Off The Record

Mr. Big’s Pat Torpey

Breaking Down the Quasi-Linear Beat to “Take Cover”

by Matt Starr

This month we’re going to look at a unique beat performed by Mr. Big drummer Pat Torpey for the song “Take Cover,” which appears on the band’s 1996 studio album, Hey Man.

When I first heard this groove, it sounded like a series of 16th notes played on the toms with the snare on beats 2 and 4. But being that I was familiar with Torpey’s unique playing style, I knew there was little chance that it would be that easy. According to Pat, the groove was actually created by guitarist Paul Gilbert. If it takes a while for you to master this beat, don’t feel bad. Pat says he spent “a few hours a day for about a week” to get it studio ready.

Torpey’s introduction to the linear-type drumming heard in “Take Cover” was via David Garibaldi with Tower of Power, on tracks like “Soul Vaccination,” “Oakland Stroke,” and “Squib Cakes.” Prior to Mr. Big, Torpey played with Robert Plant, the Knack, and David Lee Roth. When he joined Mr. Big, he was allowed to explore nontraditional rock drumming within the arrangement of four-minute commercial songs.

“Take Cover” is a great example of a musical-sounding beat that’s much more complex than it appears on first listen. Yet it’s designed to support the vocal melody. The core of the groove is built around a linear pattern between the kick, snare, and floor tom. The 8th-note hi-hat pattern is played with the toes in the chorus and with a heel/toe motion in the verse.

We’ll break down the beat into its individual parts, and then we’ll begin combining the limbs to create the full pattern. Let’s start with the kick-and-snare part. This pattern remains constant throughout the song.

Now let’s add the hi-hat as it’s played in the verse, which involves the heel/toe 8th-note motion. The heel plays on the downbeat to create a splash sound, and the toes play a chick sound on the offbeats.

Here’s the chorus pattern, which has consistent 8th-note chicks on the hi-hat that are played with the toes.

Now let’s look at the floor tom part. It’s filling in every 16th note where there’s not a stroke on the kick or snare.

Before you put everything together, work on combining different limbs to see how each part locks in with the others. A great way to do this is to play the patterns on a practice pad while tapping your feet on a hard floor. Listen for flams. I’ve used that technique often, and it’s very revealing.

Here are the two-limb combinations.

Now let’s put them all together.

The only variation occurs after the solo section. The floor tom pattern moves to the ride; it’s the same part, but with a series of accented and unaccented notes on the bell. Live, Torpey would leave out the hi-hat during this section. Try playing it both ways.

For another variation, try switching the kick and floor tom parts.

Pat plays a similar groove on the song “Spit It Out,” from his 1998 solo release, Odd Man Out. In this track, the snare hits a 16th note earlier, creating a Bo Diddley–type feel between the kick and snare, with the floor tom again filling in the rest of the 16ths.

Have fun, stay relaxed, and keep the notes consistent.


Matt Starr is the drummer for founding Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley. For more info, visit mattstarrmusic.com.