Beginner's Course

What you’ll learn in this lesson:

  • Counting systems and how they relate to simple drum grooves
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Johann Sebastian Bach is rumoured to have once said:

‘…[Music] there’s nothing to it. All you have to do is play the right note at the right time and the instrument plays itself.’

Without wishing to spark a debate about what is the right note, or exactly when is the right time, there is nevertheless one question that we need to consider: how exactly do we measure musical time?
Thankfully, the answer is as easy as counting to four - we calibrate musical time using counting systems.

In this lesson you will be using the following simple system, which comprises of eight counts:

“One…  and…  two…  and…  three…  and…  four…  and”

On paper, this is represented as: 

 1+  2+  3+  4+

When counting, all of the counts should be evenly spaced. The numbers represent the beats and the ‘ands’ represent the halfway points between the beats.

One complete cycle of this count is called a bar or if you’re American, you'll call it a measure.

Because there are eight counts, this counting system is referred to as the eighth-note count.

Check out the video clip to hear exactly how this should sound.

How to approach each example
Once you’re comfortable counting, it’s time to get on with some drumming and we are going to start by learning one of the most useful and commonly heard grooves there is.

But rather than jump straight in and try to play the finished pattern, the exercise guides you through three simple steps, in order to build up the finished pattern. Starting with just the count, each instrument is introduced one at a time, in a specific order: first the hi-hat; then the bass drum; finally the snare drum.

Over the years I have experimented with a number of methods for helping begins develop these types of grooves and this one has proven to be by far the most successful. Just remember to work very slowly and very deliberately, being careful to play each step accurately and you’ll be playing in no time.