Jazz Drummer’s Workshop

Creative Compine

Crossing the Barline Using Seven-Note Groupings

by Christian Finger

The material in this article is designed to increase your independence and give you some fresh ideas for how to play behind a soloist. It’s important to always use discretion, of course. Make sure to play these advanced figures musically, and only after you’ve totally absorbed them.

We’ll be using a standard jazz swing ostinato involving the ride cymbal, hi-hat foot, and bass drum. The bass drum should be played very lightly so that it’s felt more than heard. This technique is known as feathering.


Now add continuous 8th-note triplets on the snare with the other hand.


To train your ears to hear how a seven-note figure fits over the swing ostinato, add accents on every seventh note of the triplets. Play this very slowly, and count the triplets out loud to make sure you don’t lose track of the pulse.


Once you have a good feel for how the sevens fit over 4/4, it’s time to orchestrate them in a more musical way between the snare and bass drum. Here’s one option, which breaks the seven into two groups of two followed by one group of three.


Here’s how that pattern fits into four bars of 4/4. Notice that there’s a six-note grouping at the end to resolve the phrase back to beat 1 on the repeat.


For additional melodic texture, try replacing one or two of the bass drum notes with the hi-hat. In the following example, the second bass drum note is now played with the hi-hat foot.


Here’s how that new seven-note phrase fits within four bars of 4/4, again with a six-note grouping at the end to bring the resolution back to beat 1 on the repeat.


Study these ideas slowly, and break them down into pieces if need be. Then experiment with your own ideas based on what we’ve presented here. You can also change the note rate to 16ths for additional fodder. The sky is the limit. Have fun!