Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Advice to Non-Drummers: Get a #DrumMachine

In case you were wondering, our Instagram Chord of the Day was G-flat diminished (Gdim).

If you're not a drummer, or do not have regular access to a drummer, then it is in your best interest to acquire a drum machine. It'll help you with practicing rhythm skills, no matter what instrument you play, and it makes solo or partial band situations a bit more fun. Okay, a metronome can do much of the same, but it isn't as fun. I suppose a drum machine/loop app could do the same, but it probably isn't as fun ... to program.

Once you acquire a drum machine, you might want to disregard the preset patterns and create your own. If you have specific songs to cover, a site like Songsterr probably has the most decent drum tabs to program on your drum machine. Before you get that far, just program some generic drum patterns that can fit almost any popular music situation.

Off the top of my head, since I'm trying to blog as fast as possible, here are some of the basics:

1. 4/4 backbeat
2. 4/4 snare on 3
3. 3/4 waltz
4. 6/8 snare on 4
5. 4/4 all kick
6. 12/8 shuffle
7. What else ...?

To program (or even perform!) a 4/4 backbeat, play the kick on the first and third beats of a measure. Play the snare on the second and fourth beats of a measure. Keep time with the hi-hats or ride cymbal or floor tom in either quarter notes (one, two, three, four, one ...) or eighth notes (one and two and three and four and one and ...). Program variations on this pattern by using a hi-hat for one pattern,  a ride for another pattern, a tom groove, etc. Using more or less kick drum will also influence the overall groove of your pattern.

To program a 4/4 snare on 3, at the very least, have the kick on the first beat and the snare on the third beat. You can keep time (e.g., hi-hats, ride, or tom) in either quarter notes or eighth notes. Vary the amount of kick drum. The snare on 3 is useful for somber songs, as well as heavy rock songs.

To program a generic 3/4 waltz with drums, keep time with three quarter notes per measure: One, TWO, THREE, one, TWO, THREE ... etc. At the very least, play the kick on the first beat. The snare is sort of optional. Have it hit on the second and third beats, or just the third beat -- or not at all. If you don't plan on playing traditional waltzes and waltzy hymns, you can skip the 3/4 in favor of the pop song-friendly 6/8, below.

To program a generic 6/8 beat, have the kick play on the first beat and the snare play on the fourth eighth note. You'll keep time (e.g., hi-hats, ride, or tom) in eighth notes: One, two, three, FOUR, five, six. I like to use Eddie Vedder's way of counting 6/8: One, two, three, FOUR, two three ...

To program all kicks, just play the kick drum for every quarter note in a measure: One, two, three, four, one, two, ... you get the idea. You might do a variation and program the snares on the AND beat: One SNARE two SNARE three SNARE four SNARE, etc., for a less-than-competent version of "Ace of Spades" -- but still fun!

You'll figure out how to shuffle, eventually. I think of a 12/8 pattern as "One and the Two and the Three and the Four and the One and the ..." as there are 12 eighth notes per measure. This might not translate well in text, but I haven't the time to find an audiovisual example on the Web at the moment. Forgive me if I simplify too much, but the shuffle removes the "and" from the 12/8 pattern while keeping the timing the same: "One, the-Two, the-Three, the-Four, the-One ..." The swung notes are mostly heard by your time-keeping (e.g., hi-hats, ride, or tom), as well as any special kick drum patterns and syncopated snare.

Once you have the above generic drum patterns programmed, you can pretty much play any pop song and the 12-bar blues, with some "drums." From there, you can program the drum patterns from your favorite songs, as well as come up with your own multi-use patterns!

That's all for today! Keep jamming!

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