As a drum teacher I’ve noticed that one of the most difficult things for beginner drummers is to switch rates, e.g., to go from triplets to 16th notes, and moving between different 16th note variations.
This short exercise is designed so you can play along with me (or the click only), get comfortable with counting, and develop confidence in switching beats while keeping the tempo.
Try to keep a steady quarter note pulse on the bass drum during the exercise.
If you’re wondering about the sticking of some of the variations, you can find them in my PDF Kick Start.
Ps.: I posted both play-alongs in the educational section on my website.
In January, The Project (@jaykeyzproject) started to host a weekly Neosoul/Funk/HipHop flavored jam session at Hawaiian Brian’s, in Honolulu.
We usually open the night at 10 PM with a short set, and then invite people up to jam and improvise.
It’s a great opportunity to hang, vibe, network, and play with some of Hawaii’s top musicians!
There’s no cover at the door, so please show some love to the excellent bar staff at The Studio. Hope to see you there!
Other drummers have asked me about my (default) grip. Just flip a stick and catch it. That’s it: The brilliance of simplicity.
Note: I use a middle finger fulcrum as my “home position,” the index finger comes in to close the hand, add control and pressure, only when necessary (fast doubles, press rolls, etc.).
This allows me to utilize the rebound I get from the drums and cymbals, and to play with the least amount of effort.
I love playing the brushes.
There’s a meditative, soothing quality to it. Playing brushes can assist you in developing better timing and flow (because of circular/elliptical stroke patterns) — which will also show when playing with sticks.
All time great brush players include Papa Jo Jones, Clayton Cameron, and Jeff Hamilton.
A little history on brush playing, from Mike Tarrani’s website:
Clayton Cameron devotes a segment to the same relationship. The arguments are compelling and valid. However, Mr. Paton cites a deeper source: shoe shine boys who employed their individual rhythms in brushing down their customers with whisk brooms after they shined the shoes. He backs this up with copious citations within the article. He also traces the development and evolution of suitcase drumming in which brushes were used, as well as the importance of barbershops as musical centers of gravity and where some of the whisk broom rhythms were born and evolved. In the latter it appears that Louisiana was particularly important. The irony is the pioneering New Orleans drummers, such as Louis Cottrell, Sr and Baby Dodds eschewed brushes.
If you’ve never tried playing brushes, I encourage you to get a pair and start fooling around with them. You’ve been missing out 😉
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!
Often, the most simple exercises prove to be the most effective.
I call this one “The Loop.”
Here’s the sequence:
- 2 measures of 8th notes
- 2 measures of 8th note triplets
- 2 measures of 16th notes
- 2 measures of 8th note triplets
It will improve your timing and transitions between the rates.
Practice it with a metronome.
Play it at 60 bpm, or even slower, and really try to feel the s p a c e between the individual notes.
Don’t let the simplicity fool you. Playing it slow is surprisingly hard.
As with almost all exercises and drills, I urge you to focus on clarity, relaxation and control — not on speed. Your speed will increase automatically, once you can play this exercise relaxed, and feel more confident about changing between the rates.
Treat it like a meditation: make time for it, if only 10 minutes a day and allow it to become a habit. You don’t even need a drum kit or practice pad for it. Just play with your hands on your thighs and tap your right foot. Drop your shoulders, focus on your breath, and if you use drum sticks, relax your grip as much as possible without sacrificing stick control.
Note: In the video I play a quarter note Bass Drum, but you can also “march” to the beat and play the Kick on 1&3, and step the Hi-Hat on 2&4.
For a limited time only you can get my Kindle ebook Play As You Are for $2.99!
Here’s a short interview by takelessons.com, where we touch on the book.
As always, I remain deeply grateful for your support.
Wishing you all a very happy new year…
Aspiring drummers and drum set instructors!
I updated my instructional drumming PDF “Kick Start” (40 pages).
It covers basic reading skills and coordination exercises, and helps the beginning drummer to master her first beats, fills, and gain confidence on the drum kit.
I’ve used it successfully in my teaching practice for almost two years now.
You can work through the material by yourself, but I highly recommend getting a teacher, who can help you understand the basics and fill in the blanks.
You can download it for $9.99 when you click the link below.
Testing the rebound/stick response of three different drum pads:
- Vic Firth 12″ Pad
- Reflexx CP1 10″
- E-Pad 12″
I’ve been using all three of them, but if I had to pick one, it’d be the Reflexx Conditioning Pad. Simply because it gives you two rebound options (two sides) to play on, is super quiet, and smaller in diameter.
Here are two simple, yet cool triplet combos: ||:Left Right Kick:|| (Gadd is a master at this!) and then something I’ve heard Bonham do a lot: ||:Left Right Kick | Right Left Kick:||
In this songo improv I play open handed, aka left hand lead (I’m not crossing my sticks), which allows me to get around the kit more easily.
Here’s an Elvin Jones inspired afro-cuban pattern. It has a 6/4 kind of feel, and the hi-hat splashes and tom accents make it challenging to keep balance. I’ll try to follow up with a transcription, soon.
I recently came up with this cool beat:
8th note heel/toe hi-hat splashes over a polyrhythmic double stroke bass drum pattern. 1&A cymbal pattern + snare drum on 2&4.