Part 1: Paradiddles and 16th-Note Subdivisions
Having a tight, solid, good-feeling groove has always been important in drumming. In many cases, bandleaders, singers, and other musicians value a drummer with a solid groove and a good feel more than someone with a lot of chops. We set up the foundation for the music, so we must develop the ability to create a sturdy groove for our bandmates to play over, with a feel that makes everyone comfortable.
A great way to develop your groove is to practice things that take you outside your comfort zone and expand the boundaries of your playing. Try working on ideas that are more complex than what you’ll play on the gig. This will make the grooves you play in performance as easy and natural as breathing.
The exercises in this first article are designed to help you break the habit of always playing locked-in hi-hat and snare rhythms. The goal is to get comfortable with more complex, morphing funk grooves. These exercises will also help you develop bass drum precision, which will tighten up your overall feel.
Paradiddle exercises 1–4 focus on running the hands through the different inversions of the paradiddle. Phrasing paradiddles between the hi-hat and snare is a great systematic way to get comfortable with increasingly complex hand patterns.
Bass drum patterns A–H are to be played in conjunction with the paradiddle exercises. Focus on one paradiddle inversion at a time, and apply patterns A–H on the bass drum. Practice each paradiddle and bass drum combo twenty times before moving on to the next bass drum pattern.
For example, paradiddle 1 combined with bass drum pattern A looks like this:
Practice these exercises with a metronome or with your favorite recorded music. For a looser, more laid-back feel, I like to play to anything by the Meters, with the fantastic Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste on drums. For a tighter, more angular feel, I like to use James Brown tunes with the great Clyde Stubblefield on drums. You can also practice these exercises in conjunction with the Click Track Loops tracks included in my book, The Breakbeat Bible.
Additionally, practice each beat at a variety of tempos (40–180 bpm). Practicing in the upper tempo range will strengthen your chops, but be sure to start slowly and gradually work your way up. Practicing these beats slowly will give you more control and will help you develop your internal clock. It’s also a good idea to add quarter notes, steady 8th notes, and offbeat 8th notes (“&”) with the left foot on the hi-hat to boost the coordination value of the exercises.
Don’t forget to pay attention to the accents and ghost notes on the hi-hat and snare. These will add a lot of depth and feel to the grooves, while increasing your dynamic awareness.
In order to attain deeper levels of relaxation, focus on your breathing while you practice, and work on syncing your breath with your playing. For example, when grooving at a moderate tempo, like 95 bpm, I like to breathe in for two measures, hold for two measures, and then exhale for two measures. Do whatever’s comfortable, which will vary depending on the tempo. Focusing on this while you practice will help you become more aware of your breathing during gigs. I’ve found that focused breathing allows me to attain greater levels of relaxation and a deeper groove.
Once you feel comfortable with all the basic combinations, move on to the following bonus bass drum patterns. These require a little more balance and coordination. Practice them in the same manner as before.
For an even greater bass drum workout, try the following patterns. Practice them in the same manner as before.
If you work these exercises into your practice routine for a few weeks, you’ll really start to notice a difference. Even if you’re just playing a basic “boom, bap” hip-hop groove, your heightened awareness of 16th-note subdivisions, increased coordination, and deeper relaxation will make an impact on your playing. You—and your bandmates—will feel the improvement. Have fun, and stay funky!
Mike Adamo is the author of the critically acclaimed instructional book The Breakbeat Bible (Hudson Music). For more info, visit mikeadamo.com.