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The Blues Shuffle for Drums

While the shuffle is mostly associated with the blues, it’s a pattern that can be played in any style of music. As a drummer, it’s important to this pattern and all of its variations. While in high school, I studied drums with Chet Doboe. He told me that ability to play a good shuffle would allow me to make more money as a professional drummer. While I can’t draw a direct correlation between my ability to play this groove and my income, I will say that it has come in handy on many occasions.

Here are the basics:

  1. The cymbal pattern is based on triplets.
  2. You play the first and last triplet of every quarter note.
    1 trip let 2 trip let 3 trip let 4 trip let 1 trip let 2 trip let 3 trip let 4 trip let
  3. As it gets quicker, you’ll eventually stop counting and feel it.

To learn more about the basics, check out this article on blues drumming.

My friend, fellow drummer and drum teacher, Chris Scherer said to me once that he felt people get thrown off when learning to play triplets. There is something about adding that third note to the rhythm that makes it a lot more difficult than counting eighth or sixteenth notes. As a drum teacher, I couldn’t agree more.

It’s important to get comfortable counting and feeling triplets.

While the groove itself might seem simple, it can be quite difficult to execute. It’s important to count out loud, go slow, and use a metronome.

According to the Drumming System (affiliate link), the following grooves are important to know:

Jump Shuffle

This is a fast pattern. It’s mostly about what is going on with the hi hat.

  1. The hi hat opens on beats 1 and 3, while closing on 2 and 4.
  2. Next, eliminate the “let” of beats 1 and 3.
  3. This essentially becomes your standard jazz cymbal pattern.
  4. Accent the snare on beats 2 and 4.
  5. The bass drum can play a variety of patterns.

Texas Shuffle

This can be challenging to play at first because both hands play at the exact same time. One is on the ride (or hi hat), the other on the snare. Then accent beats 2 and 4 on the snare. The bass drum can be on beats 1 and 3 or on every quarter note. This is a driving groove! Check out music by Stevie Ray Vaughn with Chris Layton on drums.

Kansas City Shuffle

Like the Texas variation, this is a double shuffle (both ands play the exact same time). It’s a lot faster than the Texas variation. Played on the ride, it sounds happier.

Other Variations

Learn & Master Drums (affiliate link) teaches even more grooves, such as the Flat Tire Shuffle, the Driving Shuffle, and the Charleston Shuffle.

The Half Time Shuffle

The half time shuffle is a legendary drum groove. Both the Drumming System (affiliate link) and Learn & Master Drums (affiliate link) have entire sections devoted to this groove. After a thorough analysis, the Drumming System (affiliate link) gives you more examples of how to execute this amazing pattern.

This is a really fun beat to learn and to teach. The term “half time” refers to the fact that you’re accenting the snare drum on beat 3. In most shuffles, the snare is accented on beats 2 and 4. By shifting the accent to beat 3, it changes the feel entirely. It sounds more relaxed and laid back. It’s groovy and fun to play. Remember that while playing in half time, its only the feel of notes that are cut in half. The actual time value remains the same.

What makes this fun is when you begin to combine ghost notes on the snare drum with accented snare backbeats. It’s important to remember to be  sharply aware of the volume of the snare notes.

You can create some real funky patterns!

The half time is used a lot in hip hop and some blues music. Learn & Master Drums (affiliate link) actually categorizes the groove as R&B. In my opinion, regardless of the style of music, if you play a half time shuffle, it feels like there is a hint of reggae.

Examples of this groove include John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) on Fool in the Rain and Jeff Porcaro (Toto) on Rosanna. Learn & Master Drums (affiliate link) shows you how to do the actual beat to Rosanna.

This groove can be extremely difficult to learn…it might even by a life long challenge for many drummers. In my opinion, if you are looking to master this pattern, I would check out the Drumming System (affiliate link).

The Bernard Purdie Drum Shuffle

The Drumming System (affiliate link) has an entire section on the Bernard Purdie Drum Shuffle. It is one of those grooves that every drummer should know, but few drummers actually master.

The groove was popularized by Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, one of the greatest groove drummers of all time. In fact, many consider him to be the most recorded drummer of all time. He invented this beat by taking the simple shuffle pattern and adding some flavor to the role of the snare drum within the groove.

Two great examples of the Bernard Purdie Drum Shuffle can be heard on Babylon Sisters and Home at Last by Steely Dan.

The groove begins with a half time shuffle (accent the snare on 3). Then ghost notes are played on the snare. According to the Drumming System (affiliate link), they are played on the “trip” of 1, 2, and 4. From my own experience, I prefer to play them on the “trip” of all 4 beats. This is more a difficult shuffle to execute, but it sounds more full.

The ghost notes drive the Purdie Shuffle!

In fact, if you take out the ghost notes, the sound and feel of the groove change completely.

The ghost notes are amazing because they are subtle, yet so important to the feel of the groove. When Bernard Purdie plays it, he hits the snare with so much conviction, yet keeps the ghost notes almost invisible. That’s the art of drumming.

Just a side note: I was fortunate to have dinner with Bernard Purdie when I was a junior in high school. We sat face to face at Docks Oyster Bar & Seafood in New York City. We got to chat drums and we each had two lobsters. Years later, I went to see Bernard perform. I was eating a huge plate of ribs and he walked up to my table, looked at my ribs, his eyes lit up, and he started screaming in joy.

Professional Country Drumming

The Drumming System (affiliate link) has a great section on country drumming. Country music began in in the 1920’s and continuously evolves through today. In the 1950’s, Johny Cash, Hank Williams, and Patsy Cline became incredibly popular. Today’s popular artists include Garth Brooks and Shania Twain. The success of this music is demonstrated in it’s worldwide appeal. In fact, some of today’s country music is also considered to be pop music because of its universal appeal.

While the majority of today’s country music feels strikingly similar to popular rock, their are small nuances within the feel that make it “country”. One particular technique that I learned from a friend was how to hit the snare drum. In this style, many drummers throw the weight of their arm into the snare and let the stick just sit. There is no rebound and it actually makes your shoulder kind of sore. With the potential for injury aside, you get a serious country backbeat.

This is responsible for the feel of many country songs.

The Drumming System (affiliate link) starts out with beginner country beats. These are simple quarter and eighth note beats with occasional sixteenth notes. The role of the country drummer is to play simple time and keep a great groove for the band.

Intermediate and advanced beats include train beats. W.S. “Fluke” Holland, the only drummer Johnny Cash ever had, made train beats popular. You will know this type of beat when you hear it. When done correctly, it sounds like a train going down the tracks. You can play this with sticks, brushes, hot rods, etc.

On a side note, I was fortunate enough to receive a consultation from Tiffany Gifford, a celebrity stylist and image consultant. Miranda Lambert, a popular country artist, is one of Tiffany’s clients.

Also, here’s a clip of a drum solo I did at a country music concert:

Professional Progressive Rock Drumming

The Drumming System (affiliate link) has a great section on progressive rock. It’s kinda funny, but the instructor, Mike Michalkow, refers to it as wild and bizzare playing. He’s not saying this to insult the style, just stating an opinion (which I share). In fact, he’s a specialist in this style of drumming.

It’s easy to label it as wild and bizzare because it includes odd time playing, crazy fills, intricate snare and hi hat parts. Since most music is written in 4/4, any thing that is performed in an odd time signature might feel weird. Although not a progressive rock song, Dave Brubeck’s Take 5 is one of the few songs with an odd time signature that became wildly popular.

This style of rock began in late 1960’s with bands such as King Crimson, Genesis, and Yes. In the 1970’s bands like Pink Floyd and Rush became popular. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, Dream Theater kept progressive rock alive. King Crimson, Rush, and Dream Theater are still actively performing today.

Neil Peart, Mike Portnoy, Chester Thompson, Phil Collins, and Bill Bruford are drummers who considered to be pioneers of progressive rock. Be sure to check out some of the incredible footage of each of them on YouTube.

The Drumming System (affiliate link) has progressive rock training for drummers at every level.

  1. For beginners, their are beats with snare drum notes in random spots and thirty second notes on the bass drum. It might seem difficult, but it starts off very simple.
  2. For intermediate drummers, the beats add more random snare drum notes, along with sixteenth notes on the snare and bass drum.
  3. For advanced drummers, the beats are straight up WACKY! You get stuff like broken ride cymbal patterns and two and handed sixteenth note triplet ride patterns. Really weird…but also really fun.

Professional Grunge Drumming

The Drumming System (affiliate link) has some great grunge drumming lessons. In fact, I’ve never actually knew of lessons being taught on this style of music until I saw this.

Grunge rock began in late 1980’s and was very popular through the early to mid 1990’s. Bands such as Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and Pearl Jam popularized this music.

It became known as the “Seattle sound”: Sloshy, heavy, grungy 1 bar and 2 bar patterns.

Pearl Jam

One memory of grunge music that I will never forget is the first time I saw the video for the song, “Alive”, by Pearl Jam. I was in awe of the drummer, David Abbruzzese. His sound was very powerful and incredibly clear. He also played with great fluidity. I still work to emulate his fluidity around the drum kit today.

Check out the video:

Nirvana

I was in middle school during the birth of grunge music and was heavily influenced by it. Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged in New York album was a CD that I regularly played. (Remember CD’s?) Nirvana’s bestselling hit, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” had a huge impact on my generation. I truly believe that this video captures the essence of grunge.

Check out the video:

Improving Your Skills

The Drumming System (affiliate link) has grunge drumming beats for beginner, intermediate, and advanced players.

  1. The beginner beats sometimes have no cymbals in them. This was very popular in the music.
  2. Intermediate beats are a bit more challenging with addition sixteenth notes on the snare and bass drum, plus fills at the end of the beat. Again this was very popular with grunge drumming. Most importantly, they need to be played with a “sloshy” sound.
  3. Advanced beats are so recognizable. They add broken up hi hat patterns, open hi hat patterns,  and sixteenth note triplets on the hi hat.

The actual beats in the style aren’t that technically difficult. The important thing is to develop that feel of this music.

Professional Hard Rock Drumming

The Drumming System (affiliate link) is an excellent training tool for improving your hard rock drumming. Hard rock music is sub-genre of rock music that began in the mid 1960’s. Popular bands include The Who, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, and Def Leppard. It’s important to know the drummers in these bands.

Keith Moon played with The Who.
John Bonham played with Led Zeppelin.
Joey Kramer currently plays with Aerosmith.
Rick Allen currently plays with Def Leppard.


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Learn and Master Odd Time Signatures

If there is one thing that frustrates me about drumming, it’s odd time signatures. If fact, I will admit it: I wish everything I had to play was in 4. I share a feeling that many drummers have about odd time signatures…they are really complex.

The Drumming System (affiliate link) has a simple way of helping you understand odd time and has a huge library of beats and fills.

Time Signature

Before you can master odd time, you need to understand the basics of time signatures. The time signature is written at the beginning of a piece of music. It specifies how many beats are in each measure and which note value gets one beat. The time signature consists of a top number and a bottom number. For example, 4/4.

The top number is the amount of beats that you count. According to the Drumming System (affiliate link), going past 21 is a little unrealistic. The bottom number tells us the note value that receives the count.

[Read more…]

Learn and Master Speed Metal Drumming

Speed metal is a sub genre of heavy metal music that began in the late 1970’s and carried on through the 1980’s. Bands such as Slayer, Slipknot, Lamb of God, Strapping Young Lad, and Deathklok really made a name for themselves in this style. Drummers such as Chris Adler, Dave Lombardo, Joey Jordison, Gene Hoglan are the masters of speed metal. Be sure to check out as much of their playing as you possibly can.

The Drumming System (affiliate link) suggests that this style is more geared towards intermediate and advanced drummers. I am inclined to agree.

For intermediate drummers, it’s good to master driving, powerful beats with one foot. Even if you want to use a double bass pedal to play the beats, it’s important to first develop a very fast, powerful single foot. Do the exercises slow and then speed them up.

Advanced drummers are usually crazy double bass players. You get to go nuts! The key thing to remember is that everything has to align properly. You don’t want the hi hat not aligning with the bass drums or the snare flamming with bass drums. The Drumming System (affiliate link) gives you advanced patterns include sixteenth notes and sixteenth note triplets with double bass.

It’s rare that a drummer can actually play this style with a single bass drum pedal, but it’s not impossible. The challenge is that your volume won’t equal that of two bass drums. It’s very important that you do a thorough warm up before playing speed metal or you will cramp up.

I’ve always looked at speed metal as the most physical form of contemporary drumming. If drumming were ever to be considered a sport, speed metal would be the main part of the game. Although it’s not my thing, I have a deep respect for the musicians who play this style and admire the level of speed and stamina they have developed.

My favorite speed metal group is Slipknot because they wear creepy masks when they perform.