Style and Analysis

“The Brain Dance”

Matt Garstka’s Quintuplet Groove

by Austin Burcham

Few drummers generate the sheer amount of excitement and enthusiasm within the drum community as Matt Garstka. Whether it’s through his incredible display of solo chops or his mind-bending compositions with Animals as Leaders, Garstka continues to push the edge of modern drumming, inspiring many along the way. In this lesson, we’ll analyze two quintuplet grooves from the song “The Brain Dance” off the Animals as Leaders album The Madness of Many.

Because they’re an unusual subdivision, quintuplets can lay the foundation for interesting ideas and patterns. However, the question arises, How would I use this? This lesson should serve as a great example of how Garstka applies quintuplet grooves to an appropriate musical setting. Let’s get started.


Groove 1

At around the 1:22 mark in “The Brain Dance,” the guitar establishes a flowing, quintuplet-based rhythm that lays the backdrop for Garstka to play some interesting patterns. This first groove starts at 1:30. It’s easiest to understand this figure by starting with a foundation. The first step is to play quintuplets on the hi-hat with alternating single strokes, as notated in Exercise 1. This helps to establish the underlying subdivision.

Next, add the bass drum and snare on the quarter-note pulse to establish a basic quintuplet groove.

Once you can comfortably play Exercise 2, add in the other kick and snare notes. This is when the groove starts to come to life.

Now we’ll add the hi-hat openings that fall on the last quintuplet partial of beat 1, the fourth partial of beat 2, and the last partial of beat 3. The openings make the groove sound very fluid and musical.

Start slowly with these patterns and gradually build them up to speed. They may not come easily at first, but if you start from the foundation and add each layer sequentially, these patterns become easier to digest.


Groove 2

This next pattern, which starts at 1:46, is a little more complex and difficult to execute than the previous example. The foundation is a quintuplet-based ostinato on the ride cymbal that’s split into groups of four, with two notes played on the ride followed by two rests. This creates an interesting five-over-four polyrhythm that doesn’t change throughout the groove.

Next, add in the kick and snare on the quarter-note pulse to establish the basic groove.

Once Exercise 6 is comfortable, add the other bass drum notes to make the pattern take shape.

Finally, add the ghost notes, which are quite challenging to execute. This layer brings cohesion to the groove and makes it flow beautifully.

Garstka has an incredible talent for composing advanced patterns that work seamlessly inside Animals as Leaders’ complex arrangements. These patterns are difficult and require a lot of control, independence, and precision to execute, but they’re great examples of how to make advanced concepts groove in a musical context. Get practicing!


Austin Burcham is a graduate of Musician’s Institute and creator of the YouTube educational series “Study the Greats.” Visit youtube.com/abbdrums and abbdrums.com for more info.