Abe Cunningham’s articulate, punchy sound continues to be a stabilizing force for a band that constantly switches between soft/loud and ethereal/blistering. On Gore, Deftones’ latest album, Cunningham handles syncopated, polyrhythmic guitar riffs like a fusion master, creating crafty drum parts that are both head scratching (in a good way) and head banging.

Groove Analysis Abe Cunningham 1


Cunningham somehow achieves a feeling of programmed drums in the intro and verse, as he includes driving bass drum, displaced snare backbeat on the 2 e and 4 e, and well-placed hi-hat accents. ough Cunningham most likely doesn’t play hi-hat along with tom fills at the end of each two-measure phrase (the distant-sounding toms and/or the hi-hat part could be an overdub), the transcription here reflects how you could play this all at one time. An openhanded technique might be the most efficient way to pull this off.


Groove Analysis Abe Cunningham 2


A tribal groove enters on the 1 e, producing an unsettling feeling of not knowing where the 1 is located, until a crash on the 4 ah implies the downbeat of the prechorus. at’s a long stretch to remain in the dark, but nevertheless creates a tension-filled experience for the happily off-balance listener. Listen to how Cunningham’s linear groove (filled with undulating toms, bass drum, and open/ closed hi-hats) contrasts with the syncopated guitar/bass riff and vocal melody. Once the prechorus groove kicks in, check out how Cunningham boosts the intensity by now jibing with the bass line.

Groove Analysis Abe Cunningham 3


Where many drummers would take this opportunity (consecutive sixteenths on the bass guitar) to bring their double bass chops out of the toolbox, instead, Cunningham delivers the funk. He lets the bass handle most of the low end, playing only one bass drum note every four measures. Cunningham varies the “rock and roll” paradiddle (R L R R L R R L) by leaving out notes on the e and the ah. He finishes the phrase with explosive crash hits on 4.