A working drummer – or any well-rounded drummer in general – should be able to play a variety of styles and grooves.
Below we’ve assembled some of the most commonly used drum beats in some of the most popular genres. Beginner and intermediate drummers will find plenty here to choose from, and advanced players will find something as well.
Simple 8th note drum patterns have been around since rock’s inception and continue to play a major role in popular music. These easy rock drum beats represent some of the most played, recorded, listened to, sometimes ridiculed but mostly revered, incredibly important patterns of all time.
The first – the grandmother of them all, “the basic rock beat” – is literally the foundation of most of the grooves we play on the drum set. Fittingly, it’s the first one in this beginner drum lesson:
Rich Redmond demonstrates the next four simple rock patterns in his lesson called “Money Beats”. As Rich says, these beats are “the ones you need to know to even think about playing in a band, playing on songs, or just being a working drummer”:
To step your rock grooves up a notch, add a 16th note bass drum stroke (or several). A great example is the cool drum beat to “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd, shown in this Drummer’s Guide to Rock:
And to go all the way in your rock playing, learn the iconic beat to the Nirvana song “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. This article shows five variations, from beginner to Dave Grohl level. Here’s the beat Grohl plays in the song:
Here’s a video showing you how to get there, even if you’re a total beginner:
Funk borrows heavily from rock drumming, but with some signature differences. Syncopation, snare displacement, 16th note ride patterns, hi-hat openings and ghost notes are all hallmarks of funk beats. To get started, check out the first example of a basic funk groove in this Drummer’s Guide to Funk. It contains a snare displacement on the A of 2 and a kick beat on the E of 3:
If you’re looking for a more advanced drum beat in the funk genre – one that uses almost all of the techniques mentioned above – check out the “Funky Drummer” groove by James Brown’s drummer Clyde Stubblefield. It’s considered by many to be the most famous drum beat of all time (it’s definitely the most sampled!).
Watch this video to see how it’s played:
Shuffles and triplet-based grooves are stereotypically associated with blues playing, but they’re really everywhere in popular music. Learning them is an absolute must.
The 12/8 slow blues pattern is the basis of many Motown and R&B hits (and pop songs as well), and is counted as 8th note triplets:
In this example of a basic shuffle, the hi-hat is taking the shuffle part (it could also be taken by the bass drum, the snare, or any combination of the three):
Nowhere are shuffles more recognizable than in traditional blues playing. For an awesome demonstration of various types of slow blues beats and shuffles, check out this lesson by Tony Coleman, longtime drummer for B.B. King:
Next, you should learn the half-time shuffle, also known as “the Purdie shuffle” (named after the originator of the groove, R&B Bernard Purdie).
This beat, famous among drummers, was used by John Bonham as the basis for the Led Zeppelin song “Fool In The Rain”:
It’s also the foundation of Jeff Porcaro’s well-known drum beat for the Toto song “Rosanna”:
To see the inventor himself in action, check out this amazing lesson by Bernard Purdie where he demonstrates his iconic groove:
Every working drummer should have at least a basic knowledge of a few latin drum beats, and the bossa nova is probably the most quintessential latin groove. It typically includes a 3-2 clave (a two measure pattern with the first measure containing three beats and the second containing two) played with a closed hi-hat and rim click on the snare, over a traditional samba ostinato on the kick drum.
In his “Introduction to Brazilian Grooves”, Mark Kelso demonstrates the traditional bossa nova rhythm on the drum set, and discusses the importance of dynamics and feel in these rhythms:
If you want to up your game in the latin realm, beats like the Cha-cha, Songo, Mambo, and the Mozambique (all of which can be found in this Juan Mendoza lesson “Latin Grooves Every Drummer Should Know”) are mainstays of the genre.
For the more advanced players, here’s the Mozambique:
An art form in itself, jazz is often considered the most advanced musical style. Its fundamental drum set rhythm is a triplet-based swing pattern played on the ride cymbal, with a hi-hat foot pattern played on the backbeats of two and four:
For a step-by-step demonstration of the basic jazz groove, see the below video called “Your First Jazz Lesson”, which includes incorporating the bass drum on the quarter notes for a technique called “feathering”:
Check out “A Drummer’s Guide to Jazz” for more essential jazz grooves.
Improvisation and soloing are major components of jazz playing. The drums respond to and accompany the melodic motifs of fellow musicians by doing something called “comping”, which can be performed on the snare, bass drum, or ride cymbal, or any combination of the above.
As an example, this notation shows comping for multiple limbs:
Most metal drum beats incorporate a technique called “double bass” which consists of two bass drum pedals – one for each foot.
The first metal pattern below is a basic double bass beat made up of 8th notes on the hi-hat, snare on the backbeats, and alternating 16th notes being played between the two kick pedals. It’s the first notation from “A Drummer’s Guide To Metal”:
Next up is a “blast beat”, a pattern commonly used in death metal and metalcore. Blasts typically incorporate double bass, but some, like the beat below, can be played with a single pedal.
Another example of a typical metal beat is the “bomb blast”. Both hands play at the same time with the feet simultaneously doing 16th notes underneath. In this article and video on “The Five Iconic Beats Every Metal Drummer Should Know”, it’s the last example:
Congratulations if you can play all the drum beats we’ve presented here! And if you’re still learning, that’s awesome too. Being a well-versed drummer with the ability to play in a wide variety of musical situations takes time and dedication.
If you want to learn more about all the different types of drum beats, check out The Drummer’s Toolbox – you’ll learn over 100 styles!
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