A few months ago, this column explored some basic hemiola patterns that can be played on the kit, all of which were anchored by the bass drum and hi-hat. Continuing in that vein, let’s dive into some more challenging footwork.
First practice the bass drum and hi-hat rhythms (feet only!) with a metronome (Exs. 2—8). Ultimately, these rhythms will be played while the leading hand plays the ride cymbal pattern on the cymbal. Your phrasing will want (and need, by necessity of speed) to change from the triplet feel to a more straight-up-and-down eighth-note feel on the ride cymbal as you employ these rhythms (Ex. 1).
While Exs. 2—4 are rhythmically identical, they each begin in a different place within the three-bar pattern or cycle. It is best if you can play each of these on any beat of the bar (e.g., downbeat, upbeat, or on beat 2).
The first triplet exercise (Ex. 5) is not so commonly played in jazz, while the off-beat triplet (Ex. 6) is a typical bebop lick. Note that these triplet patterns can act as a doorway to employing some basic, though interesting, metric modulation in your playing.
Kindly watch your balance (both dynamically as well as physically!) while playing these exercises. Have fun, and above all: Make it swing.
Peter Erskine has played with Weather Report, Steps Ahead, and the Stan Kenton Orchestra, and holds an honorary doctor of music degree from Berklee College Of Music. http://petererskine.com