Putting the Roll in Your Rock
by Rich Redmond
These exercises are inspired by the master jazz drummer Elvin Jones. In Elvin’s world, everything was a triplet. Inspired by the rhythms of Africa, he had triplets flowing out of him with a controlled yet greasy execution. Taking the baton from Elvin, Bernard Purdie created the famous Purdie shuffle, using a beautiful flow of triplets within a half-time groove. Rock legend Ginger Baker, who was also inspired by African drumming, made great use of these rhythms as well.
For maximum creativity, expand on these patterns by using different voices of the kit. The ride hand can play either quarter notes (Example A) or a full shuffle rhythm (Example B) on the hi-hat, ride, crashes, rims, cowbells, and so on. Strive for control and power, and always make it swing! (Even if you only play in a rock band, there should still be an element of swing in your groove. Rock music developed out of jazz and R&B, after all.)
Practice these exercises with a click track or metronome, and then get out and apply them with real musicians. Have fun exploring the power of triplets!