Rockin’ at a Snail’s Pace

Variations for Slower Tempos

by Joel Rothman

Playing slow tempos can be one of the most difficult things to master. As the distance from one beat to the next increases, the ability to accurately feel the time can decrease. When playing slower rock grooves, it often helps to use a 16th-note subdivision. The 16ths can be outlined with one hand on the hi-hat or ride.

Sometimes the tempo may not be slow enough to allow for continual 16th notes to be played comfortably with one hand. In such cases, a common variation is to simply drop the cymbal from beats 2 and 4, which allows the ride hand time to rest for a 16th note on each of those two beats. The accented backbeats on counts 2 and 4 camouflage the fact that the cymbal is missing.

The following exercises demonstrate some other possibilities that allow the riding hand to rest at various positions within the patterns while maintaining a continual 16th-note feel. In order to keep the focus on the ride hand, the bass drum is omitted. Experiment with whichever bass drum pattern you feel is appropriate for each pattern. The exercises are notated in 2/4, but you can repeat each measure to create a bar of 4/4. All unaccented snare notes should be played as light ghost notes. Once these patterns are mastered, try combining two different figures to create extra 4/4 variations.

Joel Rothman is the author of nearly 100 drum and percussion books, which sell worldwide through his company, JR Publications. For more info, visit