In this article we’ll discuss substitutions where we’re basically using the hi-hat foot to replace either a hand or a bass drum note. The idea is to look at the hi-hat as not just an instrument that plays quarter notes or 8th notes, but rather as an instrument that can be incorporated into any linear-type groove.
I stumbled on the idea of hi-hat substitutions when I was playing a lot of electronica. The beats in that music are usually created by DJs or producers and often have many different hi-hats playing within one groove. In order to replicate these patterns live, I had to figure out how to get as many different sounds out of one hi-hat as I could. I would incorporate the bell of the hi-hat, the edge, and the foot chick.
I started by experimenting with the famous Purdie shuffle heard on the Steely Dan tune “Home at Last.” I practiced replacing the third note of every 16th-note-triplet grouping with a left foot. The challenge was trying to line up my right foot with my left foot just before the backbeat on the last triplet partial.
Example 1 is the “Home at Last” variation. Practice it very slowly, as the normal inclination will be to push the time. Also, try to avoid hi-hat barks (open sounds). Strive for a clean, precise, and tight hi-hat pattern throughout.
The next thing I did was experiment with a double-paradiddle sticking that starts with the left foot instead of the left hand. Try playing this pattern as a fill at first. Play three bars of the Purdie shuffle with the hi-hat substitutions, and then play the double-paradiddle fill.
Now let’s put the double paradiddle into a groove. The pattern will start with the left-foot hi-hat playing on the last triplet partial of beat 4, to allow you to hit the snare on beats 2 and 4 with your right hand. You can also play the 16th note following the snare accents on the hi-hat by crossing the left hand under the right.
Let’s play that same pattern as 16th notes instead of 16thnote triplets. The pattern is now in 6/4, and the snare is accenting every other downbeat. This creates an additional challenge, because the accent appears at different places within the double paradiddle.
Now try using the double paradiddle as a two-bar fill. Accent beat 3 of the first bar and beats 2 and 4 of the second bar on the snare.
Let’s return to a single-paradiddle sticking, but instead of playing the third note with the right hand, substitute the left foot.
The next example is an inverted paradiddle sticking with the fourth 16th note of beats 1 and 3 played by the left foot instead of the right hand.
Now substitute the hi-hat foot on the “&” of beats 2 and 4.
The next example shows how a double-paradiddle sticking might work with a hi-hat substitution on the first note of each double stroke.
In this final example, I’ve thrown in two 32nd notes before the backbeat. Make sure that you hear the hi-hat notes evenly and that there are no barks.
In the next installment of this series, we’ll explore how broken doubles and hi-hat substitutions can work together. Until then, have fun experimenting!
Tobias Ralph is a New York City–based drummer currently performing with the Adrian Belew Power Trio and Defunkt. He has performed with Lauryn Hill, Tricky, and 24-7 Spyz, among others. Ralph is a faculty member at the Collective in NYC. For more info, visit tobiasralph.com.