As drummers one of the skills we look to develop is drumming independence. By this of course we mean, broadly-speaking, the ability to play multiple rhythms at once, or also being able to play notes between beats to spice up grooves and fills.
To me, this is one of the important tools in our toolbox because having good drumming independence lets us focus on playing rather than worrying about how to play it. In other words, we can be present in the moment and make music, and as a drum teacher this is important for me work on with students.
In this drum lesson, I’d like to give you some useful tips I share with my students regularly. These will be primarily around independence between the hands and feet. In addition to this, you’ll find a free PDF with some exercises for you to have a go at below.
“SPLIT” YOUR BODY
Try to think of your body in two halves: waist up (i.e. arms / hands) and waist down (i.e. feet).
One way to think about it could be your hands acting as the “lead” whilst the feet be the “rhythm section”.
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A rhythmic ostinato is defined as a repeating rhythmic pattern. So, we once you get your head around the idea of “splitting” your body, try to identify any ostinatos to latch on to. This is helpful as once you’re able to play these patterns in “autopilot”, playing rhythms / stickings / patterns on top of the ostinato becomes a lot easier!
Following on from developing ostinatos for independence, thinking melodically about patterns (be it with the feet, hands or both) can make our life a lot easier. This is because we’re thinking about music rather than combinations of Rs and Ls.
How can we tease melodies out of patterns? It’s not hard to do so. Simply “mute” one of the, for instance, hands playing a pattern, and note the “melody” that the unmuted had creates. Let’s take the Single Paradiddle for example; see the examples below
Here’s groove example based on ostinatos I’ve developed…
… And the music I wrote inspired by the groove:
Ultimately, the less you think in terms of Rs and Ls and more about “melodies”, the more musical you’ll be. Consequently, the benefits when it comes to learning other licks will have a huge pay off. Come for drum classes for more tips!
In the free downloadable PDF, you’ll find different 16th note ostinatos for you to try different sticking combinations. My suggestion, when it comes to orchestrating the hand stickings, would be to start easy first. Play the stickings on the snare to begin with, then try exploring moving your R hand around the drums. Once comfortable with that, then move the L hand around, etc.
Spend time on each ostinato with each sticking (don’t just play each sticking once). Also, use a metronome to help you keep time, and if you want to challenge yourself further to strengthen your internal clock, use a Gap Click.
DOWNLOAD PDF HERE
As I mentioned, drumming independence is a great skill to develop as it lets us focus on just making music. Moreover, it can also be a great way to discover cool grooves and fills that can become the basis for cool new song ideas with your band, or for your own compositions.
Have a go at exercises, go slow to begin with and be patient. Enjoy!