In The Pocket

Funk Drumming Training Camp

Part 6: Changing Subdivisions

by Mike Adamo

In the previous five parts of this series, we discussed the importance of being able to play a tight, solid groove with a good feel. In this final installment, we’ll focus on things that are more complex than what you’ll often play on a gig. While that may seem counterintuitive, practicing concepts that require a lot of coordination and concentration will expand the boundaries of your drumming so that even if you’re just playing a basic funk groove, you’ll deliver it with a much higher level of control and confidence.

As in the previous articles, this lesson focuses on playing paradiddles between the bass drum and snare in conjunction with a steady ride pattern. This time, however, we’ll be phrasing the paradiddles using different rhythmic subdivisions, including quarter notes, 8ths, 8th-note triplets, 16ths, 16th-note triplets, and 32nd notes. These exercises will work wonders in terms of increasing your coordination and improving your internal clock. They’ll also strengthen your control of bass drum/snare interaction, and focusing on emphasizing the difference between the accents and the ghost notes in the snare patterns will help your development of dynamics.

To begin, let’s start with a quarter-note ride pattern. It’s a good idea to play quarter notes with the left foot on the hi-hat as well, to help you lock in with your metronome. Here’s the first set of exercises.

Funk Drumming Changing Subdivisions

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Start slowly, and master each exercise before moving on. It’s best to practice all of these at 40 bpm or slower while starting out. You’ll notice that some of the patterns are two bars long, while some are only one. This is because applying a paradiddle to some of the rhythmic subdivisions, such as quarter notes and 8th-note triplets, requires two measures to resolve back to beat 1. Practicing these patterns will help you become more aware of the spaces between the notes in order to smooth out your time feel.

Once you have the individual patterns down, play each one twenty times and then move on to the next without stopping. Try to go through all six variations four times in a row (twenty times each) for a really nice groove workout. You can also play through all six variations in a row with no repeats. This will force you to think and react quicker, as you won’t have time to get used to any particular subdivision.

After you’ve mastered the first set of exercises, begin to experiment with different ride patterns. Here’s what the paradiddle variations look like with a steady 8th-note ride.

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If you’re having trouble with any exercise, break it down. Start by playing just the first note, and then gradually add one note at a time until you can play the entire pattern.

Here are a few other ride patterns that I like to use in conjunction with this lesson.

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You can also combine rhythmic patterns to challenge yourself further. I like to mix patterns that have a big difference in rhythmic subdivisions. For example, try playing 8th-note triplets for two measures, and then switch to 32nd notes for two measures.

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Another option is to use 8th-note subdivisions for a measure and then switch to 16th-note triplets.

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You can also combine different subdivisions within the context of one beat of the measure. The following example uses 16th-note subdivisions for the first half of each beat and 32nd-note subdivisions for the second half.

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The previous three examples are great for developing your internal clock, because they force you to quickly change the rate at which you’re subdividing the beat. That way, you’re not just on autopilot. While you’re practicing, try counting quarter notes or 8th notes out loud in order to further ingrain the pulse.

You can also increase the coordination value of this lesson by adding steady or offbeat 8th notes with the left foot on the hi-hat. For bonus exercises, repeat all of the examples using the three different inversions of the paradiddle.

Work on these ideas for a few weeks, and you’ll notice a big improvement in your timing, internal clock, control, dynamics, groove, and feel.

Mike Adamo is the author of the critically acclaimed instructional book The Breakbeat Bible (Hudson Music). For more info, including how to sign up for lessons via Skype, visit mikeadamo.com and thebreakbeatbible.com.