To start with, it would’ve been easier to just play groups of six within this subdivision to make it all nice and even, but that’s not really the point. To kick off the match, I thought I’d start with a grouping for four notes. The reason for this is that most drummers learn to fill in 16th notes (semiquavers) and it’s a familiar grouping. I’m also going to include the kick drum right off the bat and it’s going to be the classic sticking RLRF. If you look at Figure A, you’ll see a basic groove for three bars and our RLRF sticking played over snare, tom, floor tom and kick. It’s a classic fill, but needs to be comfortable to move forward.
Next we see the same fill played as 16th note triplets. Still a grouping of four, but now it’s played faster with a gap between each lick—just to further familiarise the motif. Taking the idea further, Figure C is our same motif again, but immediately repeated after the first bass drum. You start to really hear the crossing that happens by mixing groupings of different strokes. I’ve made the fill slightly rounded off by making the last two notes standard semiquavers. This is actually a sticking Steve Gadd used in his solo from the Up Close book.
Stepping it up a notch is Figure D. Now we’re staying completely in sextuplets – 16th note triplets, but grouped as six instead of three. We have the four-note motif followed by new grouping of five notes (RLRLF). It’s merely one extra single stroke with the hands before the bass drum. I’ve simply repeated the two groupings again. You’ll notice I can now fit another grouping of four, but then had only two notes remaining in the bar. You’ll see also that the hands in the grouping of five are only played on floor tom. I wanted a real ‘double bass drum’ sound during this fill, and this combined with the different sized groupings creates an interesting illusion. This does depend on your tuning too, however.
The last two figures (E and F) are the same rhythm with only minor variations in the hands as to where they’re orchestrated. If you look at the groupings, you’ll notice groups of three, four and five played sequentially and repeated (3+4+5= 12). What do you know, exactly half a bar! While the crossing the bar feel isn’t as strong with these two figures, they’re still cool and have a great sound when performed cleanly. Figure E really capitalises on our main four note sticking. You’ll notice each figure starts on the snare, moves to the first tom and then to the floor tom before the bass drum strikes. I went for more of the ‘all on floor tom’ vibe again in the last figure as before.
Don’t forget, you can truly go nuts with this. There are heaps of variations you can try. For example, try adding doubles on the bass drum, re-orchestrating for a five-piece drum kit, using the hi-hat for a different sound frequency, mixing and matching the groupings around, changing subdivisions, moving the groupings over two or more bars, or adding double strokes in the hands to alter direction around the drums.
Feature image via Keagan Henman.