Rock Perspectives

Concept for Two Drum Sets

by David Garibaldi

The year following my high school graduation, one of the big favorites was James Brown and the Famous Flames. At least once a year he came to the San Francisco Bay Area and played all the big auditoriums. I was getting heavily involved in rock bands myself and had the privilege of seeing him in person. The thing that impressed me the most was that he carried two drummers. They were an important part of his live sound. I never knew their names, but I’ll always remember the excitement they projected into the audience and how they made the band groove. This also was my first exposure to any kind of syncopated drum beat outside of the normal “2 and 4” concept that was used in rock music at the time. That made an “everlasting” impression on me musically. (From then on I think every song I played with my band for the rest of that year had the drum beat I learned that night at James Brown’s concert.) He carried at least two drummers for many years and they were an important part of his live sound. 

Today we have great groups like Genesis with Phil Collins and Chester Thompson, the Grateful Dead with Bill Kreutzman and Mickey Hart, The Allman Brothers Band, and Earth, Wind & Fire, with Freddie White and Ralph Johnson. I believe that the two drummer concept is a very workable one and can be done in a very tasteful, musical manner. Maybe one of the reasons we haven’t seen more of this concept is because most people think of two drummers in the same group as twice the noise. (Oops! Just kidding.) Realistically though, many drummers have never really thought through a system of how to do it together. I’m suggesting a way to accomplish the two drummer concept and maybe this will inspire you to develop your own ideas on applying this concept successfully.

Around the same time period that I became exposed to James Brown’s music, I was attending college. With me in the college band percussion section was a man whose playing influenced me a great deal. A favorite concept of his was to take snare drum parts and split them up, each of us playing alternate notes or phrases. Later on it occurred to me that this idea could work well with two drum sets in a rock format. Take for instance one 4/4 bar of sixteenth notes:

Rock Perspectives 1Player 1 plays beats 1 and 3. Player 2 plays beats 2 and 4…

Rock Perspectives 2or Player 1 plays the “e” and “an” of each beat. Player 2 plays all the eighth notes.

Rock Perspectives 3To apply this idea to the drum set let’s begin with a simple pattern:

Rock Perspectives 4Now divide it between player and (see numbers in above bars) by first giving every other written note of each voice (H.H., S.D., B.D.) to Player CD and the remainder of notes to player CD. Writing out whatever pattern you’re working with is of tremendous help.

Rock Perspectives 5Now put the parts together.

Rock Perspectives 6We’ll now move to a more complex pattern:

Rock Perspectives 7Divide the parts one voice at a time.

Rock Perspectives 8Put all the parts together:

Rock Perspectives 9The above material was designed with two drummers in mind, however even if you’re not in a group that uses two drummers, the information imparted here could still benefit you. Take example B for instance; move the right hand over to the bell of your cymbal or any bell type sound, and then add eighth notes with your left foot. The result is very interesting and different.

Rock Perspectives 10Additional notes:
—Substitute the accented S.D. notes with tom-toms and play the unaccented S.D. notes on S.D. The same can be done with Player 2 on Ex. B.

—Tom-tom can be substituted for any written B.D. note in either A or B.

—Pay close attention to accents and unaccented notes.

—Listen closely to each other to develop and maintain evenness in your timekeeping.

—The primary consideration in this study is good, solid, expressive, time-keeping. Otherwise, this concept has no real practical value.

—Player 2 can use bells of any type instead of H.H. or, stick across the S.D. rim instead of unaccented notes in S.D. voice. Interchange T.T. with B.D. at random while player IB plays H.H., S.D., and B.D. These roles can be reversed.

—Fills can be split up the same way.

—Two different size drum sets will give a wider variety of sounds.


Copyright 1981 John David Garibaldi.