Alex Van Halen’s Hot Licks

“House Of Pain”

This track off 1984 reveals one of the things that makes Van Halen’s drumming so interesting. He sometimes enters songs on the offbeat, creating a momentary deception of where the beat actually falls. For this song his first two hi-hat notes land on ah of 4 with his snare played powerfully on the e – creating the brief impression that his snare is on a backbeat rather than its e – and then completes the measure with two more hi-hat notes. The beat that follows is a standard rock groove but it takes a couple of seconds to regain your bearings. Again, we see his signature use of sloshy hi-hats.

alex van halen

“Hot For Teacher”

This is the drum groove Van Halen is best known for. Billy Cobham is often credited with creating the double bass shuffle on his track “Quadrant 4,” where bass drums are used to play a shuffle pattern of 1 (&) ah 2 (&) ah 3 (&) ah 4 (&) ah, usually played either R - L R - L or the opposite. Using the bass drums to outline the shuffle can free the hands from the duty of playing it on the ride cymbal. Simon Phillips, who was very influenced by Cobham, played another example of this feel (though in 7/4) for Jeff Beck’s tune “Space Boogie,” but VH’s version of it on “Hot For Teacher” is by far the best known example of this pattern. What makes this version so unique is that his ride cymbal pattern doesn’t just play quarter-notes or a swing pattern. His cymbal pattern falls on 1 & (ah) 2, 3 & (ah) 4 filling in a couple of the &’s, giving the groove a unique feel. Though at this breakneck tempo this aspect of his unique pattern is often overlooked.

alex van halen
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