Rock ‘N’ Jazz Clinic

Groove Construction

Part 7: Broken 16ths

by Jost Nickel

In this lesson we’ll use a three-rule system to create grooves with 16th notes that are broken up between the hi-hat and snare. Generally I feel that the two cornerstones of any groove are the snare accents and bass drum figures. Often when playing with others, the bass player interacts with the kick pattern, and the guitar sometimes accents beats 2 and 4 with the snare. 

The hi-hat pattern and ghost notes tend to characterize a groove’s underlying feel. If you start with a solid foundation in the snare and bass drum, you can incorporate interesting ghost notes and hi-hat figures around it. For this lesson, we’ll build grooves off of the following bass drum and snare pattern.

Broken 16th 1

The goal is to embellish the main pattern by breaking up 16th notes between the hi-hat and ghost notes on the snare. We’ll do this by starting with three simple rules:
1. The right hand plays either singles or double strokes.
2. The left hand plays singles.
3. Play the hi-hat before and after each snare accent.
The application of these rules can produce a variety of results. Here are a few possibilities.

Broken 16th 2

Breaking rules in music has often led to new developments. We’ll experiment with our second rule and add some double strokes with the left hand on the snare. Adding two ghost notes in a row to your grooves can create a nice variation. Exercises 6 and 7 demonstrate this concept.

Broken 16th 3

We’ve previously been playing the hi-hat before and after each snare accent because replacing these notes with ghost strokes can be technically demanding. Now we’ll break our third rule and add ghost notes in these positions.

Broken 16th 4

All of the patterns in this lesson use the same skeleton groove. If you’d like to create more grooves with broken 16th notes, choose a starting phrase from the following exercises and continue as previously described.

I’m aware that groove creation is highly dependent on individual taste. Don’t be put off by the fact that there are so many possibilities. The aim is to find one great-sounding groove without getting lost among all the possible options.

Broken 16th 5

While exploring these concepts, it’s imperative that you adhere to the three rules for a long enough period of time to discover patterns that you enjoy playing. You should have the feeling that you’re still creating exciting grooves without becoming bored. After that, feel free to break the rules.

If you’re interested in these concepts and want more ideas, check out my book Jost Nickel’s Groove Book.

Jost Nickel is a top session and touring drummer in Germany, as well as an international clinician endorsing Sonor, Meinl, Aquarian, Vic Firth, and Beyerdynamic.