BY STEWART JEAN, ANA BARREIRO, AND JEFF BOWDERS | FROM THE FALL 2019 ISSUE OF DRUM!
What do you ride on? Whether it’s hi-hats, a stack, a China, your floor tom, the snare rim, or, of course, the aptly-named ride cymbal, your ride pattern drives the beat and propels the music forward. What you ride on can change the sound, but how you ride can change the song.
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A single ride pattern can sound and feel vastly different when played in different styles. The right ride pattern can take a pop song with a basic four-on-the-floor beat and get the dance floor moving; it can also create new fusion grooves and inspire your band to boldly go where no music has gone before. And when the music calls for the kick and snare to stay in their lane, the ride is often where we have the chance to insert some of our personal style into the music.
So, to get the most out of those beats and explore new possibilities, we asked our friends in the drum department at Musicians Institute in Hollywood, led by program chair Stewart Jean, to create this 10-week lesson plan for ride patterns in a variety of genres. These patterns are notated on the ride cymbal because, well, what better place to start than on the part of the instrument that’s named after this function? But it’s nearly impossible to stop a drummer from experimenting with other sounds, and we would be foolish to tell you to do otherwise. Once you’ve got these down on the ride, spread the sound around and see what best fits the pattern, style, and groove to your ears.
The term “pop,” first used in the 1950s in reference to “popular” music, can be applied to many styles. Back then, of course, music on the radio was not as vast and genre-spanning as it is today. We can now better define pop music mostly as dance, moderate rock, and R&B. From a drummer’s perspective, pop often uses a four-on-the-floor bass drum pattern with a backbeat on 2 and 4. With this, there are endless patterns that can be played on the ride or hi-hats to shape the groove for each song. It is essential for drummers to be able to play, with ease, the basic and advanced patterns that are appropriate to this style of music. The first seven of these exercises are crucial for all drummers to master in order to lock into all pop grooves without compromising the integrity of the kick and snare.
“Funk” is another reference to a genre that covers many sub-styles. Funky music began with James Brown, traveling through fusion, rock, and R&B before making its way to The Ohio Players, Cameo, Prince, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tower Of Power, and Snoop Dogg. Although these artists are very different there is a common denominator: syncopated sixteenth-note–based grooves. In this lesson we take a bass drum pattern that many beginning players struggle with and apply essential ride patterns used in funk music.
The baião, a popular folk style originally from northern Brazil, became popular in the 1940s and ’50s. Today, the basic pattern permeates many flavors of Latin-based dance and pop. The development of this style can be traced back to the Afro-Brazilian “lundu” rhythm in the late 1700s. The bass drum plays an infectious, three-note recurring pattern, creating a sloping loop that simply must be danced to. From a technical perspective, it is important to be comfortable playing a multitude of ride patterns that fit nicely over the bass drum pattern. While you can use many snare variations with the baião, here we keep our backbeat on 2 and 4 to focus on the relationship between the ride and bass drum patterns.
As with many styles of music, “New Orleans” cannot be easily defined with a single song or artist. New Orleans drumming starts as parade marches and travels through, blues, funk, Dixieland, jazz, Latin—you name it. Like any good gumbo, this mixture does have one thing that applies to all subgenres associated with it: spice. We musicians call this particular spice the 3:2 clave, which originated in Africa and made its way to the US after landing in the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and South America. To be well-versed in New Orleans music means having a handle on the 3:2 clave bass drum pattern. In this exercise we take the three main ride patterns and expand them to incorporating upbeats on the ride bell.
Uptempo jazz is normally associated with the bebop and modern big band eras. Although mastering limb independence is important for drummers learning to play jazz, simply playing the ride cymbal can pose major problems for drummers who have not tackled their approach to playing at fast tempos. The following ride patterns are not only great starting places for all drummers, but they are essential if you want to get through a jazz gig that requires tempos ranging from 250-300+ bpm.
If there was ever a musical genre that spawned a multitude of subgenres, it’s heavy metal. Starting with Black Sabbath in the late 1960s, metal has spawned a long list of offshoots. As the old saying goes, however, “It Ain’t Metal Without Double Pedal.” Metal drummers must have amazing double-bass pedal skills like speed, accuracy, power, and endurance, but they must also be able to play complicated ride patterns to compliment those driving foot patterns. Mastering the following exercises will expand your ability to power through the flailing guitar riffs, massive pick sweeps, and screaming vocals that are essential ingredients to metal.
The lively and groovy music that is reggae most often uses a 1-drop drum pattern. One-drop means that beat 1 is not normally played or accented. While there may be a hi-hat note that occurs on the 1, the beauty of this rhythm is that the backbeat feels suspended until beat 3 allows for a release. The accented beat 3 is played loudly between the snare sidestick and the bass drum. This action allows for a lot of interplay on the hi-hat. Before you start to overplay on the ride or hi-hat, make sure you have a handle on the following standard patterns.
The festive Brazilian sound of samba is the music of the people, the rhythm of the streets. Most Brazilian sambas are heard in parades—similar to the New Orleans second-line—and played by multiple drummers with folkloric instruments like surdo, pandeiro, and tamborín. Gigging drummers must do their best to emulate these parts on a drum set. Practice the following ride patterns to create authentic samba feels. To start, we’ve shown the traditional ride pattern with bass drum and snare patterns.
In most popular styles the snare drum is typically played on beats 2 and 4—or, for half-time feels, on beat 3. There are many alternative snare options, however, that can have exciting and creative effects on the overall feel of the music. One popular way to give the groove a funky, offbeat feel is by playing the snare on the & of beat 2 while maintaining the snare on beat 4, thus displacing a standard 2 and 4 backbeat.
Dynamic contrast—playing soft notes with loud notes simultaneously—is one of the most effective ways to give your groove depth and color. The most common way to achieve this is by playing ghost notes, which are very soft notes typically played on the snare. There are multiple ghost-note patterns to choose from, with no rules other than maintaining their soft dynamic presence. Conversely, the non-ghosted notes should be played as accents. The goal is to create the biggest dynamic separation possible to enhance the sonic dimension of all of your grooves.
Most Western music is in 4/4, also known as “common time,” but much of the traditional music from other parts of the world—Eastern Europe and India, for example—commonly uses time signatures that are far more complex than 4/4. In the West, we label these meters “odd,” but in many cultures, they are perfectly normal. The more we expose ourselves to these unusual rhythms, the easier they will be to incorporate into our vocabulary.
One of the most exciting ways to become comfortable with meters other than 4/4 is to focus on—you guessed it—ride variations! As you will see and hear, the ride patterns will alter the overall feel of each groove. Within 7/8 and 15/16 grooves, however, the constant ride pattern can give a superimposed 4/4 feel that will help “straighten out” these non-Western grooves.