Beginner's Course

What you’ll learn in this lesson:

  • Another counting systems and how it relates to certain types of simple drum grooves
  • A structured practice method to help develop your coordination
  • To understand and play grooves in 12/8
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If you’ve already worked through BC001 then you’ll know by now that we use simple counting systems to describe the position of notes in musical time.

The precise counting system that you would use is dictated by something called the time signature and so far we’ve looked at two different counting systems: the eighth note count and the sixteenth note count. These are perfect for describing situations in which there are four beats in the bar and in which, each beat is divided into two or four. In other words, situations where the time signature is 4/4.

However, not all music fits into 4/4 and today we will look at another common time signature and the counting system associated with it.

So, all of the exercises in this section of the beginner’s course are based on the following system, which this time, comprises of twelve counts:

“One… an… duh… two… an... duh... three... an... duh... three... an... duh”


On paper, this is represented as:

1+  d   2+  d   3+  d   4+  d


When counting, all of the counts should be evenly spaced and there should be a slight emphasis on the ‘1’, ‘4’, ‘7’ and ’10’.

One complete cycle of this count is called a bar or measure and the time signature which this counting system describes is 12/8.

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 playing and the groove that we’re going to look at today is commonly referred to as the 12/8 Blues feel and as you might expect is often heard in the style of music known as the Blues.

As with the grooves in the previous section, we’re not going to jump straight in and attempt to play the finished pattern right away but rather build up each pattern in three simple steps. 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.

Here we go...

Step 1

Start by counting aloud. When you’re comfortable with this, play a single hi-hat note with the right-hand on each count:



Step 2
Once you’re comfortable with Step 1, add a single bass drum note (played with the right-foot) on counts ‘1’ and ‘3’. Notice that both bass drum notes are played in unison with the hi-hat:


Step 3
Once you’re comfortable with Step 2, complete the pattern by adding the snare drum (played with the left hand) on counts ‘2’ and ‘4’. Notice that both snare drum notes are played in unison with the hi-hat:



You can now play the 12/8 Blues groove. Once you’re comfortable with this pattern, why not try playing along to these recordings? Keep practicing, have fun and I’ll see you in the next lesson