I recently went back and checked out Clyde Stubblefield’s drum break in James Brown’s “The Funky Drummer.” Widely accepted as one of the funkiest and most sampled drum grooves in history, “The Funky Drummer” is a true masterpieces of funk. It’s fun and challenging to try to play what Clyde played on the original, but I think it’s also fun to come up with some variations that are a little broken up and can work at slightly quicker tempos.
Let’s start off by checking out Clyde’s original groove in Ex. 1. Then let’s try some variations in Ex. 2 through 6. When practicing these remember to start slow and use a metronome. Make sure you listen to Clyde’s original recording of this groove, which you can find on James Brown’s greatest hits collection.
Try all of these with the left hand playing a cross stick and the right hand playing the ride cymbal. Once you get comfortable with these try coming up with your own variations. The original is at about 98 bpm, but because the right hand isn’t playing all the sixteenth-notes, some of these variations can be played up to 130 bpm, so experiment with different tempos. Have fun with these and stay funky.
Click here to see Part 2 of Stanton’s “Funky Drummer” lesson series.