How To Master Any Drum Groove

Learning the Essentials


Since I’ve been unable to make it into the studio this week I’ve decided to teach you a very important lesson instead. In fact, it’s probably THE most important lesson of all. No matter what level of drumming you are at or where you want to take your playing THIS is where it’s at my friend.

It’s All About The Feel

Your job as a drummer is to keep the time in check and to make the music feel good. That’s it. The number one goal. It doesn’t matter if you are playing solo, with a trio or a full band. You need to groove and you need to groove well. Everything else is supplementary to this core function.

Who Gets The Gigs?

If you look at all the great drummers who are always in demand you’ll notice they can all groove like a demon. Steve Gadd, John ‘Jr’ Robinson, Gerald Heyward, Ralph Humphrey, Russ Miller. Even the guys who are known for their chops, the ones in work, are the ones who can lay it down.

So why is it that so many drummers spend the majority of their practice time on chops? Who knows, maybe it’s ego, but it’s obvious when you see them play. They can tear round the kit like nobody’s business but when it’s time to play some music, they just can’t do it very well. And that’s why their phones never ring.

So how do you go about developing that all important groove? Here goes…

The Ninja Method

The simplest way to master any drum groove is to make an itunes playlist of at least 10 songs featuring that particular groove. The songs should cover the full range of tempo’s, dynamics and musical styles. Transcribe or chart the tunes and create a little workout routine that you can drill over and over again. That way you can really delve deep into it, learn all the little nuances that make it work and develop the proper feel.

Playing the same pattern over and over again will help you to commit it to muscle memory and you will also internalize some of the other musical elements of each song (note placement, spacing, subdivisions, structure, melody and harmony) that really make it swing.

Below I’ve written out a sample playlist for each of the seven most frequently performed grooves. You really need to nail these down if you want to play on a regular basis. Try to include tracks from Rock, Blues, Funk, Country, R&B and Reggae so you can avoid the one trick pony syndrome and learn how to jam in any style with any band.

1/4 Notes

Beastie Boys – Fight For Your Right
Chuck Berry – Maybellene
Harry Connick, Jr. – Just Like Me
Jeff Beck – Hi Ho Silver Lining
Luther Vandross – Never Too Much
Motorhead – Ace Of Spades
Snow Patrol – You’re All I Have
Status Quo – Rockin’ All Over The World
T. Rex – I Love To Boogie
The Strokes – Last Night

1/8 Notes

AC/DC – Back In Black
Bob Marley – Iron Lion Zion
Chuck Berry – Nadine
Chuck Brown – Bustin’ Loose
Dolly Parton – 9 To 5
Green Day – Basket Case
Lenny Kravitz – Are You Gonna Go My Way
Maxwell – Changed
Queen – Another One Bites The Dust
Steely Dan – Black Cow

16th Notes

Chic – Le Freak
Diana Ross – Upside Down
Foo Fighters – Everlong
Hues Corporation – Rock The Boat
Isaac Hayes – Theme From Shaft
Jamiroquai – Space Cowboy
K.C And The Sunshine Band – That’s The Way ( I Like It)
Marcus Miller – Boogie On Reggae Woman
The Smiths – Cemetry Gates
U2 – Sunday Bloody Sunday

16th Notes (1handed)

Bobby Caldwell – What You Won’t Do For Love
David Grey – Sell Sell Sell
King Of Leon – Arizona
Puff Daddy – Come With Me
Rufus – Tell Me Something Good
RATM – Bombtrack
Rush – Tom Sawyer
Soulive – Cash’s Dream
Stereophonics – It Means Nothing
311 – Random


Dave Weckl – 101 Shuffle
Dion – The Wanderer
Harry Connick Jr. – Reason to Believe
LeAnn Rimes – Blue
Mary Wells – My Guy
Michael Jackson – Rockin’ Robin
Paul Jackson – Hotel Domingo
Queen – Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Tammy Wynette – Stand By Your Man
The Temptations – The Way You Do the Things You Do

12/8 Grooves

Bon Jovi – Bed Of Roses
Crash Test Dummies – Two Knights And Maidens
Gerry & The Pacemakers – You’ll Never Walk Alone
Joe Cocker – With A Little Help From My Friends
Paul Simon – Crazy Love
Percy Sledge – When A Man Loves A Woman
Queen – We Are The Champions
Sade – Your Love Is King
Stevie Ray Vaughan – Texas Flood
U2 – Breathe


Benny Goodman – Sing Sing Sing
Chick Webb – Stompin At The Savoy
Courtney Pine – Sacrifice
Frank Sinatra – New York New York
Glen Miller – American Patrol
Lulu – Shout
Miles Davis – So What
Muddy Waters – I’m Ready
Nat King Cole – Let There Be Love
Woody Herman – Wood Choppers Ball

All I want you to do is take one morning out of your life and make up these playlists. It’s not a big investment of time or effort but it will pay massive dividends in the way you practice and in the way you play. If you spend an hour a day drilling out these tunes I promise you that you will notice the difference. It’s a very simple process here, you do the work and your groove gets better. Nice!

When you have these down and I mean really have these down then you can start to explore other grooves and feels using the same technique. Out of all the students I’ve ever had, the ones who did this and stuck with it made the most progress by far.

Practice Tips

Here are some different things for you to try:
1) Play Time – No fills, just time
2) Deep Focus – Pick one instrument (bass, guitar, vox) and stick to it like glue
3) Stretch – Play on, behind and ahead of the beat
4) Sing – The drum part, the subdivisions, the melody
5) Meditate – Play over and over until it becomes hypnotic and keep it there

Now Kill It! DN

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