Okay, so you got a pair of sticks, you know how to play a few basic rudiments, and a bass-playing buddy of yours, that’s been itching to jam, just scored a great deal on a drum set from Craigslist. Your buddy hits you up to get together to jam almost every single day, but you have no idea where to start or what to play to get the jam off the ground. When in doubt, begin with a simple, solid groove. These 5 beginner drum grooves will allow even the newest drummers to jam along with other musicians.
Groove 1: The Failsafe
This groove appears in thousands of songs of many different genres and for good reason: it works and it feels good. It’s also the first groove many drummers learn to play. Since this is more of a rock groove, the kick and snare really drive the feel. By playing the kick on beats 1 and 3, and the snare on beats 2 and 4 (known as the backbeats), drummers can create a solid, easy-to-follow groove. Steady 8th notes on the hihats hold everything together. If you’re ever unsure of something to play, it never fails to start with this groove. Some examples in popular music: Billie Jean (Michael Jackson), Back in Black (AC/DC), No Diggity (Blackstreet)
Groove 2: The Forward Push
While very similar to the first groove, two more strokes on the kick give this next beat a distinct feel. Adding kicks on the ‘and’ of beats 2 and 4 helps the groove push ahead by anticipating the downbeats. Common in lots of rock, R&B, and soul tunes, this groove is a must-know for beginning drummers looking to play with other musicians. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear this beat in dozens of different Motown recordings and early rock music. Some examples: I Heard it Through the Grapevine (Marvin Gaye), My Girl (The Temptations), Sweet Child O’ Mine (Guns N’ Roses)
Groove 3: The Anarchist
Maybe your bass-playing buddy wants something with a sharper edge to it, like a punk or thrash groove. If that’s the case, then a two-beat groove is the answer. This groove is built on a very simple hand pattern: quarter notes on the hihats, and snare drum on the backbeats. Since the hands play fewer strokes, much higher speeds become more easily attainable. The tricky part becomes playing the kick in between strokes on the hihats. In this particular two-measure groove, the kick lands on beat 1 and the ‘and’ of beat 3 in the first measures, and on beat 1 and the ‘and’ of beat 3 in the second measure. Very similar to a groove known as a D-beat (extremely common in punk and thrash music: Bad Religion, Minor Threat, Slayer), this groove should possess a sense of urgency (and antiestablishment sentiments). You’ll have crowds moshing to your beats in no time!
Groove 4: The Throwback Blues Groove
This simple yet tasty groove uses a 6/8 feel, which occurs in lots of blues and blues-rock music. The backbeat lands only on beat 4, creating a wider groove. Play the kick on counts 1, 3, and 6. Think “Dazed and Confused” by Led Zeppelin. The extra beats in each measure provide more space to explore and have a distinct feel from typical 4/4 grooves. This 6/8 feel also lays the foundation for shuffle grooves, which often layer many dynamics and textures together. This groove is an absolute must for all drummers. Some examples: Dazed and Confused (Led Zeppelin), Bad to the Bone (George Thorogood & The Destroyers), Blue Jean Blues (ZZ Top)
Groove 5: The Cocktail Lounge
While you may not be a “jazz” drummer, learning a few jazz concepts will only help your feel and awareness. Opening yourself to a style of music outside your wheelhouse forces you to approach the drums in a way you may not have otherwise thought to. Unlike rock grooves, which are driven by the kick and snare, swing drumming relies more on the ride cymbal and hihats to drive the groove. Swing, as a feel, has unequally spaced 8th notes; the first is longer than the second. The typical swing pattern is played on the ride cymbal. Thinking as triplets, the ride cymbal pattern is ‘1 - - 2 – a 3 - - 4 – a.’ Instead of playing the snare on beats 2 and 4, like in a rock groove, step on the hihats instead. A rim knock on beat 2 and a couple strokes on the rack tom on beat 4 provide a tight groove for backing up soloists in a jazz combo. Try to keep the drums quieter than the cymbals to blend every tone together.
These 5 beginner drum grooves should equip you with everything you need for your first jam session. Each of these grooves can be expanded upon by adding more strokes on the kick and snare, changing the cymbal patterns, and by moving the backbeats. Explore beyond these grooves to develop more of a personalized sound on the drums. Check out the below video for demonstrations of each beat!