Rock ‘N’ Jazz Clinic

Groove Construction

Part 10: Exploring a Killer Cowbell Pattern

by Jost Nickel

In this lesson we’ll examine a pattern that I get asked about often. I recorded this groove on the song “Rave Against the Machine” with Jan Delay and Disko No. 1 in Germany some time ago, and I encourage you to check it out in the video above to hear its phrasing. Although the exercises in this lesson are notated with a straight feel, they should be shuffled with a 16th-note-triplet feel. Let’s break down the groove starting with the cowbell figure.

Now we’ll add backbeats on beats 2 and 4.

Next we’ll add the bass drum. We’ll use a simple pattern to start and place the bass drum on beats 1 and 3.

Here’s another simple but useful bass drum variation. Add quarter notes on all four beats, and make sure that the snare backbeats are in perfect unison with the bass drum.

Next we’ll add ghost notes. In Part 5 of this series (September 2016), I introduced a method of working with ghost notes called an ostinato approach. Exercise 5 introduces a ghost-note ostinato along with quarter notes on the hi-hat.

Now we’ll add these ghost notes to Exercise 4. If you’re having trouble, try adding one ghost note at a time while playing the rest of the groove.

Now we’ll add the bass drum figure from the original “Rave Against the Machine” groove. Start by playing the kick pattern along with quarter notes on the hi-hat.

Next add this bass drum figure to Exercise 6. Again, if you’re having trouble, try adding one bass drum stroke at a time.

Finally, we’ll add 8th notes with the hi-hat foot. To me these serve as a counterpoint to the syncopated cowbell figure and sound great.

If you’re interested in exploring more groove ideas, 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.