Herman Matthews: Foe On Da Flow

Back when I was just a kid it was a no-no to play quarter-notes on the bass drum (otherwise known as “foe on da flow,” or four on the floor). I guess it was considered a corny thing to play back then. Then disco hit hard, and people really hated it. Oddly enough I have found myself on occasion playing that figure, and if used properly, it can make a tune take off or just settle into a deep pocket.

I’m getting ahead of myself here. Like I said, when I was a kid people just didn’t want to hear the pattern, but when I would listen to certain grooves I would hear it. For instance, boogie-woogie grooves come alive when you hit all quarters. Old rock and roll can’t live without it, not to mention that the whole Saturday Night Fever soundtrack would be null and void.

Listen to Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” or “Sir Duke.” How about Al Green’s “Love and Happiness” where Al Jackson nailed that groove. Players like Steve Gadd, Jim Keltner and Ricky Fatar can put it in the right place and take a tune to another level – then from there start playing eighths ... but that’s another column.

All of the following patterns have the bass drum anchoring the groove with foe on da flow. You might find that these patterns have a certain bonehead effect, but that’s a good thing. Now, these grooves are played with an attitude. Some are sloppy and some are straight and clean. Yes, it depends on what the bass player is playing, but you will find this to be an easy way to drive the band with minimum work. Play these grooves fast, slow and in between – but just make it feel good.

DRUM! Notation Guide

Herman Matthews

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