Jamaican Drum Sounds

Quick Tips to Achieve Authentic Reggae-Style Tones

by Michael Dawson and Gil Sharone

The drum sounds employed in each subgenre of reggae are just as important to the overall vibe of the music as the distinctive grooves played within each style. While you work on getting your one-drop, rocker, and dancehall beats to sit right in the pocket, consider your gear choices—as well as how you have your drums tuned and muffled—in order to get your kit sounding as true to form as possible.

Here, we’ve broken it down to two basic setups: a classic open and jazzy set for early ska and rocksteady styles and a more modern and heavily treated configuration for the deeper, drier sounds heard on reggae and dancehall records in the ’70s and ’80s.

Here’s a demo of the classic, open early ska and rocksteady drum sound.

Here’s a demo of the more heavily treated sounds of reggae and dancehall drums.

Be sure to check out the complete article in the August 2012 issue of Modern Drummer for additional insight into how to tweak your kit to achieve authentic ska/rocksteady or reggae/dancehall tones.

Ska/Rocksteady Kit
ska/rocksteady kit
Reggae/Dancehall Kit
reggae/dancehall drums