Donny Gruendler

January 2013

Jobbing Drummer

Popular Play-Alongs
Part 3: Synth Metal

by Donny Gruendler

In the last two play-along articles, we worked on the proper performance technique, groove vocabulary, and sounds of contemporary pop/R&B and punk-pop—two styles of music that you’ll likely be asked to play as a working drummer. This month we’re covering synth metal by way of a chart titled “Ninth Nail.”

Synth Metal

During the past decade, many top rock acts fused elements of synth pop and heavy metal into an aggressive new sound. The style became extremely popular by incorporating dance beats, keyboard synthesizers, and distorted rhythmic textures in a rock setting. This play-along chart is in the tradition of Nine Inch Nails and Rob Zombie.

The verse is an eight-bar section. The groove is a one-bar phrase that features straight 16ths played on closed hi-hats over a quarter-note bass drum pattern. The chorus is a twelve-bar section. The groove builds on the verse pattern by adding a hi-hat opening on the “&” of each beat.


The verse-chorus form of “Ninth Nail” is augmented with an eight-bar introduction where the drums lay out. This is indicated by a multiple-bar rest symbol. After the first twelve-bar chorus, there’s a four-bar vamp based on the verse groove. Immediately after the vamp, you repeat back to the verse. There’s a sixteen-bar breakdown at the beginning of the coda. The drum groove is a two-bar phrase that includes heavy snare and tom flams. The second ending of the coda (bars 7 and 8) contains a two-bar 16th-note snare fill. Be sure to observe the crescendo by building from light snare hits to full rimshots during this part. After the tom breakdown within the coda, the chorus groove returns for eight bars. Then go back to the verse groove for four bars. The chart ends with a two-bar breakdown on the toms.

Here’s a demo mix of the complete tune with drums.

[audio:|titles= demo mix of the complete tune with drums] or download mp3 here

Here’s a mix minus drums for you to play along with.

[audio:|titles=mix minus drums] or download mp3 here

Here’s the drum chart to the tune “Ninth Nail.” (Click links below to open images)


Be sure to check out the complete article in the  January 2013 issue of Modern Drummer for additional tips on how to play this tune.