As drummers, our primary job when playing with other people is to provide the groove. That’s the foundation of the music and the bottom line reason for our presence within a group of musicians. If we do a good job, the music just feels good.
If we can do that, we’re successful. There are several elements to making the music feel good. As a drummer, having steady time, placing the notes properly within the groove (creating a feel), playing in a way that matches the music appropriately, and injecting the right amount of energy are all important.
It’s also important to consider that generally speaking, when we are playing with others, 95% of the time we are playing grooves.
All this being said, I was thinking about how I have been spending my practice time. I realized that my time practicing was not allocated appropriately given the above. So I’ve made an adjustment.
I’ve decided that going forward, I will spend a significantly greater amount of my practice time on my groove. This implies working on independence too.
It’s important to consider how you’re spending your practice time. Are YOU spending enough time working on your groove?
Perhaps some of you are. Perhaps not.
But before you dismiss this notion, let’s consider the depth to which one can dig into this. It was thinking about the groove possibilities and depth that really got me excited about doubling down on grooves and that inseparable brother/sister of grooves: independence.
Let’s just consider the most used time system, the 16th note grid. The most common pattern in this grid is eighth notes on the hi-hat, two and four on the snare, and a world of sixteenth note possibilities with the bass drum.
But what about other cymbal pattern possibilities?
The PDF below has nine possible ideas including one that goes over the bar-line and takes 3 measures to resolve back to “one.” It’s not an exhaustive list by any means, but the idea here is to think about the possibilities.
Have a look at the PDF: Cymbal Ostinato Ideas
OK, you’ve checked out the PDF, right?
So, how many of them do you have a deep and confident independence with? How many of them do you feel really comfortable using with your grooves on a gig? How many of them have you worked on? Which of these do you have locked? Which do you honestly not really have locked?
To build upon this, now think about different left foot/hi-hat ideas you could play simultaneously while playing these cymbal patterns on the ride. Now, what if you put a bell sound from the ride as one of the notes in some of these patterns? What if you played a second hi-hat and picked a left foot pattern to play with it?
The point is that there are many possibilities, and I bet that many of you have not really locked down more than a few of them.
So, imagine…what if you could bust out with the “e and ah” cymbal pattern at will and with ease and play anything against it? What if that pattern sounded amazing but you just never tried it? And guess what, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone play that! The goal is to sound different, right?
These are the things I started to think about the other day, and I decided that I wasn’t working on this stuff enough. I’ve already started adjusting.
So, I ask you, are you just “chopping out” during your practice? Are you getting better at the things that are really important to getting more work?
Are you working on your groove enough?
If not, get yourself a copy of Gary Chaffee’s “Patterns: Time Functioning” and get to work. You can buy it HERE.
Until next time we meet in “The Thinking Drummer” series…