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Vinnie Paul: 5 Reasons The Pantera Drummer Was A Genius

Aaron Edgar  /  UPDATED Jul 7, 2023

Until his untimely passing in 2018, Pantera’s Vinnie Paul was one of the sickest drummers in heavy music. His crushing drum parts are instantly recognizable to metalheads, and he was the perfect rhythmic counterpart to bandmate, guitarist, and brother Dimebag Darrell (1966-2004).

Pantera achieved things most other metal bands wish they could. For example, Far Beyond Driven is one of the heaviest albums to ever hit #1 on the Billboard charts. Vinnie’s beats gave the riffs his own brand of oomph, and the band wouldn’t have been the same without him.

Looking at his work in Pantera, Damageplan, Hellyeah and Rebel Meets Rebel, here are 5 reasons why Vinnie Paul was a drumming genius.

1. Heavy driving grooves

Vinnie was known for intense grooves and an enormous tom sound. You could expect tons of double bass, but also tons of feel.

Listen to “Primal Concrete Sledge” from the Cowboys From Hell album for major heaviness:

In the song “Use My Third Arm”, Vinnie accents the guitar on his largest rack tom in between off-beat hi-hat shots and constant double kick:

use my third arm pantera drum notation
“Use My Third Arm” by Pantera

The chorus of “Drag The Waters” may be simple, but it’s so heavy it’ll make your grandma headbang:

drag the waters pantera drum notation
“Drag The Waters” by Pantera

While he could do a lot using only single strokes (“13 Steps To Nowhere” has a great tom pattern punctuated with accents and ruffs), Vinnie would sometimes throw in a paradiddle (like in the syncopated groove in “Shedding Skin”).

In the song “Slaughtered”, he uses a double paradiddle to create a tasty, syncopated groove:

slaughtered by pantera drum notation
“Slaughtered” by Pantera

The Pantera drummer took 18 months away from music following Dimebag’s death, but eventually helped form the supergroup Hellyeah with members of Mudvayne and Nothingface – and it was like he’d never stopped.

Listen to “One Thing” by Hellyeah where 16th note triplets slide in between straight 16th notes:

one thing hellyeah drum notation
“One Thing” by Hellyeah

Are you the next Vinnie Paul?

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2. Not afraid to leave space

In the metal world, drummers are often praised for playing a ton of notes. Vinnie’s lean and mean drumming stemmed from being able to play – and not play – exactly when he needed to.

The reason “Moment Of Truth” by Damageplan, “This Love” by Pantera, and the end of “Domination” by Pantera sound so heavy is because they’re so beautifully simple.

this love pantera drum notation
“This Love” by Pantera

Don’t forget “I’m Broken” and “Floods” by Pantera.

3. Signature drum fills

Vinnie’s fills are just as integral to the songs as Dimebag’s guitar riffs.

Check out this example from the chorus of “Walk” by Pantera, one of the biggest hits from their Vulgar Display Of Power record. Talk about a recognizable drum part for any metal drummer:

walk pantera drum notation
“Walk” by Pantera

It’s not always about “big licks”. Sometimes, just pushing one shot off the beat can have a huge impact, like in Pantera’s “5 Minutes Alone”.

“Drink Drank Drunk” by Hellyeah has a cool 4-bar drum break at the end of the guitar solo:

drink drank drunk hellyeah drum notation
“Drink Drank Drunk” by Hellyeah

And the intro of Hellyeah’s “Say When” has an awesome triplet section between the toms and kicks:

say when hell yeah drum notation
“Say When” by Hellyeah

Fills can make a song memorable or kill the momentum, and Vinnie’s always had a purpose.

4. Brutal intensity

Vinnie Paul helped Pantera get even heavier on The Great Southern Trendkill, especially on the title track and “Suicide Note, Pt. 2”.

His intensity doesn’t just come from speed; one of the most intense double kick patterns of the ’90s is on “Becoming”, where he creates triplets using a double stroke on his right foot – something not many metal drummers were doing at the time.

becoming pantera drum notation
“Becoming” by Pantera

Let’s not forget about the mid-tempo, driving double kick groove and syncopated ride bell pattern in “Domination”:

domination pantera drum notation
“Domination” by Pantera

5. Outside-the-box drumming

Vinnie Paul was mostly known for his powerful sound and feel, but he could still create technical and creative drum parts (“Pole Rider” by Hellyeah features a cowbell and vibraslap).

You can find arguably one of the best 7/8 grooves in metal in the Pantera track “I’m Broken”:

I'm broken pantera drum notation
“I’m Broken” by Pantera

One of Vinnie’s ‘tricks’ was beat displacement – when notes are shifted to unexpected positions. In “5 Minutes Alone”, the guitar line in the verse makes it clear the part is in 4/4, but Vinnie plays on the offbeat for a bar to flip the beat onto the ‘and’. Even if you know what’s happening, it might throw you off so you hear it as a bar of 9/8 and a bar of 7/8:

5 minutes alone drum notation pantera
“5 Minutes Alone” by Pantera

Vinnie also does this in “Matter Of Time” by Hellyeah, where he pushes the beat back and forth in a 2-bar phrase. The pre-chorus in “Wake Up” by Damageplan also has an unusual beat where he throws his accents off from the quarter note.

The list could go on, but we’ll end it here. This is our tribute to the founding father of groove metal, a huge inspiration to many metal and hard rock drummers: Vinnie Paul.

Getcha’ pull!

Aaron Edgar is a professional studio and touring musician with over 15 years of teaching experience. He couples his educational know-how with the ability to play various styles of music with ease. Aaron enjoys taking rhythmic concepts to a whole new level, which makes for yet another fantastic drummer to learn from and get inspired by on Drumeo.

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