Last month we explored some possible backbeat placements for rock patterns in 3/4. In this lesson, we’ll check out some options for the backbeat’s placement in 5/4.

As a review, a basic rock or jazz backbeat is played on beats 2 and 4 in 4/4 time. In 12/8, the backbeat often falls on the 8th-note counts of beats 4 and 10. Typical backbeat placement in 4/4 and 12/8 is notated as follows.

For time signatures other than 4/4 or 12/8, it can be argued that there’s no general standard for the placement of a backbeat. You’d most likely position it according to the structure, melody, or tempo of the individual song that’s being performed. Considering that, let’s check out some suggested possibilities for the placement of backbeats in 5/4.

Dozens of bass drum figures can be played with these exercises. Because we’re focusing mainly on the placement of the backbeats, only one bass drum pattern is notated for each exercise. However, in most of these examples one of the bass drum notes will be in parentheses. First play the exercises with all of the notated bass drum notes, and then practice it while omitting the notes in parentheses. This provides an extra bass drum variation for each exercise.

Here are some possible backbeat placements for rock grooves in 5/4.

Ghost notes—quiet snare strokes that are played in between backbeats—add a richer, more intricate sound to grooves. Here are some ghost note possibilities in 5/4.

These exercises represent just a few of the numerous options for backbeat placement in 5/4. I suggest that you use the examples in this lesson as a starting point to explore other placements on your own. Have fun!


Joel Rothman is the author of nearly one hundred drum and percussion books, which sell worldwide through his company, JR Publications. For more info, visit joelrothman.com.