Vital Beats Every Drummer Must Know


Tempo: Mid to fast
Beat Placement: Behind the beat
Time Feel: Swung
Dynamics: Yes! This groove uses lots of accents and buzz rolls and your dynamics will contribute a lot to the feel.

A New Orleans second-line march has more in common with a Scottish march than those we played in high school. Second-line refers to the band that follows the hearse and family that lead New Orleans funeral parades — and you thought death metal had dark origins! Surprisingly, this music has a cheerful, upbeat swinging quality. The drumming is based on a unique blend of Civil War–era marches and African and Caribbean rhythms, creating a funky, laid-back groove that every drum set drummer should have in their trick bag.

rock beat

Country Train Beat

Tempo: Medium to fast
Beat Placement: On the beat
Time Feel: Even or swung
Dynamics: Wide range of volumes, often accenting to lift the music.

While this groove is used in many country songs, it’s also found in certain rock songs like Golden Earring’s “Radar Love” or Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz.” When swung hard, this groove is very similar to a shuffle and can be thought of as a hand-to-hand shuffle since it uses a RLRL sticking. When played straighter, it has more of the sound of a train gradually churning along. In country music, it’s often played with brushes (or rods) for a lighter train-like sound.

rock beat


Tempo: Wide range depending on style
Beat Placement: Varying
Time Feel: Varying
Dynamics: Wide ranging

“Latin” encompasses a wide range of grooves, since these patterns come from a variety of countries, each with its own groove contributions. The most common styles we play are bossa nova, samba, mambo, and rumba. Drum set originated in the United States and is used to impersonate the sound of several percussionists playing hand drums, which are used in Latin music. Since groups of individuals have their own unique ways of interpreting time, the ability to bend the note placement of your hands over a steady foot pattern will create more realistic results than completely accurate metronomic playing. Fills and grooves in Latin music are somewhat ametrical in rhythm, and can even oscillate similar to an egg rolling. Often, the difference is somewhere between even spacing and a triplet feel, but is actually not quite either. It can also shift back and forth between those divisions, first hinting one way, then the other. That is the reason Latin music is so challenging and rewarding to play.

In this example, we see a typical samba (or bossa nova) pattern followed by a rhythmically distorted fill above it. The ability to play evenly with your feet while changing the note spacing played above it certainly won’t come overnight but is definitely worth the effort if you want to play Latin music styles more authentically. These techniques can also be used in jazz and rock. Ringo Starr accomplished similar oscillating feels on The Beatles song “Ticket To Ride.” To learn this technique with a samba foot pattern, you’ll need to be able to put your feet on autopilot while you focus your attention on the note spacing and rhythm of your hands.

rock beat

Slow Blues

Tempo: Slow
Beat Placement: Behind or on the beat
Time Feel: Even
Dynamics: Wide range

Blues is all about the feel. It is usually played with a 12/8 time signature, and slower songs usually have a behind-the-beat feel, although you don’t want the tempo to drag.

rock beat


Tempo: Medium to fast
Beat Placement: On the beat
Time Feel: Even
Dynamics: Wide range but usually medium

As blues music speeds up beyond our ability to play all three cymbal notes per beat, we drop the middle note, leaving the first and third note to create the cymbal pattern characteristic of a shuffle. Shuffles can also be played with a jazz ride pattern or straight quarter-notes with the snare and bass drum outlining the shuffle rhythm. There are dozens of varieties of shuffles, just like you’d find with rock, jazz, or Latin grooves.

rock beat
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