"It's as simple as walking down the street, snapping your fingers, keeping the beat"
Just about every popular music style is currently played in 4/4 time. Our initial patterns will also be only in 4/4. We will also only split our beat into 16th notes. Later on, I will look at other time signatures to see how we can adapt our basic patterns to them.
The simplest beat that we can possibly make is to play a note on the first beat of the bar:
This can be then moved to any other beat in the bar or any division of the beat:
We then come to two beat patterns, on the first beat and third beat:
Then any possible combination of any two beats or divisions of the beat within the bar.
Next are three beat patterns:
Then four beat patterns:
At this point, we have not used any duration values smaller than a quarter note; even when we shift within the divisions of the beat, each note is considered to last its full value, particularly if the pattern were to repeat itself.
Using more than one instrument
Single hits are great stuff. Single instruments can be great too. Why not have more? No reason we canít.
Before writing for multiple drums we might take a moment to consider the ranges in which each of the instruments in the kit traditionally cover.
Bass Drum: in the bottom end of the frequency range, but sometimes with a prominent click from the beater hitting the skin.
Snare Drum: upper mid range with lots of noise in the initial hit
Hi-Hat Cymbals: upper mid range with some frequency overtones
Crash Cymbals: upper mid-range with lots of noise in the initial hit
Ride Cymbals: lower mid-range with lots of noise if hit hard
Rack Toms: upper mid-range to lower mid-range with clicks from the sticks
Floor Tom: Upper low range with clicks from the sticks.
Another consideration is whether you are trying to emulate (mimic) a real drummer or are happy to have an octopus playing for you; a real drummer can only hit four instruments at once at the most (unless they head-butt a cymbal or tom). So, if you want to have more than four parts of the kit playing at the same time we begin to move into octopus territory in the writing and playing.
Back to the grid
Now we are going to start with the basic patterns and add some new ones. Most of the new patterns simply divide the beat into smaller note values using 8ths and 16ths.
The straightforward rock, 4-on-the-floor pattern
Variation 1: More Hi-Hats
The main variation is to play 8th notes on the hi-hats.
Variation 2: Less Kick
Now we cut the kick drum back to two beats, 1 and 3
Variation 3: More Snare
Simple snare drum variations:
Two 8th notes on the second beat
Two 8th notes on beat four
Four 8th notes, two on beat two, two on beat four
Variation 4: More Hi-hats
Sixteenths on the Hi-Hats
Variation 5: Somewhere in between for the Hi-Hats
Various 16th-8th note combinations.
Variation 6: Put these patterns on the kick or the snare.