Episode #9 of the course How to play the drums to (almost) every song you’ve ever heard by Dylan DePice
You already know that almost every song you’ve ever heard is built on top of the same basic beat. And you already know how to play it. That’s enough to play along to almost every song ever written. But it’s not quite enough to play those songs exactly.
Don’t worry, though. Now that you know the basics, playing different beats is just a matter of slightly changing what you hit and when. As long as you know how to count (which you do), all you’ve got to do now is vary where within the bar you play what. Let me give you an example.
Our basic beat has hi-hat (HH) on 8th notes (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +), bass drum (BD) on 1 and 3, and snare drum (SN) on 2 and 4.
You can practice this anywhere at any time by sitting down and tapping your feet on the ground and tapping your thighs with your hands crossed on your lap:
• Play HH with your right hand on your left thigh (this arm should be crossed over your other one).
• Play BD with your right foot on the floor.
• Play SN with your left hand on your right thigh.
Here’s how you can visualize our “BASIC BEAT”:
Quick! Refresh yourself by playing it through four times.
Our first variation will keep the HH and SN patterns the same but add BD on the and of 3 (the + right after you say 3.) Here’s how you can visualize our VARIATION ONE:
Try this one v e r y s l o w l y .
Up until now, you’ve trained your body to never play BD on an +. Now you’re about to break that muscle memory in order to move forward. Worry first about being able to do this physically. The hardest part will likely be playing BD and HH exactly at the same time. But you can do it. After all, you just did it on 3!
Once you’re confident that you can physically do it, try to steady your count and repeat it in rhythm, with each beat the same distance away from the one before it as the one after it.
If you’ve got a minute to set it up, try using a metronome as a guide. (You can find free metronome apps and websites if you’ve got a moment to poke around.) Here are a few:
• iOS: Metronome: Tempo Lite
• Android: Metronome Beats
• Web: 8notes
Once you feel good about VARIATION ONE, try going back and forth. Do one bar of the BASIC BEAT and one bar of VARIATION ONE:
VARIATION ONE added something new into the mix to make the beat more interesting. But you can do just as much by taking something away. So, let’s try keeping that new BD on the and of three but removing the original BD on 3. Here’s VARIATION TWO:
This muscle memory might prove even harder to break. That’s totally okay.
Playing the drums is an endless exercise in training yourself to do something without thinking about it.
If you find yourself getting frustrated, start over, slow down, and count louder.
If you’re getting so frustrated that you feel like you want to hit something… well, good thing you’re learning to play the drums!
Tomorrow, I’ll teach you one last trick that’ll make you sound super slick. Until then—and after then too—try coming up with your own variations like the ones we did today. Remember, you can add or take away. And it doesn’t just have to be the BD. Get creative!
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