A Classic Approach
In a recent lesson with a student, I took a classic Ted Reed reading exercise and used it as a warmup. This included playing the written melody on the snare drum whilst keeping a steady bass drum pattern of crotchets outlining the beat. I do this with all my students. It’s a nice way to practice reading while addressing independence in short bursts. To take things a step further – and because bass drum, four to the floor can get old – I decided to introduce some groove options.
Looking at the figures provided, you will see a sample melody in a similar style to that of the Ted Reed reading exercise, in this case using crotchets, quavers and some rests. It’s a simple melody that you will play across both the snare and the bass drum.
If we consider Figure A, our bass drum is playing four crotchets to the bar but we also have the right hand playing constant and steady 16ths on the hi-hats. I have to admit, I was inspired by Jeff Porcaro playing ‘I Keep Forgettin’ by Michael McDonald. Check it out if you haven’t heard it – alas, I digress. An added bonus of doing this pattern as the ostinato is that you also create a great stamina exercise for the right hand. It’s important however, to remain relaxed when playing too so be mindful of that hand. The melody in this case, will be played in the left hand.
Figures B and C have exactly the same vibe but with slight alterations to the foot pattern by including the hi-hat. An interesting thing can happen when you introduce a new limb. Sometimes, nothing happens and it all feels as comfortable as before or sometimes, it’s the complete opposite and everything falls apart. Everyone will be different. Start slow either way.
Figures D and onwards actually require the melody to be played with the bass drum. Again, I’ve kept the 16th note hats pattern but introduced the snare drum to play the back beat on two and four. Now, we get a real groove type scenario and it’s standard affair for a drummer. Most drummers are also comfortable with playing variations on the bass drum so initially, this may not seem too difficult. Even as we introduce some variations to the hi-hat (Figures E and F), it should have a familiar feel.
Just for a little fun, I’ve included two slightly more advanced ideas and these are shown in Figures G and H. The former has a basic combination of the hi-hat patterns from the previous two figures utilising 8th notes and 16th notes. The back beat remains on beats two and four on the snare drum. This pattern requires a little more independence because it’s a tad more difficult to switch off and forget about what the ostinato is actually doing. It’s possible to get into a groove where you don’t need to really concentrate on the ostinato but Figure G may require a little reminder to the brain so that the hand plays the variation in the hats.
Figure H actually just uses a paradiddle between the hands – predictable perhaps, but still a valid exercise and well worth practicing. Again, the bass drum plays the melody with both of these patterns. Don’t forget the accented snare drum on the back beat.
Now, in essence the ideas presented here are simplistic but they have a musical application and relevance. For this reason, it’s important to remember to keep it groovy. You can spend so much time concentrating on the written melody that you can actually forget that the groove should still feel good. The more you’re conscious of this, the more likely you’ll play this way in a real, live or organic situation.
If you feel that crotchets and quavers is a little too simple for the melody, you can play it at a double time tempo. Another idea to challenge yourself is to add the left foot hi-hat into the later patterns in some way. Perhaps, even just playing crotchets. Beware though, keeping a steady hi-hat in the left foot with an ever changing bass drum can be tricky at first. Finally, don’t forget that any reading exercise can be utilised in the ways discussed. Get creative and have fun.
Revisit our last Drum Advice lesson here.