Rock ‘N’ Jazz Clinic

Groove Construction

Part 8: Three-Note Variations

by Jost Nickel

In this lesson we’ll use a three-note grouping to create highly effective groove variations. We’re going to incorporate the following hand and foot pattern into our phrases.Three-Note Variations 1


Now take a look at Exercise 2. The three-note figure starts on the “e” of beat 2 and ends on the “e” of beat 4. It’s played three times in total and creates an interesting groove with a common bass drum figure.

Three-Note Variations 2Next we’ll explore a few variations. The placement of the three-note figure won’t change throughout this lesson. However, we’ll experiment with orchestration.

In Exercise 3, we’ll move the right hand to the cowbell when playing the three-note grouping.

Three-Note Variations 3

The next variation is what I call a switch groove, in which you swap the orchestration of your hands within a groove. In this case, we’ll switch our hand placement during the three-note phrase. The right hand will play the snare while the left hand moves to the hi-hat. The only exception is the snare accent on beat 4, which remains unchanged.

Three-Note Variations 4

Exercise 5 combines Exercises 4 and 2 into a two-bar phrase.

Three-Note Variations 5

Three-Note Variations 5a

In Exercise 6, we’ll start replacing the bass drum with the hi-hat foot during the three-note figure, which makes the groove sound lighter.

Three-Note Variations 6

Now try combining the left-foot version with the original groove from Exercise 2.

Three-Note Variations 7

Next we’ll combine Exercise 6 and the switch groove from Exercise 4. The additional hi-hat openings happen naturally when switching hands.

Three-Note Variations 8

Here’s one more two-bar pattern, which combines Exercises 8 and 6.

Three-Note Variations 9

I always dedicate portions of my practice routine to checking out ways of varying my grooves with orchestrations and dynamics. I hope this lesson encourages you to check out some fresh and new orchestration possibilities for your favorite patterns.

If you’re interested in more of these concepts, check out my book Jost Nickel’s Groove Book.

Jost Nickel is a top session and touring drummer in Germany, as well as an international clinician endorsing Sonor, Meinl, Aquarian, Vic Firth, and Beyerdynamic.