This month we’ll check out a challenging coordination study. The goal of this routine is to become comfortable playing any pattern leading with either side of the body.
Right-handed drummers typically play with the right hand on a cymbal, the left hand on the snare, and the right foot on the bass drum. However, we can explore four variations of this orchestration. If we lead with the right hand, we can play the bass drum with the right or left foot. Likewise, if we lead with the left hand, we can also play the bass drum with either foot.
Let’s start with a four-on-the-floor groove. Begin by playing the beat with your right hand on the hi-hat, your right foot on the bass drum, and your left hand on the snare. Once you’re comfortable, swap your hands so that your right hand is on the snare and your left is on the hi-hat. Alternate between those two variations until they sound identical. Then try playing the bass drum with your left foot using right- and left-hand lead. Pay attention to the dynamic balance between the limbs in each variation.
Exercises 2 and 3 add accents on the quarter notes and 8th notes. Try to make the accents sound the same in each limb variation.
Let’s try another groove before we dive into a more thorough method of practicing this concept. Exercise 4 has a syncopated bass drum pattern and ghost notes. Practice it using all three hi-hat variations (unaccented, accented quarter notes, and accented upbeats) and all four limb variations.
Now let’s dive into more focused exercises for developing complete limb independence. Examples 5–7 contain one, two-, three-, and four-note permutations of 16th notes. Practice these with just your hands at first. Keep the hi-hat fairly quiet, and play ghost notes on the snare. When you can loop each one for an extended period while leading with either hand, add in the hi-hat accent variations on the quarter notes and upbeats.
Once you’re comfortable with those rhythmic building blocks, practice them in the context of a groove. Exercise 8 will be our framework. Play the bass drum on beat 1, the snare on beat 3, and straight 8th notes on the hi-hat.
Now apply the first building block from Exercise 6 by playing the first two 16th partials of each beat as ghost notes. Play a strong backbeat instead of the first ghost note on beat 3.
Exercises 10 and 11 explore the building blocks further by adding some slight embellishments. Don’t forget to practice the hi-hat accent variations once you’re comfortable with the coordination.
Here’s the fourth building block from Exercise 5.
And here’s the second variation from Exercise 6.
Work your way through the rest of the building blocks in this fashion. Some may be much harder than others, but don’t worry about speed. Concentrate on the dynamics and your comfort level while practicing.
Next we’ll play the building blocks with the bass drum. Approach these as you did with the hands. Work them with each side of the body, and when you’re comfortable, add in the hi-hat accents. Exercises 12–14 demonstrate a few variations of our initial framework.
Here’s the first building block from Exercise 6.
Here’s the fourth variation from Exercise 5. Play the “a” of beat 3 with the snare hand on the hi-hat.
Here’s the second variation from Exercise 6.
This last example incorporates a variety of ghost notes from our building blocks, and it spaces five bass drum notes equally across a bar of 15/16. Practice switching your lead hand every bar, and switch your lead foot when you get back to the original lead hand.
This system is one of my favorite ways to build coordination and independence. Have fun, and see you next time!
Aaron Edgar plays with the Canadian prog-metal band Third Ion and is a session drummer, clinician, and author. He teaches weekly live lessons on Drumeo.com. You can find his book, Boom!!, as well as information on how to sign up for private lessons, at aaronedgardrum.com.