By Mark Powers
After getting a handle on a number of their first 8th-note rock grooves, many new drummers move on to learning some 16th-note patterns. These busier grooves, featuring twice as many audible subdivisions per beat, lend themselves nicely to a variety of rock and funk time feels.
Likely having used one hand to play all of the hi-hat notes in their 8th-note beats . . .
. . . it’s typical to begin by doing the same with 16-note beats.
That is a perfect place to start and is also a perfect way to play 16th-note grooves at slow to medium tempos. That one hand, however, is limited by how fast it can play and, eventually, our developing drummer will want to increase the speed. To do exactly that, we can switch from using just one hand on the hi-hat . . . to using both hands!
Alternating hand-to-hand (right, left, right, left, etc.), our left stick remains on the hi-hat while the right stick travels over to the snare drum to play backbeats on “2” and “4.” Notice that no hi-hat note is struck at the moment that the snare drum note is played.
Although this is the case, it will be barely (if at all) perceptible to listeners when played in context. Between the snare and hi-hat sharing some frequency range space, and our ears hearing what they “want” to hear, some aural trickery at play here makes this sound nearly identical to our one-handed 16th groove above, just (eventually) faster than we would have been able to play that version.
The next step is to maintain our two-handed pattern and practice placing bass drum strokes in various spots of the measure. This gives us the ability to vary our grooves and adapt them to fit with different bass guitar rhythmic patterns that we may find ourselves playing along with.
As we begin to play bass drum rhythms that fall on the “E”s and “A”s of our 16th-note groove, we encounter an interesting challenge. If we’ve been leading all of our beats with our right hand, every single bass drum up to this point has fallen along with a right hand. Since we’re alternating back and forth, every bass drum falling on an “E” or “A” is now going to be played along with our LEFT hand. A form of “cross coordination,” we need to make sure that the right foot (bass drum) lands perfectly timed with that left hand (hi-hat). We do not want them “flammed,” or ever-so-slightly separated from each other; their notes should be played simultaneously. If it doesn’t immediately happen quite that way, simply slow down and play a few of those right-foot/left-hand combo strokes all by themselves. Isolate that little nugget of coordination until it feels comfortable and THEN move into applying it within some grooves.
We’ll begin here by adding an occasional “A” on the bass drum.
Now that we’ve got our bass drum playing on that subdivision, let’s have our snare drum do the same. Remember that—since we’re alternating our hands—our left hand will play on the “E” and “A” counts of each beat. This means that in the exercises below, our right hand travels from the hi-hat to the snare drum on “2” and “4,” and our left hand travels from the hi-hat to the snare drum on the “A of 2” and the “A of 4.”
Let’s put all of these together, and then some. Have fun!
For beginning to intermediate drum set students, Solo in Style is a terrific resource for learning grooves and fills in a variety of necessary time feels, and for the development of short stylistic etudes/solos which can be used for lessons, recitals, auditions, contests and any other performance or educational environments.
Mark Powers is author of Solo in Style and co-author of Alfred’s Drumset Method: Book 2 and The 2-in-1 Drummer. As a percussion educator and author, he facilitates a variety of drumset, world music, and alternative percussion programs. Mark can be found at PowersPercussion.com.