In the age of flashy YouTube and Instagram drumming stars it’s easy to forget that it’s surprisingly hard to play slow beats with lots of space between the notes.
It makes sense to me: The more notes you pack into a beat, the easier it is to get away with sloppy placement or bad timing. Especially to the untrained ear.
Here’s a simple, yet challenging exercise I like to practice:
I play through all rate variations on the hi-hat while maintaining a simple beat between bass drum and snare drum. Note, there is no “One” on the bass drum, which really forces you to feel the rhythm internally, rather than relying on coming down hard on the downbeat with your right foot.
In the video I play each beat twice, before moving on to the next one.
Background music: So Cold (feat. D’Angelo on Rhodes) by Don-E & Azure
I sometimes get the question on how I come up with combinations/melodies/fills around the kit. That’s a tough one to answer, because when I play, I play, and try not to think (in concepts and combinations).
Having said that, there are exercises that have helped me develop dexterity around the kit, and that allow me to move around the drums with more freedom.
Here’s an exercise I learned years ago, but I took it further and “put it through the wringer.”
I take a 4-note grouping (RLRL) and systematically substitute one hand with one bass drum (K), which gives me four variations:
Substituting two hands with two consecutive bassdrums also gives me four variations:
I recommend working on these combinations slowly, until you start to hear the rythmic melody in your head, and your hands and feet can execute the patterns effortlessly, even and relaxed. That’s very important. Don’t worry about speed. Instead, focus on relaxed control and playing “clean.”
Drop your shoulders, don’t hold your breath, and eliminate all unnecessary tension when you practice.
When I first started working on this stuff, I had a hard time staying focused, so I practiced on a practice pad and tapped my feet on the floor. That cut out the temptation to immediately play something else and focus on the basic mechanics of the exercises.
Start playing them as 8th notes first, and step quarter notes on the Hi-Hat.
I find it important to switch between the rates in a very systematic way in order to internalize the ways the rhythms feel in our body and how the melodies sound on the drums.
To get the most benefit from the exercise, play it in different rates, e.g., 8th notes, 8th note triplets, and 16th notes — Mark Guiliana calls this “The Loop:” 8th notes – 8th note triplets – 16th notes – 8th note triplets.
If the pattern is 8th notes, it gets played twice, triplets three times, 16th notes four times.
Time to break out the metronome and start s l o w.
Continue to play quarter notes with your left foot on the Hi-Hat.
I offer remote drum recordings for your tracks, using Addictive Drums 2 via a Roland TD-17KVX electronic drum kit.
That’s a great option for demos, or if you don’t have the big studio dollars and want great sounding drums on your music. All I need is an mp3 or wav file of your song, and I can record drums for you remotely. Then I’ll send you back the midi files, a stereo drum mix, or the individual audio stems. If you’re interested in having some beckbeat drums on your song or recording, please use the contact form on this website.
To give you an idea of how Addictive Drums 2 sounds, here are three custom kits I’ve used in different musical situations.