Advanced Bebop Coordination

In my last column (July 2018) we explored playing some challenging five-note groupings against a standard jazz ride rhythm. This time we’ll take the concept a step further and experiment with groupings of seven.

As I mentioned last time, I’ve seen fusion great Steve Smith and others apply odd groupings in a musical way, and I’ve been inspired by practicing the four-way coordination in John Riley’s book Beyond Bop Drumming. This article combines ideas from these two heavyweights into some polyrhythmic bebop comping to challenge your coordination. We’ll take a seven-note pattern, split it into groupings of three-, two-, and two-note clusters, and play it between our limbs within a swing context.

The first example demonstrates the basic seven-note pattern. You can also rearrange the order of the notes to create different groupings within the phrase.

Seven-Note Groupings 1

First, omit the bass drum, and play only the snare. Try not to listen to the groupings of seven, and instead just approach the example by hearing the triplet subdivisions. Once you get comfortable with these patterns, you’ll be able to “stand outside yourself” and listen to the groupings of seven cycle over the 4/4 measures. For now, just think of these figures as triplets in 4/4.

In any example throughout this lesson in which the hi-hat foot isn’t notated, play it on beats 2 and 4.

Seven-Note Groupings 2

Next, try playing the previous comping pattern on the bass drum.

Seven-Note Groupings 3

Now split the previous rhythm between the snare and bass drum, alternating between the voices.

Seven-Note Groupings 4

Reverse the previous example, and start the seven-note grouping with the bass drum.

Seven-Note Groupings 5

Now play the full grouping between the snare and bass drum against the jazz ride pattern.

Seven-Note Groupings 6

Next, try reversing the snare and bass drum.

Seven-Note Groupings 7

You can also replace the bass drum with the left foot on the hi-hat, as demonstrated in Exercise 8.

Seven-Note Groupings 8

Next, introduce three-voice comping by using the bass drum and hi-hat foot along with the snare. Split the notes that were played on the bass drum, alternating between the two feet and starting with the kick.

Seven-Note Groupings 9

Now reverse the order of the feet, and start the figure on the hi-hat.

Seven-Note Groupings 10

In the accompanying videos at, I play the examples fairly slowly to clarify these ideas. I’ve found that every new tempo presents a different challenge of balance and coordination with this material. Be patient, and enjoy!


Joe Bergamini teaches privately in New Jersey, runs the Sabian Education Network for drum teachers, is the senior drum editor for Hudson Music, performs regularly on Broadway, and can be seen performing across the U.S. and Canada on tour with the Doo Wop Project.