Progressive Drumming Essentials
Part 8: Advanced Beat Displacement
by Aaron Edgar
Before you can start shifting the downbeat at will, you need to first learn how it feels to displace a groove to each 16th-note position against a quarter-note pulse. The most important thing to remember in these first examples is to stay rooted in the pulse. You don’t want to misperceive your displacement and end up feeling beat 1 in the wrong place. Counting out loud will force you to feel the pulse correctly. Playing quarter notes with your hi-hat foot or bobbing your head to the beat also helps to feel these rhythms properly.
After you’ve mastered each displacement on its own, try playing Examples 2, 3, and 4 into and out of Example 1. Also, practice them in order. Don’t forget to release the rhythmic tension you’re creating with the displacements by coming back to the original pattern.
The optional quarter-note hi-hat foot notated throughout is great for learning how to feel the displacements properly and can help you when trying these ideas with other musicians. But don’t become reliant on the hi-hat foot. For a more effective displacement, you might not want to highlight the pulse.
Example 5 is a warm-up exercise that can be played without a drumset by tapping your hands on your lap and your foot on the ground. Count out loud, and use your metronome. The goal is to feel the offbeat 16th notes with ease. Drill this until you can practically do it in your sleep.
The first four examples include all of the 16th notes. If you displace grooves that have 8th notes as well, you end up with some really interesting and challenging rhythms.
When learning to displace a groove with 8th notes on the ride cymbal, first displace only the kick and snare. This makes the displacement easier to internalize. It’s important to spend enough time on this half-displaced groove until it feels solid and in the pocket. The deeper you can feel it, the easier it’s going to be to displace your ride cymbal by a 16th note. Anchoring your left foot to quarters or 8th notes can help.
Let’s try some more displacements of Example 6. In Examples 9 and 11, we’ll push the pattern to start on the “e” and “a” of beat 2, respectively.
When you can comfortably play the preceding exercises, try practicing the three displacements again while only looking at Example 6. In time, you’ll reach a point where you can play displacements of grooves without having to write them out.
You don’t always need or want to start and finish displacements on beat 1, so it’s important to practice beginning and ending displacements at different points in time. Let’s take a new groove and see what happens if we displace it more than once in a phrase. In Example 14, we’re going to restart the beat on every ninth 16th note across two bars of 4/4. The bass drum now falls on every third 16th note across the two-bar phrase.
Another fun way to practice displacements is by playing a 16th-note double bass pattern while displacing your hands. I use this idea with my band Third Ion, at 2:13 in the song “Zero Mass.” I keep 16th notes going on double bass and push the groove played with the hands forward each bar by a 16th note.
For extra examples, visit moderndrummer.com to download the written notation of every 16th-note displacement of Examples 6 and 13. Try playing each displacement for two bars and then moving straight into the next one. Have fun!
Aaron Edgar plays with the Canadian prog-metal band Third Ion and is a session drummer, clinician, and author. You can find his book, Boom!!, as well as information on how to sign up for weekly live lessons, at aaronedgardrum.com.