Rock ‘N’ Jazz Clinic

The Paradiddle Challenge

Unlocking Keith Carlock–Type Hand/Foot Interplay

by Daniel Bédard

I came up with the idea for this article after hearing Keith Carlock’s playing on guitarist Oz Noy’s track “Chillin’,” from the album Ha! I was amazed by the interplay between his bass drum and snare, while he kept 8th notes going on the hi-hat with his foot most of the time. Carlock’s rhythms are reminiscent of paradiddles and their various permutations, which is the basis of these exercises.

The Basic Groove

Start by playing the paradiddle in its basic form between the bass drum and snare, while keeping 8th notes on the hi-hat with the foot. First, play the pattern with 8th notes on the ride cymbal, and then switch the ride so that it’s playing in unison with the bass drum. The challenge is to keep the paradiddle between the kick and snare steady and confident while your right hand changes. This helps in developing freedom with the right hand and sounds great as a funk/fusion groove.

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The Permutations

Once you have those first two exercises under control, start displacing the paradiddle by one 16th note at a time. This process will create some cool variations and will give you a lot of vocabulary. Here are the six variations.

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Hi-Hat Foot Options

For an added independence challenge and for groove variety, practice the previous examples with the following hi-hat foot patterns, which include quarter notes and offbeat 8th notes. Carlock tends not to keep a steady hi-hat foot pattern when he improvises. To get to that level of creative freedom, practice the paradiddle variations with many other hi-hat foot rhythms.

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You can expand the challenge by using double and triple paradiddles. Below are a few of the permutations. You can continue to move the patterns by one 16th note to create other interesting-sounding grooves.

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To make these patterns more musical, mix them in with more standard grooves and then create longer phrases. These exercises are designed to help you develop facility, but they are not meant to be used only as written. Once you master them, try finding phrases that sound good to you, and improvise with them as Carlock does. Have fun!