Vital Beats Every Drummer Must Know

Ska

Tempo: Medium to fast
Beat Placement: On the beat
Time Feel: Even or slightly swung
Dynamics: Medium to loud

Ska has an energetic quality like punk, but at times can also be reminiscent of reggae. The dynamic level is usually loud since the drummer has to compete with those darn horns!

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Disco

Tempo: Medium dance tempo
Beat Placement: On the beat
Time Feel: Even
Dynamics: Loud

The quarter-note bass drum pattern and open hi-hat on the &s of the beat are the signature characteristics of disco. Those two attributes didn’t evolve independently either. If you play both feet together on the quarter-notes while playing 2 and 4 on your snare you will get an opening on the &s of the beat. Some disco grooves only use the upbeats on the hi-hat, which helps enhance the “pea-soup” sound of the groove.

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Double Bass

Tempo: Medium to insanely fast
Beat Placement: On the beat
Time Feel: Even. At fast tempos there just isn’t enough time to play around with the feel.
Dynamics: One dynamic level — loud! However, speed-metal drummers tend to play everything at medium or softer volumes since it’s easier to play at supersonic speeds when you use less power and minimal stick-stroke height.

Obviously, fast double bass is challenging to play on a physical level. Achieving high speeds takes lots of endurance, practice, and discipline, and serious metal drummers regularly work with a click to both check their speed and increase it.

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Ballad

Tempo: Slow
Beat Placement: Generally, most drummers play ballads slightly behind the beat. Now, keep in mind we’re talking about subtle milliseconds of delay, not huge sixteenth-note beat displacements. That’s why people don’t dance to Dave Weckl.
Time Feel: Even or slightly swung
Dynamics: Wide range but generally quiet to enhance the introspective and confessional quality of the lyrics. By the way, it’s not considered cool to quietly weep while playing ballads.

Ballads are often challenging to play because the tempo is so slow and there’s so much room between notes. For this reason, most drummers play sixteenth-notes on their hi-hat during slow ballads, to makes it easier to lock everything together. Adding a light hi-hat accent on the eighth-notes can propel the music and add a subtle swing to it. Practice your ballads with a metronome. Unless you play a lot of dirge material, you are likely to gradually speed up your tempo. Simply gaining control of your tempos can do wonders to help lock in any groove.

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Pop

Tempo: Medium to fast
Beat Placement: On the beat
Time Feel: Even or slightly swung
Dynamics: Wide range, though pop-rock is more medium to loud

There are many flavors of pop music and all are variations on vanilla.

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Punk

Tempo: Fast — at least until the drummer gets tired
Beat Placement: On top of the beat
Time Feel: Even
Dynamics: Loud!

Punk music is often played very fast. The Circle Jerks and Ramones were never known for their ballads. Fast tempos even out and straighten the time feel. Many punk drummers tend to play on top of the beat, and this often propells the music more if it doesn’t outright cause it to rush. Dynamics? What are dynamics?

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