From his days playing mind-melting Mars Volta compositions to his current gig with the rock giants Queens of the Stone Age, Jon Theodore has inspired drummers with powerful grooves, explosive fills, and rock-solid time. His ability to craft the perfect parts for the song while driving the music forward with energy and emotion sets him apart from the pack. Let’s check out some of Theodore’s playing with the Mars Volta and QotSA.

“Cygnus…Vismund Cygnus” (The Mars Volta, Frances the Mute)

At 3:33, Theodore erupts into this ear-jerking groove. The phrasing could be interpreted in multiple ways, but we’ll organize it into a three-bar pattern of 9/16, 3/4, and 2/4. The quick open hi-hat accents, kick and snare figures, and unusual time signatures define this unique groove. (90 bpm)

“The Widow” (The Mars Volta, Frances the Mute)

At 1:24, this 6/8 fill creates plenty of anticipation and energy before the huge chorus that follows. This pattern demonstrates Jon’s ability to write parts that amplify the song’s emotion and give the changes in the music more impact. (68 bpm)

“Feet Don’t Fail Me” (Queens of the Stone Age, Villains)

Now we’ll check out some examples from the latest QotSA album, Villains. This opening groove comes in at the 1:48 mark of “Feet Don’t Fail Me.” This funky pattern drives hard and sets the tone for the entire album. The upbeat accents on the hi-hats contrast nicely with the strong downbeats in the guitar riff. The hi-hat phrasing also gives the groove a fluid feel. (110 bpm)

“Domesticated Animals” (Queens of the Stone Age, Villains)

At the 1:09 mark in this track, the drums enter with a sparse 7/8 groove that matches the guitar’s accent pattern. Quarter notes ride over the barline to latch the listener on to a steady pulse. (117 bpm)

“The Evil Has Landed” (Queens of the Stone Age, Villains)

This groove comes in at 0:35. This is a super-funky phrase with a busy kick pattern and an open, Bonham-type sound. The snare pattern may seem unusual, but it matches the guitar parts and builds interest. The bass drum complements the guitar part while filling in the spaces when the guitar drops out. (86 bpm)