Rock Perspectives

by Carmine Appice

Carmine Appice is one of the most exciting young players on the rock scene today. He has played with Vanilla Fudge, Cactus, and Beck, Bogart and Appice, a dynamic trio with co-members Jeff Beck and Tim Bogart. He is currently working with Rod Stewart and has some solo efforts materializing in the near future. Here, Carmine gives MD readers some insight into the complexities of modern rock drumming.Rock is now over twenty years old and so are the techniques of rock drumming. Years ago, the simplicity of rock was looked down upon by the astute musician. Today, rock has become extremely complex and progressive. Many jazz drummers have borrowed from rock as a means of self-expression and the combinations of both styles have resulted in some very interesting drumming. I hope to familiarize you with some of these styles.Let’s start with some basics. The rock feel is based primarily on an eighth note feel in the right hand, played on a ride cymbal or hi-hat.
Rock Pers 1 copyWe can now add the bass drum on one and three, and the snare drum on two and four.
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This is called the “back beat” and it is the basic pattern on which all other rock beats are built.

The simple “back beat” of course is very elementary sounding when compared with the complex patterns of today. Let’s see how four-way coordination between hands and feet can make simple patterns more complex.

Using the same basic pattern as before, (with the right hand on the ride cymbal), you can add the hi-hat on A) Quarter notes, B) Eighth notes, C) on the “an” of every beat.Rock Pers 3 copy

The progressive rock drummer should also be able to play various rhythmic patterns while using quarter notes in the right hand on the cymbal. The three exercises above would then look like this.
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All of the previous exercises should be practiced slowly at first, gradually increasing speed.

If you use a double bass drum set-up, another interesting variation would be to play the previous examples with the hi-hat foot on the left bass drum. The patterns will have more “push” and will produce a total change in sound. Tune one bass drum higher than the other for tonal variation. The drum you decide to tune higher is a matter of your own individual preference and taste. I tune my left bass drum higher.

Another idea for playing double bass drums is to play them together, (unison).
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Try going through a rock drum book playing the bass drum part this way. You can still utilize the closed hi-hat while operating both bass drums by simply adjusting the top screw on the hi-hat stand and locking the cymbals in a closed position.

Mixed sticking is another device which can be used in creating interesting patterns. Paradiddle inversions work very well for this. In the example below, we have four sets of 16th notes, (counted 1 e an a). The accent is placed on the two and four to help the presence of the back beat throughout the measure. The non-accented notes should be played much lighter than the accented ones. With your right hand on the cymbal and left hand on the snare, play this pattern as written with proper accents.Rock Pers 6 copy

Your right bass drum foot should follow your right hand. After you have mastered this pattern you can then begin to add the hi-hat on A) Quarter notes, . ) eighth notes, C) on the “an” of each beat. Try all of the following combinations the same way. For more tonal variation, these patterns can also be played on the hi-hat. This will produce a natural open and closed hi-hat sound.
Rock Pers 7 copyWhen playing mixed sticking exercises with the right hand on the ride cymbal, be sure to play on the bell portion. This gives the cymbal more clarity and carrying power. These patterns, if done properly, with conviction and confidence, at fast or medium tempos, illustrate the new jazz-rock concept of drumming. When listening to this type of playing, try to break the patterns down and write them out if possible. This helps your playing and your ear as well.

For rock drummers who are truly serious about increasing their ability in this area, I would suggest my own book, Realistic Rock, a thorough study of the field, which starts off simply and progresses in a clear and easy to understand manner.

There are many exciting things happening in the world of modern drumming, and it is my sincere hope that this article has helped you to better understand some of the elements of progressive rock drumming.