Further Exploring the Classic Concept in Odd Groupings
Last month we explored a vast array of linear quintuplet patterns. The most fun thing about linear concepts is that almost any pattern you play can be modified in multiple ways. For instance, grooves can become syncopated fills with as little effort as swapping your hi-hats for a floor tom. There’s an entire world of expression hidden within every linear phrase when you explore embellishments, dynamics, and orchestrations. In this article we’ll dive down the septuplet rabbit hole.
A great way to explore any subdivision is by simply filling it with singles. The first example is a linear beat based on single strokes. In the first half of the beat, your left hand leads with ghost notes; on beat 3 this reverses to start with your right hand on a cymbal stack or the hi-hats. Flipping the single-stroke sticking yields an exciting and varied stack pattern. If you’re having trouble, play each half separately to work out the bugs before playing the full phrase as written.
Exercise 2 applies the same pattern of flipped single stickings from Exercise 1 to a pair of stacks, this time with double strokes leading into the accented notes. Make sure the unaccented notes in this pattern are significantly quieter than your accents—these types of patterns sound best when the accents are on par with your kick and snare while everything else is a syncopated whisper underneath.
Continuing with the theme of diddles, Exercise 3 splits double strokes between our stack and kick. This is an especially great example of a beat that easily turns into a fill or drumset pattern. Get it comfortable to where you don’t need to read or think about the mechanics of it, and then experiment with moving your right hand from the cymbals to the toms. Move around with reckless abandon!
Diddles can be particularly fun when played in odd groupings. Exercise 4 is based on a theme of paradiddle-diddles in the first six partials of each septuplet, with a single kick in the final partial of each seven-note grouping. The following two examples vary up the phrasing in a call-and-response theme based on some of the ideas we’ve explored so far.
In Exercise 6, we played accents that marked groups of two and three within our septuplet. The best thing about groupings is that you can approach them in different ways. In the next example, we’ll explore the same two- and three-note groupings, this time applying them to the kick and hi-hat.
Things get especially interesting when we omit certain septuplet partials. Leaving space helps to create exciting and jagged grooves. Exercise 8 continues with a similar kick and hi-hat interplay from Exercise 7 while incorporating rests.
You can color spaces you leave in a groove with extended open hi-hat notes. One of the best parts of exploring open hi-hat lengths is that you can choose where to close them creatively. In Exercise 9, the open hi-hat on the fourth partial of beat 4 closes on the final note of the bar, right in between the last kick and first bass drum note on beat 1.
Septuplets have an exciting feel in 3/4, and we’ll explore that feeling in the next few examples. In Exercise 10, a voicing of bass drum, left, and right gives us a kick on every third septuplet partial, which voices a seven-over-three polyrhythm. Notice that there are seven equally spaced bass drum notes across the bar of three.
Exercises 11 and 12 get a little more adventurous with our phrasing by incorporating space, open hi-hats, dynamics, flams, buzzes, and toms in 3/4. Don’t let the time signature psych you out. If you’re having trouble feeling these comfortably, slow down, count out loud, and focus on a consistent note placement until you can comfortably align with the pulse.
To close out our linear septuplet adventure, let’s revisit 4/4 and explore different accents and phrasings. Exercise 13 embellishes the first two beats of the previous example in a new 4/4 groove.
Exercise 14 creates variation with a ride bell rhythm that has two contrasting themes. The middle of the bar accents every fourth septuplet partial, while the beginning and end of the beat utilize a five-note motif.
The last example incorporates doubles across different stacks or hi-hats, toms, and rests to create a funky, dynamic, and challenging pattern. Pay special attention to the dynamics—if most of the notes are loud, beats such as these can sound like a mess.
Spend time with every pattern that connects with you, as there’s an unlimited number of ways to mold and shape it into whatever you want. The more you explore, the more you can unlock what makes you truly tick on the instrument!
Aaron Edgar plays with the Canadian prog-metal band Third Ion and is a session drummer, clinician, and author. His latest book, Progressive Drumming Essentials, is available through Modern Drummer Publications.