I’d like to talk a little more about notes that you can play before or after major notes in a groove, which you improvise on and vary. Let’s start off with the groove in Ex. 1, then start varying it in Ex. 2 by adding a sixteenth-note on the snare drum after beat 2. Notice that the snare drum note played on the last sixteenth-note of beat 2 should be played as a ghost note in Ex. 1, but as an anti-ghost note in Ex. 2.
Ex. 3 gives us another variation to work with, where an eighth-note is played on the snare drum before beat 2. Things start to get a little funkier in Ex. 4, as you add the eighth-note before beat 2 and the sixteenth-note after beat 2. I intentionally left out beat 3 on the bass drum to keep things from getting too cluttered. Finally, Ex. 5 works well as a fill.
Once you get comfortable with these, try the combination of Ex. 1, Ex. 2, Ex. 1, Ex. 4. This creates an organic groove that varies within itself quite nicely. I’ll often play variations like these at the end of a phrase instead of playing a fill. Try different combinations strung together until they all feel comfortable.
This may all sound quite analytical at first, but once you get comfortable with the ideas, it should free you up to come up with variations of your own. This whole concept is meant to give you an organic way of varying the groove while keeping the backbeat present and still remaining subtle.
If you run all of these back-to-back all the time it can get a bit busy. So use your musical judgement and don’t overdo it. Record yourself playing by yourself and with others and you’ll begin to get more insight into what works and what doesn’t.