Rock ‘N’ Jazz Clinic

Groove Construction

Part 9: Split Grooves

by Jost Nickel

This month’s groove workshop introduces split patterns. In these phrases, the right hand alternates between two voices, the hi-hat and ride. The arm should hardly move; the motion should originate from the wrist. This concept is especially effective with patterns that contain broken 16th notes, such as Exercise 1.

I often stress the importance of focusing on dynamics each time you play, especially in a few key areas. Ghost notes should be played very softly, as opposed to accents, which are much louder. Correct dynamics are achieved by maintaining the proper distance between the stick and the drumhead. When playing ghost notes, I suggest striking the snare from about one to two centimeters above the drumhead. Accents are played at a substantially greater distance, and using rimshots can amplify their impact. I also suggestplaying ghost notes with your wrist as opposed to your fingers. Attempts to play softly with the fingers can result in inaccurately placed ghost notes.

When playing two strokes in a row with one hand, I usually accent the second stroke, as shown in Exercise 2. The single strokes on the hi-hat in this pattern are accented as well. If I orchestrate these grooves on the ride, I play the accents on the bell and the unaccented strokes about one to two inches to the left of the bell. The alternating motion originates from the wrist without shifting the arm.

Now we’ll apply the split concept to Exercise 1. The sticking remains the same while we alternate the right hand between the ride and hi-hat. Right-hand accents are omitted from the following exercises, however, you should incorporate them into the patterns.

Next we’ll apply the split to only part of the pattern by starting it on the “e” of beat 2 and ending it on the “e” of beat 4.

Here’s a two-bar groove that combines Exercise 4 (measure 1) with a new phrase that splits the orchestration from beat 3 through the “e” of beat 4 in measure 2.

In Exercise 6, the split starts on the “a” of beat 4 and continues to the “&” of beat 2.

Here’s another two-bar groove. We’ll play Exercise 6 in the first measure and introduce a new split that starts on the “&” of beat 1 and ends on the “&” of beat 2 in the second measure.

Instead of learning tons of new patterns, I usually vary grooves with different orchestrations and dynamics. I hope this lesson encourages you to check out some new possibilities for your favorite patterns.

If you’re interested in more groove concepts, 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.