In The Pocket

Funk Drumming Training Camp

Part 3: Originality and Flow

by Mike Adamo

In the previous two lessons (May and June 2013), we discussed the importance of groove and feel, and we covered ways to develop those concepts. This includes practicing things that are more complex than what you’ll play on the gig, gaining an intimate knowledge of and feel for every 16th-note subdivision in a measure of 4/4, improving coordination, and strengthening your internal clock.

This lesson integrates those concepts, with an emphasis on developing originality and flow within your grooves. We’ll utilize the same snare/hi-hat paradiddle hand patterns, as well as the bass drum patterns from part two, and we’ll gradually incorporate additional snare and hi-hat parts to add variety to the exercises. The goal is to more effectively transmit ideas from your mind to your hands without getting tripped up. We want to develop a flow so that we can smoothly transition from one idea to the next.

Let’s begin by taking a look at what the hands will be doing, starting with two-bar phrases. The first measure contains steady 8th notes on the hi-hat with a backbeat on 2 and 4. The second measure contains a paradiddle, or a paradiddle inversion, played between the snare and hi-hat.

The two-bar hand patterns are to be played in conjunction with different bass drum rhythms, to improve your flow and your ability to transition between ideas within the context of a groove. The trick is to maintain the rhythmic integrity of the bass drum while the hands switch patterns from one measure to the next. This can be applied to a playing situation where you keep your bass drum pattern locked in with what the bass player is doing, while you develop your snare and hi-hat parts to respond to and interact with the other musicians in the group. It’s a similar approach to a jazz drummer comping and supporting a soloist, but you’re also maintaining a solid, funky groove.

The included patterns are just scratching the surface. Funky drummers like Mike Clark (Headhunters), David Garibaldi (Tower of Power), and Adam Deitch (Lettuce, Break Science) are masters of this technique. Be sure to check out their recordings for ideas on how to expand on the fundamentals outlined below.

Examples 1–4 comprise the first set of hand patterns for this lesson. Pay attention to the accents on the hi-hat and snare, as well as to the ghosted snare notes. The dynamic contrast between the accents and ghost notes will add a lot of depth and flavor to the grooves. Be sure to keep the accented snare notes at the same volume in both measures.
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Once you have the hand patterns down, begin adding the bass drum. The bass drum rhythms are only one measure long, so you’ll need to repeat them when layering them under the two-bar hand patterns. For example, here’s what hand pattern 1 looks like when played in conjunction with bass drum pattern A.
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Here’s the first set of bass drum figures. Play each hand pattern with each bass drum figure at least twenty times before moving on.

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Here’s a second, more complex set of bass drum rhythms.

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Let’s up the ante again with some more challenging rhythms for the bass drum.

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After you’ve mastered all that, move on to the next set of hand patterns, which are one-measure phrases that change halfway through. Mastering all the bass drum rhythms with these shorter phrases will help quicken your ability to flow between different ideas within a groove.

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To free your creativity even further, practice each of the bass drum rhythms with this third set of hand patterns, where the paradiddles and paradiddle inversions are sandwiched in the middle of the measure.

Funk Drumming Training Camp 8Each time you try a new pattern, start slowly and gradually increase the tempo. You should also practice the exercises with a metronome and your favorite funk records. I recommend anything by James Brown, the Meters, P-Funk, Kool and the Gang, or Average White Band. Practicing to recordings will go a long way to enhance your groove and musicality and will help you hear things in a musical context. You can also practice with the click track loops included on the CD that comes with my book, The Breakbeat Bible.

To increase the coordination value of these exercises, try playing quarter notes, steady 8th notes, or offbeat 8th notes (on the “&”) with the left foot on the hi-hat. Until next time, stay funky!

Mike Adamo currently plays with 13 Kings, the Truth Cartel, the King Tide, and several other Northern California–based bands. He’s also an active producer and educator, and he’s the author of the critically acclaimed instructional book The Breakbeat Bible (Hudson Music). For more info, visit and