“When you’re working on snare ghost notes, you want to really make sure the bass drum lines up properly and it doesn’t flam. You want to get into a motion that stays the same so it’s a consistent feel. Sometimes I’ll fill the whole measure with ghost notes [Exs. 1—4]. I trust that my eighth-note is good and solid and that all the sixteenth-notes are lining up properly. It’s really about the time. It varies with the vibe of the tune though. No matter whether it’s straight up sixteenths or the more loose New Orleans in-between kind of feel, they really have to line up.
“You also have to make sure your backbeat stands out. I have a pretty loud backbeat. I hit it pretty loud, and it’s a rimshot most of the time. That gives me a lot of crack and sound so my ghost notes can be a little higher than usual and the contrast is still cool. The height of the ghost notes really depends on the dynamic level. The point is to really keep them low. Again I don’t stroke these with the wrist. That would sound rigid and be hard to do. It’s really about using the bounce. I’m really not playing them. I’m just catching the bounce and using my fingers.”
“When I play with Wayne Krantz or in any more open and improvisational setting, I try to think of ways to play grooves without necessarily playing 2 and 4 on the snare and 1 and 3 on the bass. I want it still to groove and be danceable without always having to do that thing. One way I do it is to try to keep something constant like a jazz drummer would with the ride cymbal.
“Sometimes I think of the hi-hat as taking the place of the bass drum [Ex. 5] in a rhythm. You can start to replace what you would typically play on the bass drum [Exs. 6—10], so the bass and hi-hat are working together and breaking up the time, but it’s still a groovy thing. I like to give the hi-hat something more to do than just eighth-notes all the time. On ’What I Do’ from Donald Fagan’s recording, I do something like that. I do that dotted-eighth thing a lot.
“Or you can alternate the bass and hi-hat [Ex. 11]. Having that constant eighth-note on the cymbal is what makes it feel like it’s still grooving, whether or not the bass drum plays on 1 each time. The possibilities go on and on. The feet are just working together to break up the time, but it’s still a groove.”