Lesson: Getting Specific Sounds in the Groove of a Drum Set

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BY STEWART JEAN

Last month we discussed each member’s specific roles, now dig deeper with specific sounds for snare drum, kick drum, hi-hat, and ride cymbal in a specified groove. If you’re still struggling to overcome bad habits by not knowing what to fix, combining these limb exercises with the sound exercises from this month’s lessons can help. Some sounds and grooves may be easier or more difficult depending on your experience, but regardless of your skill level, try to focus on the sound and feel you wake up to conjure up in the groove.

In this lesson, we’re creating a general roots-rock sound. This requires a moderately tight hi-hat sound produced by your right hand playing the shoulder of the stick playing at an angle over the edge of the hi-hat with the left foot applying enough pressure to the hi-hat to keep the cymbals slightly rigid. The tempo in the video lesson is 85 bpm, and to maintain a driving feel, play the hi-hat with unaccented eighth notes.

The role of the right foot in this sound is to play the heel of the bass drum with a loud and constantly dead sound. The snare is set low and heavily muffled to produce classic rock bshet ring. Your left hand should play the snare drum with the end of the stick hitting the head in the center, with no rim shot.

For this exercise, you can choose any simple groove, but the emphasis should be on producing a cohesive sound with an equally cohesive temporal feel. In the video lesson, we start with a standard rock beat (Example 1).

Example 1

Once it feels good at 85 bpm, the first variation to try is to slightly release some pressure with the left foot – about 30% – from the hi-hat pedal to produce a longer, thicker hi-hat sound. Don’t change the way you hit the hi-hat, snare, and kick drum. Now switch cleanly every two bars between the two hi-hat sounds. This will help expose any flaws in your technique, such as poor balance or poor weight distribution.

As mentioned, the snare drum sound is low and dead but should still pack a punch. This punch comes from a firm strike with the butt of the stick. Even if you hit hard, you should not firmly grip the stick with your left hand. Added some subtle ghost sixteenth notes randomly between the offbeat on 2 and 4 may expose any potential voltage issues. Keep added ghost notes to a minimum and avoid a set pattern of occurrences.

A great way to see if you have limb independence issues is to funk up the groove a bit by adding some syncopation in the kick drum (Example 2). Create a 2-bar pattern with independent sixteenth notes (nothing too busy). As you play, check with the hi-hat and snare. Do you maintain the good sounds?

drum lessons march 2020

Example 2

Finally, add some open hi-hat notes to the 2-bar groove (Example 3). It also serves as a quick diagnosis of your overall balance on the seat and your ability to produce specific sounds while maintaining a good groove.

drum lessons march 2020

Once it feels cohesive, sprinkle a few of these ghost notes into the mix. Have fun polishing your game!

Stewart Jean is responsible for the drum program at Institute of Musicians in Hollywood, California.

Lesson: Getting the most out of your hi-hat stand


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