shift).  (5) is equivalent to (2) and (6) is equivalent to (3), in the same way.  My differentiation between a skip and a double is that a skip ends on (leads to) a down beat while a double starts on (follows) the downbeat.  Generally speaking, a skip has more forward motion while a double creates a strong emphasis.

(1), (2), (4), and (5) were all written using 8 beats.  This was for convenience since the beats are symmetrical and repetitive.  If you want to read them as 4/4 sixteenth notes then you just need to double the rhythm.

Also, in (3) and (6), I introduced 12 beat phrases.  These can be read as 16th notes in 3, 8th notes in 6 or 1/4 note triplets.  12 beat phrases are very important and will be discussed in detail later.  If you do not play in 3 or 6, often, then it is important to familiarize yourself with this feel.

Practice Suggestions

1. Skips and doubles are often voiced on the bass drum.  So, start playing these rhythms with your main foot.

2. Play skips on one limb and doubles on another.

3. Play the ostinatos from this chapter on the bass drum and use the ostinatos from chapter 1 on your other limbs.

4. Play 12 beat ostinatos over 8 or 16 beat ostinatos.

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1. x x x x x x x x

2. x • x • x • x •

3. x • • • x • • •

4. • • x • • • x •

Before trying to play these together, always play them separately first.  I also encourage you to try them on every limb, as well as, alternating limbs.  For example, (1) can be played RLRLRLRL or RRRRRRRR, where R stands for right (or dominant side) and L stands for left (or weak side).  R also refers to the bass drum foot, while L refers to the hihat foot.  (I am actually a left-handed drummer that plays on a right-hand style kit but the notation is simpler if I follow the conventions noted above).

Although it is best to leave the space (•) unplayed to properly “get the feel” of the ostinato, it is often easier (as well as leading to interesting stickings) to play the x’s with R and the •’s with L. So, (3) would be:

R L L L R L L L or L R R R L R R R

Let’s take a look at (1)-(3).  They are all the same pattern!  The difference is how much time you leave between strikes. So, playing pattern (3) at 160 bpm (beats per minute) is equivalent to playing (2) at 80 bpm and (1) at 40 bpm.

(4) is significantly different.  It is often referred to as an off-beat or up-beat pattern.  In examples below, it will also be used as a backbeat pattern.

So let’s have some fun:

1/8th note Rock beat or Regular beat

(1) Right hand on hihat or ride cymbal (according to the conventions listed previously)

(3) Right foot (on Bass drum)

(4) Left hand on snare and left foot (on hihat pedal)

Voila! We have all four limbs going simultaneously and we are playing one of the most popular grooves ever.

If you are having problems coordinating all four limbs, break it down. Start with just your right hand playing (1).  Once you are comfortable and relaxed, add your right foot playing (3).  Then add your left hand playing (4).  Finally, add the left foot, also, playing (4).

Whenever I learn a new pattern or groove I always start by breaking it down limb by limb, as above.  You can learn about what limbs are working together and what limbs or limb combinations are giving you trouble.  If a limb combination is hard for you, then you should practice it more.  If a combination is easy for you, then, you should probably be practicing something harder.  Don’t rush, be comfortable and relaxed before adding additional limbs.

Disco beat, Dance beat, 4-on-the-floor

(1) Right hand on hihat or ride

(2) Right foot

(4) Left hand on snare, left foot

Now, the bass drum is playing twice as fast: 4 beats (4-on-the-floor).  If you can do this, then you can play along with the majority of pop songs.

Practice Suggestions

1. Strive to be comfortable and relaxed when playing

2. Vary the dynamics (volume) of the entire groove or just a single limb.  Remember, to increase your dynamic range, you need to play quietly as well as loudly.

3. Vary the tempo.  Try to play the groove as slow as you possibly can before speeding up.

4. Vary the surfaces you are hitting.  Search for textures and tones.

5. Vary how you are opening and closing the hihat.

6. Try all ostinatos on every limb with all combinations.  For example, you could use a double bass pedal to play (1), your right hand on the ride playing (2), and your left hand on snare playing (4).

7. Improvise. Can you play something different on one of your limbs and keep the others playing an ostinato? Can you play something different on all limbs then go back to playing the ostinatos in “time?”

Oftentimes a drummer is expected to “keep the time.”  I prefer to think of this as an opportunity rather than a burden.  You can play the time anyway you want: badly, solid, funky, swung, etc.  It is an honor to be given such a large responsibility when playing with other musicians.

Time is the pulse that flows through music.  Time signatures are ways to denote the pulse.  As with most musical notation, it usually results in a simplification of a more abstract concept.  Time signatures can be very ambiguous.  What is the difference between 3/2, 6/4, and 12/8?  All three suggest that you play the same amount of time for each measure. Since, 3 half notes = 6 quarter notes = 12 eighth notes.  A time signature, therefore, implies how the pulse should be accented in order to give a particular musical feeling.  In fact, time is usually denoted using two markings: time signature and a tempo marking.  A tempo marking is a term such as legato, swung, shuffle, or bossa nova that tells the musician the speed and/or style of the time.  So, using a tempo marking and time signature it is possible to approximate the intended time(pulse) of the song.  Personally, I only like to use time signatures as a last resort when trying to explain a piece of music, rhythm, or pattern.  (When writing or transcribing music, especially for others, a time signature is almost always necessary).

Like time signatures, western musical notation is ambiguous to the drummer.  Here is an example:

An unambiguous way to denote a pattern:  x•x•

Both x’s and •’s represent an equal amount of time.  An x indicates a strike and a • represents a space or rest.

In western musical notation this pattern can be denoted as:

example1

or

example2

These may have a different meaning to a musician that controls note length but, generally, a drummer is not concerned with note length, only when to strike his instrument.  (It is possible play specific note lengths by muting a cymbal appropriately, for example.)

Also, to reiterate the ambiguity of time signatures, the above pattern can be written as:

example3

 

So, in this blog, I will be using x’s and •’s to denote ostinatos and patterns.  For those interested in musical notation (which is important to becoming a well-rounded musician), you can always transcribe  a pattern and play around with the different ways you can transcribe a single pattern.  Also, does the way you transcribe the pattern influence the way you play it?