Part 3: Combination Patterns

Don't Disturb the Groove 1In this third installment we’ll combine the two techniques that we’ve been working on: broken doubles and hi-hat substitutions. Some of the grooves incorporate the entire drumset rather than only the bass drum, snare, and hi-hat. This is just a glimpse of what’s possible with these techniques.

As I discussed in the first article, the genesis of the ideas came from playing a great deal of jungle/drum ’n’ bass music on a minimal kit. Then I started having fun by applying the patterns to the entire drumset, in different genres of music.

Our first pattern is based on the good old paradiddle, only this time we’ll substitute the first right hand of the double with the left foot. We’ll then break up the last two lefts of the pattern between the hi-hat and snare.

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Now let’s look at the double paradiddle phrased in 6/8.

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This third example is something I came up with while playing James Brown’s “Sex Machine” at a gig. I later applied it in a drum ’n’ bass setting. Be careful not to let it swing too much, to the point where all the 16th notes are getting crunched up. It’s easy to over-swing when playing this groove slowly. You want to keep it greasy and feeling good, but you also want to hear every note.

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This pattern acts more like a fill, but it’s only a bar and a half long. Again, the idea is not to disrupt the flow of your groove but to sneak a little flavor in there. Jazz/pop/fusion great Steve Gadd is a master at this.

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Here’s another fill that can be used in conjunction with any of these grooves. Try playing three bars of one of the patterns, and then play this fill in the fourth bar. Here’s the fill:Don't Disturb the Groove 7Now tag it onto Example 3.Don't Disturb the Groove 8In this next example, we’re starting to incorporate the toms. In this particular groove, you’ll be using an openhanded approach. The pattern really epitomizes the idea of playing something that could be labeled a solo, while keeping the backbeat on 2 and 4.Don't Disturb the Groove 9This is an extension of the previous pattern.Don't Disturb the Groove 10If you play both of the preceding patterns back to back, a nice little melody develops between the toms.Don't Disturb the Groove 11Don't Disturb the Groove 12

This final example mixes an inverted paradiddle and a regular paradiddle. We’re swapping out the fourth 16th note, which is usually played by the right hand, for a left foot. We’re also breaking up the last two lefts between the hi-hat and snare.

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I hope these patterns and techniques have given you some ideas for how to approach soloing while keeping a groove going at the same time. Everything we’ve explored incorporates basic stickings that most drummers use all the time. Work with what you know, and then expand on it. But always remember to serve the music first. I wish you much success.

Tobias Ralph is a New York City–based drummer currently performing with the Adrian Belew Power Trio and Defunkt. He has performed with Lauryn Hill, Tricky, and 24-7 Spyz, among others. Ralph is a faculty member at the Collective in NYC. For more info, visit