A Progressive Approach to Phrasing Quintuplets on the Drumkit
Sixteenth-note quintuplets are five notes played per quarter note. The simplest way to count them in 4/4 is, “ONE, two, three, four, five; TWO, two, three, four, five; THREE, two, three, four, five; FOUR, two, three, four, five.” As you can see, I’m emphasizing the downbeat of each quintuplet. I recommend doing that as you’re first learning to feel and hear the fives, but you should be able to remove the emphasis once you’re comfortable with the rhythm.
In this article we’re going to explore ideas based on a very simple combination for your right hand, left hand, and bass drum. But before we get into that, we’ll practice the basic 16th-note quintuplet on the snare while counting aloud.
The pattern in Example 2 is right-left-right-left-foot. Start simply, by using the right hand on the closed hi-hat, the left hand on the snare, and the right foot on the bass drum. Play this pattern slowly a few times to get comfortable with it. Add the counting, and throw on a metronome to make sure you’re playing the quintuplet in perfect time.
The next step is to add a simple backbeat by moving the downbeats on beats 2 and 4 from the hi-hat to the snare. Try to make the backbeats jump out.
For even greater contrast, try playing all the unaccented snare notes very softly.
Next, we’ll take a look at how to add an ostinato (repeating rhythm) to this groove. We’re going to play the quintuplet in 2/4 with the backbeat in place. If you hit the backbeat with your left hand on the snare, you can now maintain a hi-hat ostinato that consists of the first and third note of the quintuplet. To make this pattern more playable, remove the second note from the second quintuplet. Your right and left hand will be playing together on beat 2. Be conscious of the dynamic of the hi-hat as you hit the accent on the snare. It’s okay to accent the hi-hat, as long as it’s intentional. Just be sure you can play the hats at an even dynamic as well.
The next three examples show different ways to apply these ideas in 3/4. In each, keep the “one, three” ostinato on the hihat while playing the backbeat on different downbeats.
For Example 9, we’ve taken the original pattern in Example 3 and shifted it forward by one 16th note. We’re starting on the second 16th note from Example 3. I feel that understanding how to displace rhythms not only adds tasteful and colorful ways to vary grooves but also helps you get one step closer to achieving complete musical freedom on the instrument.
These final patterns are fun sticking, accent, backbeat, and open/closed hi-hat variations. They’re meant to inspire you to come up with many more ideas of your own.
Next time we’ll discuss different ways to superimpose 2/4 quintuplet patterns over 3/4 and 5/4, and we’ll progress into more advanced phrasing exercises by incorporating different sound sources. See you then!