A Simple Approach to Implied Time


Because we play the drumset with four limbs, we can present more than one feel or time signature at once. In this article I’ll demonstrate how we can use 4/4 ideas in a 3/4 setting to create different feels and phrases.

Drummers tend to be more comfortable superimposing three-beat ideas over 4/4, rather than placing a four-beat idea over measures of 3/4. Exercise 1 presents a common example of placing a four-beat idea over 3/4. We’ll refer to this as Ride Pattern 1.

This is a great device to start with, as it gives us a two-bar phrase in 3/4. Next let’s add one of the most common 3/4 hi-hat-foot patterns to our 4/4 ride-pattern feel. We’ll call this 3/4 Hi-Hat Pattern 1. Even though we’re only working with two limbs at this point, the coordination can be a little tricky.

Exercise 3 demonstrates Ride Pattern 1 and Hi-Hat Pattern 1 played together.

To further enforce the feeling of 3/4, let’s add some snare and bass drum comping.

Now play the previous examples using Hi-Hat Patterns 2, 3, and 4.

Speaking of the hi-hat, let’s now try playing the previous ride and snare/bass drum patterns with the following hi-hat part, which also implies 4/4.

Now let’s try the implied 4/4 hi-hat pattern with some more standard 3/4 ride patterns.



Finally, let’s use the following snare and bass drum ideas to further imply a 4/4 time signature.



In this case, notice that it takes four measures of 3/4 for the pattern to start again. Exercise 12 demonstrates this with our first ride and hi-hat patterns in 3/4.



Obviously there’s a fair amount of coordination involved, so take your time and strive to keep your head in the home time signature of 3/4. Counting out loud can help you until you start to hear how the 4/4 phrases cross the barline. As always, have fun!


Ted Warren teaches at the University of Guelph. He’s worked with Mel Tormé, Rob McConnell, Slide Hampton, Bob Newhart, Maynard Ferguson, Lew Soloff , Chuck Mangione, Jeff Healey, Norma Winstone, Sheila Jordan, Howard Johnson, Nick Brignola, Kenny Wheeler, and Gerry Bergonzi.