Rock ‘N’ Jazz Clinic

Progressive Independence: Rock Revisited

A Step-by-Step Method for Building Creative Coordination

by Miguel Monroy

Fifteen years ago, the founder of Modern Drummer, Ron Spagnardi, published a book devoted to developing independence for rock and funk drumming. This book, Progressive Independence: Rock, has served as a great resource for me over the years, as both a student and an educator of drums and percussion. In this article I’ll walk you through some of the ways that I’ve used the book, including ideas for expanding on some of the written exercises.

The exercises should be practiced in sequential order. Once you master the first one, proceed to the next, and so on. As you work through the patterns, think about how you can apply these same practice methods to other grooves as well.

Basic Rock Groove

The first exercise is the most basic rock groove of them all. Be sure to focus on keeping the snare perfectly lined up with the hi-hat on beats 2 and 4. Don’t fool yourself—this basic groove is worth practicing every single day, and it’s not so easy to keep it firmly locked in the pocket for five minutes at a time.


8th Notes on the Bass Drum

To increase the independence difficulty, we’ll add 8th notes to the bass drum part. Be sure that the bass drum lines up perfectly with the hi-hat. Again, this can be harder than it looks.


16th Notes With the Bass Drum and Snare

Now we’re going to incorporate 16th notes by moving the second bass drum hit over to the “a” of beat 1 and by adding a bass drum note directly after the second snare hit (on the “e” of beat 4).


After you’re comfortable with that, spice things up a little by adding a snare hit on the “a” of beat 2.


Left-Hand Challenge 1

Before you explore more syncopated beats, go back and play all the exercises with your weak hand leading on the hi-hat. Why? Because in order to have complete creative freedom on the kit, it’s a good idea to focus on playing with the same comfort level and control with either hand leading. (Look to great drummers like Simon Phillips, Mike Mangini, and Ilan Rubin as examples.)

16th-Note Hi-Hat Variation 1

The next ingredient in our recipe of independence includes being able to play the same bass drum and snare patterns as before with different patterns on the hi-hat. Here’s a variation using two 16th notes and an 8th note.


Once you feel comfortable with that, try opening the hi-hat on the “&” of each beat.


16th-Note Hi-Hat Variation 2

Now play the hi-hat pattern in reverse over the same bass and snare beat. As before, focus on locking into the groove. Then add an open hi-hat on every downbeat.



Four-Way Coordination

The next step of independence development involves several parts. The first thing we’ll do is play hi-hat variations on the ride cymbal while chomping the hats with our foot on each quarter note. This may be difficult at first, so be sure to start out slowly and use a metronome to help you lock in with the ride.



After that’s comfortable, alter the hi-hat pattern so that it’s chomping on the “&” of each beat.



Lastly, play the bell of the ride cymbal in the same places where you were previously opening the hi-hat. At this point you have several things happening at once: You’re chomping the hi-hat with your foot on the “&” of every beat, you’re playing compound patterns on the ride while orchestrating on the bell and body of the cymbal, and you’re laying down syncopated grooves between the snare and bass drum that use 8th and 16th notes. See how far the pattern has progressed from a simple rock beat to a more complex and demanding groove? Don’t forget to keep everything locked in the pocket as the patterns get more complex.



Left-Hand Challenge 2

Now that you’re comfortable playing syncopated four-way grooves, it’s time to be humbled yet again. Go back to Example 5 and practice through the exercises with the opposite hand leading on the hi-hat and ride. (You’ll have to move your ride to the hi-hat side of the kit, so you don’t need to reach all the way across your body to play it.)

Once you’ve mastered all of the exercises in this article, apply the same concepts to the remainder of the patterns in Progressive Independence: Rock, and come up with some of your own ride/hi-hat variations.