Recently, a student asked me about how to incorporate tom toms into her drum beats. Good question–and something that I do frequently. It’s a great way to vary your beats for different song sections, and it’s not an easy concept to teach.
I started to think about how I learned to play this way and I realized it was just something I got into by imitating my favorite drummers. There’s no real “method” or “system” for doing this–just listen to music and figure out the tom tom beats you like.
Since that will take you some time, I’ve come up with a little worksheet to help get you started. Recently, I’ve had to make up a few of these types of beats for different bands I’ve been playing with. I’ve written out four of these ideas for you. Check out the PDF with those ideas here: Tom Tom Beats
A few things to note about these types of grooves…
First, these are not open-handed ideas; there is no hi-hat part that continuously plays throughout these grooves. I often use flams on the toms with these beats and that’s one reason that I don’t have a cymbal thread running through the groove. But, I also don’t think it’s necessary to have a cymbal line most of the time. Part of the idea of incorporating toms into your beats is to change things up and create a different vibe entirely. Eliminating a constant cymbal pattern (or completely eliminating cymbals) is part of the reason these tom tom grooves can work to shift the mood of the music.
Second, another reason these ideas work is because they propel the music forward; tom beats can really create a feeling of forward motion and drive. Examples 1 and 2 do that.
Third, adding open hi-hat sounds here or there often works well (examples #3 & 4).
Fourth, “riding” the floor tom (instead of the cymbal) and moving your ghosted notes to the hi tom (instead of the snare) is a common way of adding toms to your beats (example #2). When moving the left hand ghost notes to the toms, make sure NOT to ghost them on the toms.
Finally, it is often helpful to get rid of one of the snare “backbeats” in order to make some room for a tom rhythm (examples #1 and 3).
This should get you started on playing this way. Questions or comments? Please post and I’ll be sure to answer.
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