Rock Perspectives

Theme And Variations

by David Garibaldi

People ask me how I keep my ideas flowing and how I keep from getting stale and bored. This is a problem many drummers seem to have in common; a lack of ideas or concepts to use in their everyday playing. I’m no different than anyone else, but I found a few things that may be of help to you. The concepts I use, I learned from others: Bernard Purdie, Sonny Payne, Mel Lewis, Gregg Errico, Gene Graves, Chuck Brown, just to mention a few. Practical application of these concepts make them my own. But, we all have access to the same tools.

One of the best ways I’ve found to keep ideas flowing is to write them down. I keep a catalog of my ideas; should I forget, I can refer to it often. One of the concepts in my catalog involves taking any pattern in any time signature and rearranging the order of the beats. Then play it!

Example 1, 2, 3, 4, rearranged, could be 4, 1, 2, 3, or 3, 4, 1, 2,

or any similar arrangement. This is a means of expanding the original idea, sort of a theme and variations. Looking at one idea from many viewpoints gives those ideas depth. The example above uses quarter notes, but this same concept can be used with eighth notes and sixteenth notes.

Here’s the system for eighth notes:
4 (A.) 1 an 2 an 3 an 4 an (B.) an 1 an 2 an 3 an 4 (C.) 4 an 1 an 2 an 3 an

As you can see the last eighth note in each pattern becomes the first beat of the pattern that follows. The same applies with sixteenth notes:
4 (A.) 1 e an a 2 e an a 3 e an a 4 e an a ( B.) a 1 e an a 2 e an a 3 e an a 4 e an (C.) an a 1 e an a 2 e an a 3 e an a 4 e

The sixteenth note system will include the quarter note and eighth rearrangement. This system makes possible very unique sounding, time keeping patterns since it will take you away from the 2 & 4 left hand. Keep in mind that this doesn’t work in all situations and for it to work effectively, you must think about the context you’re playing in. Here are some examples:
Rock Perspectives 5_79 1


Note how the above bar could produce an entirely new pattern simply by rearranging the above to read:
a 1 e an a 2 e an a 3 e an a 4 e an


Rock Perspectives 5_79 2


The next version would read as follows:
an a 1 e an a 2 e an a 3 e an a 4 e


Rock Perspectives 5_79 3


Here are the remainder of the possible patterns:
e  an  a  1  e  an  a  2  e  an  a  3  e  an  a  4
4  e  an  a  1  e  an  a  2  e  an  a  3  e  an  a
a  4  e  an  a  1  e  an  a  2  e  an  a  3  e  an
an  a  4  e  an  a  1  e  an  a  2  e  an  a  3  e
e  an  a  4  e  an  a  1  e  an  a  2  e  an  a  3
3  e  an  a  4  e  an  a  1  e  an  a  2  e  an  a
a  3  e  an  a  4  e  an  a  1  e  an  a  2  e  an
an  a  3  e  an  a  4  e  an  a  1  e  an  a  2  e
e  an  a  3  e  an  a  4  e  an  a  1  e  an  a  2
2  e  an  a  3  e  an  a  4  e  an  a  1  e  an  a
a  2  e  an  a  3  e  an  a  4  e  an  a  1  e  an
an  a  2  e  an  a  3  e  an  a  4  e  an  a  1  e
e  an  a  2  e  an  a  3  e  an  a  4  e  an  a  1

To get the most benefit from these exercises, write each and every pattern out and then go back and play them all. This is challenging, so take your time and study hard.