A Perennial Groove with an Enlightened Perception

For those of you who’ve never heard the coveted half-time shuffle, which is also commonly referred to as the Purdie shuffle, I’d encourage you to check out the timeless tracks “Babylon Sisters” and “Home at Last” by Steely Dan (with Bernard Purdie on drums), “Fool in the Rain” by Led Zeppelin (with John Bonham), and “Rosanna” by Toto (with Jeff Porcaro) to hear the incredible groove played by some of the best drummers who’ve tackled it.

Dennis Chambers played a very slick variation of that groove on the song “Mother Tongues” on John McLaughlin’s album The Heart of Things: Live in Paris, which documents two 1998 performances. Chambers plays the groove in 5/4, which makes it sound quite different and fresh. Essentially, he adds one beat to the common 4/4 pattern. Exercise 1 demonstrates Chambers’ main groove.

Filling in the Triplets

I decided to add a few notes to the original groove to vary it a bit. In Exercises 2–4, we’ll fill in some of the 8th-note-triplet rests with the snare. These variations create a fatter groove.

Incorporating the Hi-Hat Foot

Next we’ll explore variations using the hi-hat foot. I orchestrated some of the kick notes from the original groove and moved them to the hi-hat pedal. This makes the groove sound lighter, as there are fewer bass drum notes.

Riding over the Barline

We can also employ a cymbal pattern that resolves over two measures. Gavin Harrison has called this idea “overriding” in his book Rhythmic Horizons. In Exercise 8, every other cymbal note is accented. In Exercise 9, we’ll incorporate a jazz ride pattern in 4/4 over the original 5/4 groove.

Adding Polyrhythms

To close, let’s explore a pattern Dennis sometimes plays throughout the song’s choruses. He plays many variations, but what mainly comes out of them is a three-against-four polyrhythm over the 5/4 groove. The three cymbal accents over beats 2, 3, 4, and 5 create the polyrhythm. This one can be tricky, so be patient.

I strongly suggest that you check out the whole song to hear what Chambers plays on the track, as he employs a lot of variations that we didn’t dig into here. And for the second part of the song, he plays a very cool double-time funk beat in 5/4. Check it out—it’s worth a listen.

Daniel Bédard is a Montreal-based drummer, educator, and clinician. For more information, visit danielbedarddrums.com.