Here’s a cool exercise one of my teachers shared with me, a long time ago:
- You play 14 different 16th note variations on the hi-hat, one per measure, while keeping a continually repeated pattern (ostinato) on the bass drum and snare.
- The bass drum syncopation includes a note on the “a” and “&” of the beat one and two, which makes it more challenging, coordination wise.
- If you struggle with the independence between bass drum and hi-hat, try to play the variations over a four on the floor beat (quarter notes on the bass drum) first, and work your way up from there.
- Focus on clarity, consistency, and groove. Make sure all the notes land in the right place.
- Practice to an 8th or 16th note metronome, to identify where there’s a tendency to push or drag.
- Practice each measure individually before putting them all together in a loop.
For a lot of people this is a hard exercise — it definitely is for me.
Its benefits are many: improved timing, coordination, and being able to stay in the pocket while transitioning between different variations, are just a few that come to mind spontaneously.
Remember: Slow, steady, and relaxed wins the race!