‘Four on the floor’ is a common pattern that defines musical styles like disco and EDM. But you can also find it in classic rock, blues, and even mainstream pop.
This article will teach you how to play four on the floor, show you some examples of songs that use it, and give you some tips for playing the most popular dance beat on earth.
What does “four on the floor” mean? Simple: you hit the bass drum on every quarter note.
Since most popular music is in 4/4, there are four quarter notes in a bar. Your kick pedal rests on the floor and, well, you get the idea.
As disco was emerging from funk and soul in the late ’60s, drummers realized that music made people want to dance when they had a constant beat to follow and move to. So by the time the style was flourishing in the ’70s, four on the floor was a defining feature of disco music: a steady quarter note pulse on the bass drum with consistent backbeats on the snare drum.
House music, techno, trance, Jamaican dancehall, Caribbean zouk and even blues music rely on this foot-heavy pattern to keep people moving. It works! In fact, it’s so simple, effective, and popular that four on the floor is considered a money beat – the type of drumming that gets you paying gigs.
It’s an iconic dance beat heard in songs like ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” and “Stayin’ Alive” by The Bee Gees. In fact, it’s a defining beat for the entire disco genre.
But four on the floor didn’t just define popular music of the 70s. It’s a key element of house music and you’ll recognize it throughout the tracks “Lose Yourself To Dance” and “One More Time” by Daft Punk:
Let’s not stop at dance music, though. Four on the floor is everywhere – even in funky tracks like Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”.
Four on the floor made its way into rock music early on, grounding grooves in huge songs by Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, ZZ Top and even Metallica.
And don’t let these examples from older songs convince you that four on the floor isn’t still relevant in the 21st century.
You can even hear the beat in the chorus of one of the most popular pop songs of the 2020s, “Butter” by BTS:
Here are some tips for playing four on the floor:
1. Start by practicing bass drum and hi-hat together before adding backbeats on the snare drum.
2. Make sure your hand and foot line up perfectly. No flamming.
3. Practice slowly and don’t increase the tempo until everything sounds tight and you feel relaxed while playing.
4. Once you’ve got the basics down, try to lay off the kick a bit whenever you hit the snare. As Simon Phillips mentions in the following video, hitting two things at once can ‘cancel each other out’ in a speaker and result in a smaller sound:
Simon Phillips is a master at making drums sound awesome, and that includes the way they’re played. This short clip is an excerpt from his course, “Elevate Your Drum Sound” available for Drumeo members (click here to get a free 7-day trial).
Four on the floor is one of the most common drum beats every beginner should know. You’re off to a great start!
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