Funk Drum Beats: Beyond Soul Vaccination’s Verse Groove

Funk Drum Beats: Beyond Soul Vaccination’s Verse Groove

So here’s a quick drum lesson about creative funk drum beats. We’ll be using David Garibaldi’s Soul Vaccination groove as a template. You can download the free PDF below!

I’ve been knee deep in funk recently, listening to and learning loads of Tower of Power songs. The band’s drummer, David Garibaldi, is quickly becoming one of my all-time faves.

Now, I previously posted a quick drum lesson discussing how we can work on our left hand technique using Soul Vaccination’s funk drum beats. In this lesson, we’re going to take that further!



The idea behind this lesson came to me whilst doing some snare accent permutation exercises. I was using the song’s verse groove as a template, permuting snare accents in different places. In doing so, I came up with a few interesting variations. It wasn’t until I played the snare accent on beat 3 (see figure 1), which gave me cool a half-time feel, which sparked my inspiration!

funk drum beats

Figure 1.

I then decided to experiment with this new half time version of the funk drum beat. So I proceeded to embellish the beat with further accents, doing so without ever diverging from the original groove’s snare rhythms.

The idea here is for you to take some of the variations I’ve come up with, and then just create your own. My book Concepts discusses this and other ideas to get more out of your drumming; check it out!

Anyhow, the philosophy here is that there are no rules when it comes to creativity. For me, I just stumbled upon this by using the original groove as a template.



Below are some helpful tips to make your beats groove hard. You can also check out my drum lessons if you’d like more tips and ideas!



If possible, set your metronome to sound like a cowbell. Why? Because the cowbell is a musical instrument, we can aim to make it become part of the groove. And that will help your overall feel.

funk drum beats



These are very important here. Aim to keep your ghost notes low to the snare, and use rim shots to help make the backbeat pop. Rim shots will help the backbeat more effortless.



Pay attention to the interplay between the snare and hi hats. Listen to each “melody” individually, and then together.  This will help your understanding of the groove!



Sheila E. explained what makes a groove funky. To her is the ghost notes in between that give the beat more groove and swing, but don’t get in the way of the backbeat or the song.

So the big takeaway here is that I came up with this by permuting snare accents. My next goal is to permute bass drums whilst my hands play the original pattern. I’m looking forward to seeing where that takes me! Like I said, there are no rules, just go down the rabbit hole and enjoy getting lost in it.




I hope you find this funk drum beats lesson useful and fun! And speaking of fun, check out my pillowcase practice pad, which is a great, functional gift for drummers. It’s called CHOPZzz, and you can learn about it here.

Nick 🙂

Soul Vaccination Drum Grooves: Snare Accents vs. Ghost Notes Workshop

Soul Vaccination Drum Grooves: Snare Accents vs. Ghost Notes Workshop

In this article you’ll learn how to improve your snare drum accents and ghost notes using a couple of the Soul Vaccination drum grooves from Tower of Power’s self-titled 1973 record. You can download a free PDF with some of the grooves at the end of the article.

soul vaccination drum grooves

Tower of Power’s third album, 1973’s self-titled Tower of Power featuring David Garibaldi on drums

David Garibaldi’s most definitely one of my favourite drummers. His playing with Tower of Power, such as the Soul Vaccination drum grooves, What Is Hip, or Oakland Stroke have been a great way to improve my drumming! Learning his grooves has many benefits which, to me, have been the following:


David’s sound and time feel are very groovy, and I definitely want more of that in my life! There’s a very organic quality to David’s playing which really resonates with me.

Musicality / Creativity

His unconventional and creative approach shows that grooves can still be musical and catchy without a 2 & 4 backbeat. And not just that, but paying attention to the rhythmic layers he creates gives us a new perspective on what it means to groove!


Speaking of rhythmic layers, the tricky nature of these which he creates with the kick, snare and hats are great to open up our coordination. It’s fun to pay attention to the interplay between different elements.


When I started learning other Tower of Power songs like What Is Hip and Oakland Stroke it reinforced the need to identify rhythmic sequences. The Soul Vaccination drum grooves are great to develop this further.

Low key and stuff, but if you’re interested check out my drum lessons. Or if you’re after a great drum book full of ideas to improve your drumming, check out my book here!

Soul Vaccination technique: Snare accents v. Ghost notes

From a technical perspective, the Soul Vaccination drum grooves are great way to improve our snare drum dynamics, in this case: ghost notes and accents.

soul vaccination drum grooves

David Garibaldi demonstrating his playing at Drumeo

#1 Keep your snare hand close to the drum head

This will help you deliver smooth, clean tap strokes that aren’t too overbearing… These should be a detail, not a main feature.

#2 Play the tap strokes nice and relaxed

This feeds directly from the previous point. Keeping the tap strokes low means you put less effort into playing them, so make sure your hand and wrist are tension-free.

#3 Prepare accent strokes in advance

As you start getting familiar with these Soul Vaccination drum grooves, you should start anticipating the accents. Preparing to play these accents in advance means you’ll play more relaxed and fluidly.

#4 Play the accents as rim shots

The main reason for this is that you’ll get a loud and full-sounding backbeat with minimal effort. As you’re keeping the tap strokes low, you won’t have to swing for an accent from very high.


If you’d like to develop your technical skills with a teacher, have a look at my drum lessons.

Similarly, if you’re after a book to help you improve your creative skills around the drums, check out my drum book Concepts!

Download the free PDF from HERE.



My Drumming Roots

My Drumming Roots

In this article, we explore how to find your drumming roots.

I decided to get introspective and go about finding my drumming roots are to trace my lineage; my drumming family tree, if you will. Now, of course, I know who my favourite drummers are! But I wanted to look deeply into my earliest influences would shed a light into how these had an impact on my perception of rhythm, phrasing and groove.

In order to do this, I had chat with the person responsible for introducing me to music that influenced and inspired me at the earliest stages of my life; my mum. And, before we get going, it’s worth mentioning that I was born in 1983, which will help contextualise everything below.


During this period mum introduced me to some great artists and bands of a variety of different genres. Among these were Queen, The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Phil Collins, John Denver, Elvis Presley, Neil Diamond, Barbara Streisand, and KC & The Sunshine Band.

Hal Blaine (Elvis Presley)

It wasn’t actually until researching this article that I realised the impact that he’s in my life and where he fit in my drumming roots. Hal, who was part of the famous Wrecking Crew collective of session musicians in the 60s, played on most of the records that mum exposed me to. In retrospect, the take-away lesson from Hal was that, no matter who he was playing with, he played what the song and artist required of him.

Ringo Starr (The Beatles)

The Beatles were my first favourite band; they probably still are – everything about them was catchy, and sounded great. Reflecting back on it, Ringo taught me that the drums could not only drive a song, but could also be catchy and a hook. In this context, a grooves don’t always have to have a solid back beat on 2 and 4. He taught me to appreciate the drums as a musically expressive instrument more than just a time keeper.

Roger Taylor (Queen)

At the time, my knowledge of Queen extended only to the Greatest Hits records that were out at the time. Roger Taylor’s massive drum tones, feel, and songwriter approach to his parts were integral to the songs. In addition to this, how he chose to accent the back beat with slightly opened hi hats, like on Somebody To Love made a big impact on me.

Ralph Jones (Bill Haley & His Comets)

Listening to Bill Hayley’s music, there was an innocence to it particular to the 50’s with a rebellious streak that packed a punch. At the time rock ’n’ roll grooves were still being played swung over straight eighth guitar riffs, such as Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On and Jailhouse Rock. And yet, what captivated me about Jones was his snare sound on those records, and his feel, and those killer snare rolls. His playing also taught me about using the bass drums as a means to accent notes rather than just provide a steady pulse.


With my drumming roots firmly planted, by the mid 1990s I was bit more aware of the world, myself as a person and already playing guitar for a couple of years. I was on my own journey of musical discovery. Important bands that I started discovering, in no particular order, were Dire Straits, Faith No More, Criminal, Megadeth, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Metallica and Cannibal Corpse, but the earliest ones from this period were as follows.

Dave Grohl (Nirvana)

My first instrument was actually the guitar, so the focus of my musical foundations was more global than instrument-specific. I viewed songs as the sum of their parts with every component being as valuable as the other. With Nirvana writing such elegantly simple songs, Dave Grohl showed me that drum tracks needed to have energy; playing with intent and power. That keeping it simple is sometimes the best policy.

Lars Ulrich (Metallica)

As for both my drumming roots and music development, Metallica are still one of those bands that I hold dear in my heart. I’m a huge fan of all their studio albums except, really, for Reload and St. Anger… With that in mind, Lars’ drum sounds, feel, grooves and fills made a huge impact on me. They complimented James Hetfield’s riffs flawlessly. Looking at the song-writing credits on their albums, Ulrich was right next to Hetfield, teaching me about partnerships and working with other musicians to draw the best out of a song. Yet more specifically, on a style level, Lars taught me all about landing on 1 but crashing on 2 with the snare. Signature stuff, and so effective!

Billy Cobham

Ok, so I was a bit of a late starter as a drummer, but as a kid, my cousin introduced me to Billy Cobham’s 1973 album Spectrum. This has got to give me some credibility as a drummer, I hope! The drums on that album were fast, furious, yet had a tribal feel about them. Their tone was open and natural, and the music was syncopated. But, beyond this, the album introduced me to odd time signatures early on. And because of this, and the fact that this stuff was never explained to me as a kid, odd time signatures were never about odd time signatures, but about feel and how music could flow in different ways.

Matt Cameron (Soundgarden)

Before Wikipedia was a CD version of the internet called Microsoft Encarta. On the ’95 edition, which we had, if you searched for “Rock music” or “Electric guitar”, you’d get some audio samples from a couple bands. One of these was Soundgarden’s track Nothing To Say” from 1988’s Screaming Life / Fopp. The sample was only 30 seconds long or so… But that slow, brooding groove, the grace notes, off-kilter accents over the dark riffs and soaring vocals became a big part of my drumming roots.


Finding my drumming roots has been a great exercise, and a fun one at that! It’s let me revisit great memories, and given me a better understanding of myself as a drummer. I would totally encourage you to do the same if you haven’t. If you’re interested in listening to the albums that I refer to above see the list below then check ‘em out on Spotify, Apple Music or preferred music streaming service.


The Beatles Help (1964), Rubber Soul (1965), Anthology 2 (1996), Beatles For Sale (1964), Live At The BBC (1994) – Drums: Ringo Starr

Phil Collins … But Seriously (1989) – Drums: Phil Collins

Dire Straits On Every Street (1991) – Drums: Jeff Porcaro, Manu Katché

Pearl Jam Ten (1991) – Drums: Dave Krusen, Vs. (1993) – Drums: Dave Abbruzzese

Nirvana Nevermind (1991) – Drums: Dave Grohl, Bleach (1989) – Drums: Chad Channing, Dale Grover

Soundgarden Screaming Life / Fopp (1990), Superunknown (1994) – Drums: Matt Cameron

Billy Cobham Spectrum (1973) – Drums: Billy Cobham

Megadeth Countdown To Extinction (1991), Youthanasia (1994) – Drums: Nick Menza

Queen Greatest Hits I (1981), Greatest Hits II (1991) – Drums: Roger Taylor

Metallica Master Of Puppets (1986), Metallica (1991) – Drums: Lars Ulrich

Bill Haley & His Comets Greatest Hits (N/A) – Drums: Ralph Jones

Criminal Victimzed (1994) – Drums: J.J. Vallejo

Simple Hacks To Become A More Confident Drummer

Simple Hacks To Become A More Confident Drummer

This quick blog entry deals primarily with the issue of confidence (i.e. how to become a more confident drummer), which is quite a personal thing, I suppose. You see, I was born musical, and consequently taught myself how to play my instruments: the guitar, bass, and drums. Of these, it’s the latter that I’ve gone into most detail; enough to make a career out of it.

Incidentally, I’ve always felt intimidated by those who have attended / graduated from music schools, or conservatoires. I tend to associate these musicians as being far more technically able and knowledgeable of music theory than I, which I always find daunting.

So, I wanted to focus on this little issue of mine, partly to exorcise the demons. Yet, also partly to see if any of this resonates with any of you, and perhaps helps you in any way. This is because to me this feeling of intimidation is directly linked to confidence.

Of course, on the one hand, we can become a more confident drummer by practicing more. But that’s just one way. I think it’s worth spending a bit of time to figure out what makes you different. As I’ve come to understand it first hand, being a musician these days is a more all-encompassing term. You’re more than just a player of your instrument; you’re an entrepreneur.

A good place to start in building your confidence might be to look at what other aspects, both direct and peripheral, of being an all-encompassing musician you might be good at.

Can you play other instruments, or do you sing?

This may be useful in helping you getting a gig. I, for one, treat the fact that my first instruments were the guitar and bass, as a way of making me more aware of the ‘bigger musical picture’ when I play in a band. As a result, I get told I have a “great feel” for the music, which, to me, gives me a bit of a boost to compensate for some of the more technical abilities I might not have yet perfected.

confident drummer

Singing whilst playing drums is a highly desirable skill!


Are you a savvy business person?

A huge part of being a musician is being clever enough to make money from it. Most musicians are artists, yet lack a business sense. Whilst others are very business-oriented, yet lack some of the more artistic side. To me, balancing this is important, yet being organised and being business-minded goes a long way in terms of your longevity in the industry and as a creative.

Are you a good teacher?

Something else to have a think about is where you stand as a teacher. In my experience, every time I teach something to a student, it helps reinforce it in mind. Likewise, not all musicians are good teachers… So, if you’re a good at this, it’s something to feel good about. You can use the transferable “teacher” skills to better communicate with your band mates or clients, or perhaps help  explain or clarify things for others, etc… If you’d like to learn about teaching drums, check out my drum lessons page, and get in touch! I’d be happy to help you become a great drum teacher.

Are you a great entertainer?

Again, perhaps your technical skills aren’t like Jojo Mayer, but are you a good entertainer? If you are, then use that to your advantage! Zoltan Chaney, for instance, is a great example of a very entertaining drummer whilst keeping a solid groove. Check him out below:

These are just a few thoughts, and whilst I can’t answer those questions for you, you should try to discover these things. And how can you incorporate this to your “offering”? Wear them on your sleeve; show them when you have to but don’t gloat; that’s never a good look.

Hopefully these things get you feeling like a more confident drummer. The above are very personal to me, so these may not resonate, and that’s OK! The point here is to think about yourself beyond your technical ability, given that “musician” does not equal being able to play 1,000 notes per second, although this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive for that either!

Don’t forget, the more skills you have, the more you can bank on. But never stop developing your craft, learning from others, and from experiences.

How to Play Drums Like Yourself

How to Play Drums Like Yourself

On the road to developing as a drummer, I think it’s important to nurture a our own drumming style as part of our musical self-expression. For me it’s ultimately our influences that shape our style. As Ralph Peterson puts it, one must imitate and assimilate what we absorb in order to innovate and arrive at our own style.

That said, I also believe it’s not just other drummers and musical preferences that influence our playing. Our wider environment, personality and other factors play as big a role. In this article, we look at how to play drums like yourself by breaking down some elements that constitute style. By the way, if you’d like to explore this topic in more detail, check out my drum lessons and get in touch!

how to play drums definition

What is style…

The Oxford Dictionary (OUP, 2013) defines style as a “particular procedure by which something is done”. The Merriam Webster Dictionary (2013), similarly, defines it as “a distinctive manner of expression”.

These definitions suggest a series of steps we must take in order to achieve something. Consequently, these steps I believe are influenced by our anatomy, minds and emotions. These will affect our groove perception, fills, feel, and technical approach.

So in the context of how to play drums, your drumming style can be personal. This is because it’s mixture of specific elements of our playing that separate it from somebody else’s (yet not necessarily everybody else’s).

… And how do I find and develop it?

In my opinion, possibly the easiest way to find your style is by simply jamming (to a song or solo) instinctively. Be mindful of what and how you play, trying not to play any too specific. Filming / recording yourself might be a good thing to try to review your performance!

Understanding how your playing differs from someone else’s begins with self-awareness. When reviewing your performance, ask yourself things like:

  • How busy is my playing?

  • How is my time in relation to the beat?

  • Am I replicating what I’m hearing in my head?

  • What are my dynamics like?

These questions can act as a good platform to dive deeper. The devil is in the detail, and that’s exactly where we start unravelling the essence of individuality; in the inconsistencies. Below are a few considerations:


Our dynamics make up a huge part of our style as they affect the sound and tones we’re creating. Similarly, this has a big impact on our general feel, which to me has also to do with our accent choices. An interesting thing to think about is perhaps how smooth and even are our crescendos are! To me these have a big impact in creating musical tension, so how smooth are yours?


Where on the beat we play is a great tell for whether we like to push, or lay back. This really affects how we feel music, and can be very specific to the individual. Similarly, that push and pull (differences in tempo) between sections to mark different feels can be very personal.

how to play drums time


How is your technique helping you achieve what you want to play? Whilst there’s ultimately no right or wrong as long as you get the desired results, there are universal principles that will benefit your playing. Inspect how you play from a technical point of view! What are things that are holding you back?

Technique is also a big piece of the puzzle in getting the right sounds (i.e. the sounds you want) from your drums! From your grip, posture, breathing, foot technique, etc, all these things make up how to play drums like yourself.

Tunings & equipment

We should most certainly not overlook our gear and how we tune our drums! The way our gear sounds is influenced by the shell material, cymbal quality, drum heads, sticks… Everything little piece of the puzzle adds up to create your sound.

So, what influences style?

I believe our how we play drums is largely influenced by our personality traits and how we feel. These traits and emotions are amplified and manifested through our playing. So, why not ask ourselves what each of our personality traits say about our style? Are you obsessive, non-conformist, passionate, introverted? This might be a great exercise to help you discover yourself, and therefore develop your drumming!

how to play drums idea

Wrapping it up!

So, whilst our influences do determine what and how we play, our personalities help us express these influences. Self-awareness can help us analyse, and therefore deconstruct and, subsequently should we want to, reconstruct our playing to reinforce, improve, or change our playing. The way I see it, in order to effectively do this, we need to think of the big principles of drumming (i.e. Time, Technique, Coordination, Musicality, Reading). Keep an open mind when analysing your playing!

Thanks for reading, and if you’re interested in my drum lessons, check them out here, and get in touch! While you’re at it, check out my book Concepts which was written with drumming self-expression in mind!

Originally published in May 13th, 2013 by Drummer Cafe. Read the original here.