Kenny Aronoff
Photo by Eric Demme

“Hurts So Good,” like many other songs played on the radio today, sounds technically basic and very simple. But if you listen carefully, there are many creative subtleties in the music. Hot licks and flash may catch a listener’s ears, but that doesn’t necessarily make a good song. The difficulty is in presenting a musical idea in its simplest form, but still keeping it interesting and exciting to the listener.

So the basic beat in this song is simple enough, but as you play through it you’ll notice that some of the drum fills are played along with the hi-hat (measures 6, 10, 80, 82, 90, 109, 113). Playing the left hand on the hi-hat and right hand on the snare drum throughout the song can give you the flexibility to do fills while maintaining the beat or groove at the same time. The beat keeps going and the song doesn’t stop moving.

The beat itself is such a strong part of the song that if it were disrupted in any way, the feeling would be lost and the song would die. For example, in measures 24, 35, 52, 62, 69, 70, 87 and 95, the punches on the “and” of two or the “and” of four never interrupt the beat or groove of the song. Usually, a space is left after punches like these, but maintaining the beat through the punches keeps the song moving forward.

There were many opportunities to play fills in this song, so I tried to create as many variations as possible. There were two places to set up verses, so I consciously tried to set up each verse in a slightly different manner to keep the music interesting without creating a distraction from the song itself (measures 14, 41).

The same idea is applied to the choruses (measures 29-30, 56-57, 82, 90). Each chorus also had a different fill or set up. The idea was to be musical and creative, but not deviate from the basic feel of the song.

When recording “Hurts So Good,” I realized that playing reversed gave me a different sound and some new ideas. It was almost as if I had added another cymbal or drum to my set. Because most drummers usually play the hi-hat and snare drum with hands crossed, reversing from that format can open up different creative possibilities.

Every band has a different approach to their music when writing, and every album that a band records introduces new approaches, strategies and ideas. The bottom line for a drummer is to establish a good beat for a particular song and then make that beat groove. Once you have accomplished this, then any embellishment or fill is just icing on the cake.

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