Matt Byrne: Drumming Dynamics

This month, we’re going to touch on a crucial drumming concept — playing with dynamics. In basic terms, playing with dynamics is the ability to play at different volume levels throughout a song, beat, or fill. Many younger players, especially in the heavy metal world, want to play everything as loudly as possible. But different parts of a song, even metal songs, call for different levels of intensity — sometimes soft, sometimes loud, sometimes down to just a whisper. So how do you practice something like that?

A good place to start is by incorporating ghost notes and accents. Ghost notes are played with a very light stroke, while accents are played with a louder, stronger stroke. When used in a beat, they help to create one heck of a solid, good-feeling groove!

The beats that I have provided in Exs. 1—9 are very much in the style of John Bonham or Bernard Purdie, two of the most dynamic drummers ever to pick up sticks. Exs. 1—5 are relatively similar; however, the placement of ghost notes and accents varies in each beat. Exs. 6—9 introduces a few shuffle feels. Remember to focus on the volume levels between each kind of stroke. As always, the more you practice, the more your dynamics — and thus your feel and groove — will develop.

DRUM! Notation Guide