This Stanley Randolph Superstition drum lesson explores one of his live performances of the song with Stevie Wonder!



Stanley Randolph’s regarded as one of the most talented drummers today. He’s worked with top artists in the industry including Christina Aguilera, New Kids on the Block, and Tori Braxton, and more. However, he’s best known for being Stevie Wonder’s drummer for over a decade.


When it comes to Randolph’s deep pocket and groove, he’s hard to beat! In this Stanley Randolph Superstition drum lesson, you’ll get to dive deep into his grooves! You’ll be able to download my detailed transcription of one of his live performances of the song with Stevie Wonder. Needless to say, his drumming on it is nothing short of amazing.



Released in 1972 as the lead single from the album Talking Book, Superstition has become a classic! Its unmistakeable drum intro and groove and catchy melodies has captured the attention of music fans around the world. And, if you didn’t know, most of the instruments including the drums, were performed by Stevie Wonder himself… What a legend!



Live, however as you’ll get to explore, Stanley Randolph’s drumming really does take the song to a new level. He manages to keep the spirit of the original, whilst adding a fresh take that’s tight and oh-so-groovy. He’s solid, precise, powerful and tasteful yet always serving the song. He makes both easy to dance to, and a riveting listen for drummers!



At the heart of Randolph’s playing is his deep love and respect for Funk music. He has studied the great drummers including Dennis Chambers, and other legends like Vinnie Colaiuta, Dave Weckl, Steve Smith, Will Kennedy, Buddy Rich. You can read a great interview with him on Mike Dolbear’s website here


In this Stanley Randolph Superstition drum lesson, you get to explore his playing and creative choices in full detail, as I’ve painstakingly transcribed the entire performance of the video above. The transcription reveals lots of fun and challenging phrases that will stretch your playing. There’s great use of ghost notes, syncopated rhythmic patterns, interesting use of accents during fills, and more! You can download the Stanley Randolph Superstition drum lesson transcription at the bottom of the page.



Below are two examples which are some of my favourite passages of this particular performance. Both are choruses, and whilst both might seem similar at first glance, they’re very different and offer different coordination challenges.






You can download the transcription for these two phrases following the link below, and continue to the bottom of the page to download the full Superstition transcription.





When learning grooves, phrases or fills from this Stanley Randolph Superstition drum lesson, or anything else really, I would suggest to always play slowly, using a metronome to keep you steady. Another big tip which will be helpful is that, due to the fairly unusual hand and feet combinations, it might be worth learning to play the hand patterns first before adding the feet, as you would with a book like Gary Chester’s New Breed.

Learn how all of these elements come together by downloading the transcription below.







Get this and other free drum lessons on my blog, or sign up to my mailing list to receive them straight to your inbox (head to the bottom of the lessons page)!


Thanks again for stopping by, and enjoy!


Stay safe,


Nick 🙂

Alice In Chains’ Dam That River Drum Chart

Alice In Chains’ Dam That River Drum Chart

Thanks for checking out this drum lesson on Alice In Chains’ classic 1992 track Dam That River. Read some of the background below, make sure to read the tips that will help you nail the song’s feel, and download the free PDF transcription below.



Alice In Chains are one of Rock’s great bands that came out of Seattle in the 90s. Their heavier, darker sound compared to their peers helped them stand out in the scene. This was, in part, thanks to original singer Layne Staley whose lyrics about drug abuse were autobiographical and direct. Sadly, Staley died in 2002 from an overdose; found dead in his flat a week or so after his passing.


Alice In Chains Dam That River

Alice In Chains released their second album Dirt in 1992.


The band have continued to produce excellent music with singer William DuVall, who replaced Staley in 2006. Initially playing only live shows, DuVall has been a permanent member, recording the band’s first album since Staley’s death, the acclaimed “Black Gives Way To Blue”.


Alice In Chains Dam That River

Alice In Chains: (left to right) Jerry Cantrell, Sean Kinney, Layne Staley, Mike Starr



Staley, however, left us some brilliant work to enjoy. Dirt, arguably the band’s best album, is a classic, featuring awesome songs including the punchy Dam That River. A tune that’s not only down right heavy, but beautifully simple, at least on the drums!

Drummer Sean Kinney delivers a no-frills performance, that’s straight to the point. It supports the guitar riffs in all the right ways, keeping it simple as most often is the best thing to do! In fact, my band The Mercy House, covered Dam That River to celebrate Layne Staley’s anniversary (check out the multi cam video). I tracked the drums along to the music so as to retain Sean Kinney’s time feel, which is tight, but nice and loose!




I’ve transcribed Sean Kinney’s performance and parts on Dam That River pretty much note for note. Some of the fills on the guitar solo section I’ve left a bit more open to interpretation, so you can add your own spin to them. And, whilst the track might not be the toughest to play, it’s certainly oodles of fun! Here are some tips to help you nail the vibe.


3 bar phrases

It’s not as obvious upon casual listening, but the main riff (which opens the song and is the basis for the chorus) is a 3 bar phrase. Being aware of this will help you feel groove better as you’ll be paying attention to the phrasing and structure a bit better.


Quarter note feel

Verses are played on the hi hats loose and slushy, so keep your left foot nice and relaxed on the pedal. This will make your hi hat notes sustain between beats, helping to carry the groove. Also, notice how, at least to my ears, Sean Kinney seems to open the hi hats slightly more on the last quarter note of every verse (except where the flam is played).

Similarly, during the intro and choruses, we’re “crashing” on the ride cymbal, accenting on the down beats (the quarter notes). Sean Kinney may have played quarter notes on the ride, but I have chosen to interpret this as eighth notes with the aforementioned accents.


Guitar solo section

The guitar solo section is really interesting as we got some bars in 2/4 to help change up the phrasing. Also, pay attention to how the beginning of each phrase during this section starts with the bass drum on 2+ on the 2/4 measures.





  • If you’re interested in learning to play more songs like this, or in other genres and styles, check out my drum lessons!
  • Check out my drum book “Concepts”, it’s got tons of fun ideas to help you take your drumming to the next level. Find out more here!
Bonham Triplets and Beyond

Bonham Triplets and Beyond

Whether you’re into Led Zeppelin and John Bonham’s playing or not, you’ll probably heard of Bonham triplets. Let’s face it, Bonham is synonymous with Rock drumming; he was a sonic and creative powerhouse. Some of his most legendary licks and grooves are triplet-based. So, in this drum lesson, we’ll explore phrasing ideas so you can master triplets like Bonham himself!

What makes a Bonham triplets?

Simply put, Bonham triplets refers to the way that he chose orchestrate that simple three note rhythm. Be it the “Crossover” fills or the great shuffle groove on Fool In The Rain, they just ooze with personality!

Crossover fill

Classic Bonham triplet fill right here!

Bonham triplet Crossover fill

Fool In The Rain

Beautiful groove… One of Jeff Porcaro’s influences in coming up with his Rosanna shuffle.

Bonham triplet Fool In The Rain


By the way, if you’re interested in other stylistic articles, check out my exploration of David Garibaldi’s Soul Vaccination grooves: Snare Accents vs Ghost Note Workshop and Beyond Soul Vaccination Grooves. Anyhow, back to the article:

Developing triplet-based ideas?

The purpose of this three part lesson is to help you develop learn some triplet-based ideas. As such, the view is to develop your own ideas and vocabulary! And he best part about it is that you’ll work on some core skills whilst you’re at it… These skills include:

Time and motion

You should aim to explore the accuracy of your strokes. Remember that both the physical and timing space between each note is as important as the note itself. Consequently, ensure that your playing is clear and clean, and your movements  motions are smooth.

drum book

Drum books such as Concepts can help you create new grooves based on really simple ideas… Check it out!

Check out my book Concepts for lots of ideas you can use to come up with new grooves based on stuff you already know!

Fluidity and creativity

By exploring different ways of applying these triplets, you’ll be able to incorporate them into your fills and grooves. Remember that each example in these articles is just that, an example. Exercise your creative muscle further by coming up with your own versions. The same applies with the orchestration of each example; orchestrate as you like!

Bonham triplets

John Bonham of the rock band ‘Led Zeppelin’ performs onstage at the Forum on June 3, 1973 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Practice tips

One thing is for sure, and that’s the fact that John Bonham was born playing his Bonham triplets. He practiced and explored ideas in order to develop his ideas. So, with that in mind, when you practice the exercises, I recommend you do the following:

Use a metronome and go slow

Practice each example slowly first and increase tempo only once comfortable. Try increments of 5BPM at a time.

Simple orchestrations first

Start orchestrating each example on snare drum until you’re comfortable with the pattern. Then orchestrate the pattern starting nice and simple.

Beyond grooves and fills

Don’t think of just fills and grooves, but rather explore each example melodically. Listen out for any melody that comes to mind as you play each exercise. You can turn each idea into a 4-bar phrase, or practice it by playing 4 bars of a groove, and 4 bars of the ideas.

Make it your own

Right, so maybe you want to learn specific Bonham triplets… Put it this way, by learning and exploring this stuff, it will  make it easier for you to learn his stuff. And, by exploring more general exercises, you’ll come up with your own style! Here’s an example of some ideas I came up with using concepts from this lesson:



You can download the PDFs to the grooves on this video here.



Download the PDFs and explore them in detail as suggested above.


Part I: Bass drums and dynamics

Explores using bass drums and dynamics to create more interesting phrasing ideas based on simple variations of the Bonham triplet.



Part II: Using rests

Builds on Part I by introducing the idea of rests within the pattern in order to create more variations.



Part III: Changing subdivisions

Here we take the triplet ideas we’ve been developing and change the subdivisions to create 16th note phrasing variations.



I hope you’ve enjoyed this drum lesson. If you’re interested, learn drums with me! Also, make sure to check out my book Concepts, which is full of cool ideas to take your playing to the next level.

10 Ideas To Boost Your Creativity On The Drum Kit

10 Ideas To Boost Your Creativity On The Drum Kit

Creativity on the drum kit

Michelangelo supposedly once said that “every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it”. Same goes for creating a groove or fill on the drum kit; all the notes and rhythms are there, we just need to uncover them!

Let’s explore creativity on the drum kit as a problem-solving exercise; ask ourselves questions about the music to help us figure the best grooves, fills, etc. You can also dive deep and explore creativity on the drum kit with my drum book “Concepts”, by the way! It’s got tons of great ideas for you to try on the drums.

drum kit

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it…”


OK, so let’s first definite a couple of things:


This is the “ability to produce something new through imaginative skill” (Merriam Webster dictionary).

Problem solving

Let’s think of this as strategic, cyclical “steps that one would use to find the problem(s) that are in the way to getting to one’s own goal” (Bransford & Stein, 1993).

In order to succeed at this stuff though, we have to actively listen to the music we’re trying to come up with the right parts! But remember, there are no right or wrong answers as it’s all subjective. Some people will like your work, some won’t… And that’s OK!

Let’s dive in.


#1. Tempo

How fast or slow we play affects the whole feel and impact of a song, so finding that “pocket” is crucial. But does the same tempo apply to the whole song? It could be fun to explore different sections slightly faster or slower. This could enhance the overall musical and emotional impact, even if by a few BPM!

In a way, playing to a click can take away from that natural human feel… As such, it’s worth point out that time perception is affected by lots of factors including stress, excitement, etc. So think that a tempo agreed at a rehearsal may seem right one day but wrong on another purely going by how your day’s been, and how you’re feeling!

Consequently, a tendency to flow with the music according to how it makes you feel, or how it is intended to make people is a great skill too. Being malleable and fluid to feeling is something that can get overlooked in a click and drum programming culture.

As this can have a direct impact on our perception of the song, it can affect what we choose to play.


#2. Dynamics

For dynamics on the drum kit, we generally think about ghost notes, accents, crescendos and diminuendos to create tension and effect. It’s useful to be aware of our default settings in order to stimulate creativity and help overcome stumbling blocks!

In this case, for example, during a quiet section should you play the same drum part as its energetic counterpart, but quietly? Or would playing something slightly different work better? Again, there’s no right or wrong answers; nothing here is absolute! This great instrument that is the drum kit is a vehicle for our personality and we should let that shine through!

By the way, if you’re enjoying the article so far and want to learn more, why not check out my drum lessons?

drum kit

Should our grooves during quiet sections be the same as on loud sections but quieter?


#3. Reduction

This means either transforming the problem into a simpler one, or into one with an existing solution. In other words, we could simplify the problem down to its foundations, or look at what others have done and come up with your own version of it.

To simplify the problem, in this context, try to reduce the song at its simplest elements; the root notes and basic rhythm. You’ll be able to then lock into the foundations of the song and embellish, if necessary, from there.

On the other hand, when looking at other drummers for inspiration, an idea would be refer to a similar song and pay attention to what they’ve done in order to build their ‘solution’. This is a fantastic way to help you become a better musician; the more music you listen to, the more deeper your reference base, the more adept at nailing a specific feel you will be.


#4. Language

In November 2017, I attended a Jojo Mayer & Nerve masterclass where Jojo had some excellent points! I thought I’d contextualise them into creative problem solving for the drum kit.

During the Q&A session the band discussed their approach to improvisation. Jojo spoke of developing musical knowledge as learning a language in order to be fully conversational with it. Bassist John Davis elaborated on this by suggesting music as a language transcends theory.

The idea here is that when crafting our parts for a song, deep knowledge of the genre we’re writing for is helpful! Yet, where do we begin? There are so many resources to draw knowledge from: albums / playlists, YouTube videos, teachers, books, courses… You name it!


#5. Vocals / Lyrics

The human voice, and percussion are the oldest instruments, and so the link between rhythm and language is deep. Understanding this can be used to great effect creating our parts for the drum kit.

Personally, I find that working closely with the vocals, which are ultimately the focal point of a song, can be just as important as working with the bass. We gotta ask ourself how can we best help support and carry the message? Paying attention to the vocals’ lines, accents, and space is immensely importance. To that effect, working with the singer / lyricist to create hooks based around simple rhythms can be a great way to develop congruent parts that fit these hooks.

The human voice and percussion are the oldest musical instruments.


#6. Context

Where we’re coming from and where we’re going to plays a big part in deciding what to do next! From what sounds we play on the drum kit to how we play them. For instance, obvious as it may sound, slowly opening hi hats adds tension, the ride provides a feeling of freedom, where as tom-toms could be used for tribal or melodic effect.

Working as a session musician, one of the key lessons I’ve learned is that songwriters have a really interesting approach to percussion and the drum kit. This can lead to interesting rhythmic ideas, which might feel odd and outside our comfort zone (which is a good thing). The trick is to clearly interpret their wishes, but to do so in a way that complements every element of the composition.


#7. Genre specificity

Understanding of what kind of music we’re playing can go a long way to help us figure out what we could / should play. In order to give certain music authenticity, we should play rhythms which are specific to the genre. Being aware of the genre we’re writing for can also help us in stepping outside of it to find inspiration in different genres too. This can bring new ideas and flavours to a song.


#8. Rudiments

Much like melodic scales, rudiments help us find our way around rhythms and the drum kit. They help us identify rhythms, melodies and accents which facilitate us orchestrating them accordingly to compliment a passage of music.

Use rudiments to explore accents and melodies. Try orchestrating the single and double strokes, and ‘melodies’ by focusing on the rhythms each hand produce, whether on the snare, around the tom-toms, cymbals or a mix. You can create great grooves by playing a rudiment between the snare and hats and playing the bass drums on, for instance, beats 1 and 3.

In fact, if you’re interested in further developing your creativity on the drum kit from a technical perspective, check out my book Concepts. It’s full of great ideas to explore your creativity around the kit!


#9. The Bass

A melodic and rhythmic instrument. It’s well-known that us drummers should work closely with bassists. By paying attention to what the is bass doing we can not only avoid rhythmic clashes but, if we’re stuck, can match their rhythm or create complimenting grooves. Either way, the tighter this relationship is, the better the band will sound.

drum kit

King of BASS, Davie504.


#10. K.I.S.S.

Keep It Simple, Stupid! This can be overlooked as we try to come up with cool and complex, yet sometimes unnecessary parts. Think of the song as a method of communication, on that’s been around for thousands of years. Consequently, the clearer the message, the more effective it is.

As such, perhaps thinking about our drum parts as an instrument of clear communication can help inspire, or think differently about what we could / should play. AC/DC are a perfect example of keeping it simple, with drum parts to match. The caveat here, however, is musical context and your choices will be influenced the genre, style, brief, etc. you’re working on.



Here I’ve tried to stress that the more clearly we define the problem, the clearer our solution is. We’ve have considered different elements that may help us, as Michelangelo suggested, carve out a suitable groove. So, keep in mind that this is a process, and that the solution might not be clear straight away!

You can even put this problem-solving mentality to work when you’re not behind the kit too! Listen to your favourite records and check out what the drummer does. Think about about how you would change what they have done slightly, and then try and come up with something of your own. Picture yourself playing it; tapping it on your lap might, as a bare minimum, provide you with the sticking pattern you would use.


Thanks again for reading! I hope you found this article interesting and useful.

Spice Up Your Fills: Applying the Augmentation Concept

Spice Up Your Fills: Applying the Augmentation Concept

This blog and free drum lesson shows you a way to spice up your fills by applying the augmentation concept.

I’m sure you’ve heard it before, you know, the whole thing about getting more out of stuff you already know? Well, it’s true! There’s so much juice you can squeeze out of things you already have in your toolbox (yes, I’ve just mixed metaphors).

If you’re not convinced by this idea, think of the licks that you already know, and how long it’s taken you to make them truly yours. They’ve been filtered through your “style filter” and personality, having practiced and played them countless times. Now think how easy it would be to change one aspect of this stuff and make it totally fresh; sounds great, right? The best part is that it will still sound like you, as you’re not reinventing the wheel.

The concept we’re going to apply here is augmentation; it’s easy to understand and apply. As the name suggests, it refers to adding something extra in order to, in this context, beef it up. So, we’re going to take a couple of linear ideas that I like, and augment them by doubling up a bass drum note. This will make them sound more “impressive”, but more importantly to help expand our phrasing.

Note that the examples in this article are a couple of phrases in my toolbox. Incorporate this idea into your own phrases, that’s the whole point here. That said, do feel free to learn the examples in the PDF, of course!

Now, allow me to be old and boring for a second here but, remember, never play something just for the sake of it. Be purposeful and make wise choices; both audiences and band mates will thank you for it.

So! Go ahead, use this free drum lesson and spice up your fills applying the augmentation concept. Download the PDF below.

If you liked this article, my new book, Concepts: A Guide to Essential Processes for the Modern Drummer is all about this. If you’re interested, please check it out and get yourself a copy HERE!

Thank you,

Nick x

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Head over to the lovely folks at Bell Percussion for all your drum gear needs and wants!


Developing Phrasing Ideas Part 2

Developing Phrasing Ideas Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of this free drum lesson about developing phrasing ideas using doubles on the bass drum over double strokes.

Like the exercises in Part 1, these are based on the concept of permutation, which gives us lots of practical mileage as it’s very multifunctional. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, you can read more about it in my new book Concepts or dive deep into it with David Garibaldi’s Future Sounds.

Getting stuck in you will 

  • Create fun and interesting grooves and licks
  • Gain a deeper understanding of hand / foot interplay
  • Develop increased control of hand and foot technique, time, and general co-ordination

Let’s do this

We’ll start where we left off by mixing things up, and combine patterns together to further explore possibilities. Check out Examples 1 and 2 to give you an idea, then come up with your own.

In Examples 3 and 4 we’ll use a 32nd note rate to play the same ideas, and explore the phrasing ideas developed in the context of a groove. This will help us achieve a Steve Gadd-like vibe or, depending how you choose to orchestrate your ideas, Gospel style chops.

As usual pay attention to your time, technique, and co-ordination. Remember to start slowly (perhaps 70BPM), to get the full benefit.

If you’ve enjoyed this free drum lesson, please share with other drummers!

Thank you,

Nick x

Don’t forget

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter for more content.

Receive £5 off your first lesson when you subscribe to my Newsletter (see the footer of the home page).

Head over to the lovely folks at Bell Percussion for all your drum gear needs and wants!