Linear drumming is an approach to playing in which none of your limbs play simultaneously. Typically, linear patterns involve both hands and one or both feet. In this article I’ll demonstrate some interesting grooves based on a 16th-note linear ostinato that’s played between the right hand on the hi-hat and the left foot on the hi-hat pedal.

You can practice these grooves using a three-step approach. First, master the right-hand and left-foot linear pattern. Next we’ll incorporate the bass drum over the ostinato, and then finally we’ll add the snare. You can also work on these grooves without opening the hi-hat, and then incorporate the openings as you become more comfortable with the patterns. Practice these phrases at a comfortable tempo.

The first groove is based on the 3/16 linear hi-hat pattern notated in Exercise 1. Spend time with this figure before moving on.

Exercise 2 demonstrates a three-bar groove in 4/4 based on the previous pattern. Note that it takes three measures before the groove resolves. In this example, the snare plays beats 2 and 4, and the bass drum follows the left foot.

Try practicing Exercises 3 and 4 in a similar three-measure groove. Play the snare on 2 and 4 and mimic the hi-hat foot with the bass drum.

Exercises 5–9 demonstrate bass drum variations for Exercise 2. These figures are more challenging than the original pattern because the kick doesn’t follow the hi-hat foot.

Exercise 10 demonstrates a three-bar groove based on Exercise 1 that uses the bass drum pattern from Exercise 8 and places the snare on beats 2 and 4.

I encourage you try your own snare and bass drum patterns with Exercises 1, 3, and 4 to create three-bar grooves similar to Exercise 10.

In Exercises 11–13 we’ll explore some one-bar grooves that incorporate linear hi-hat patterns that are a bit more complicated than the previous examples. Again, it might be helpful to isolate the hi-hat pattern before adding the snare and bass drum.

Finally, let’s combine a linear pattern played between the snare and bass drum with another linear pattern played between the right hand on the hi-hat and the left foot on the hi-hat pedal. This one’s challenging, so don’t get discouraged if it takes some time to get down.


Joel Popelsky has been playing drums for more than forty years and has studied with Henry Adler, Norman Grossman, and Frank Marino. He currently plays several times a month with hUShh, an Orange County, New York–based classic rock cover band.