The Only Way Out Is Through: Groove Breakdown

The Only Way Out Is Through: Groove Breakdown

I recently posted a fun 1 minute track called The Only Way Out Is Through. It caught some drummers’ attention, so I thought I’d offer a quick breakdown of the grooves that shape the entire piece.


The basic melody of the groove is based on the RRLR LLRL Paradiddle inversion, which is sometimes referred to as the Outward Paradiddle. This is because the Diddle is at the beginning of the sticking. Notice I’m playing the R melody on the hi tom.

the only way out is through

As the track progresses, two things happen. The first, I add eighth notes on the stepped the hi hats underneath  in order to increase tension.

the only way out is through

Then, to further add drama, I start alternating the R melody between two sound sources. These are the hi tom, and a little splash stack I made (you can use whatever you have at your disposal if you don’t have a stack). This orchestration has the ostinato, explained in the following section, played underneath it.

The only way out is through


The ostinato I’ve used is fairly simple to learn on its own. The feet play a RLL pattern, where I alternate the L between the “slave” pedal of my double bass pedal and the hi hat. In order to more easily play this, I use the heel toe technique in order to make the motion be based on a single “up / down” movement with this foot. This also means that the L foot, as it plays the hi hat pedal, I get a little splash / chick sound from the hats.

the only way out is through


Where things get complicated is putting the the hands and feet together. The ostinato is a 3 sixteenth note pattern, which I play under the hands, which play a straight-forward sixteenth note subdivision. As a result, this means that the ostinato works against the hands, and fully resolves every 3 bars.


The biggest tip I can give you in order to nail this is to practice the ostinato first, feeling it as sixteenth notes. Get it down so you can play it in autopilot. Practice easier stickings on top of it as you build your coordination. Be patient, and ensure to use the heel toe technique (or similar) in order to minimise the effort to play this pattern. Once you’re comfortable, then start adding the Paradiddle and the orchestration that follows.

A lot of the ideas for this stuff come from my book Concepts, so please go check it out and get yourself a copy! You’ll get hours of fun applying the ideas inside to your playing.

Check out my book Concepts for tons of creative ideas to apply to your drum kit.


Lastly, do check out my 1 minute track playlist on my YouTube channel. It’s got lots of fun, short tracks varying  in styles / genres! And gimme a follow on Instagram, if you fancy regular updates!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief breakdown lesson.




Heel Toe Technique: Pro tips

Heel Toe Technique: Pro tips

Here’s a quick drum lesson about with pro tips to help you nail the Heel Toe technique! It’s not as tricky as you think it is, and once you get it you can’t unlearn it, so let’s dive straight into it.



It’s a technique that helps us play two (or more) quick consecutive bass drum strokes in what’s, pretty much, one smooth motion. As its name suggests, it involves using our bass drum foot’s heel to generate the first stroke, and then the ball of our foot / toes to generate the second one. Due to its nature, it’s mainly intended to be used at faster tempos.


Of course, there are other techniques to get quick consecutive strokes, such as the slide technique, or the swivel technique. But this lesson focuses only the heel toe technique!



The Heel Toe technique can be achieved on most, if not all, bass drum pedals. Whether they’re single or double chain, long boards, etc… As long as we’re applying the basic principles to achieve it, it should work on pretty much everything.


The technique works on most pedals, although it will probably be easier and smoother to perform on nicer pedals. If you’re looking to upgrade pedals, check out the big manufacturers’ websites, and go check ’em out in stores! The big companies make very nice and smooth pedals, even their basic / budget models are great.


heel toe technique

Pearl’s P-2050C is an excellent pro-level choice if you’re looking to upgrade your bass drum pedal.



Things to consider when learning the Heel Toe technique is that everyone’s slightly different in their anatomy and motion, but the principles applied are exactly the same. Playing a relaxed stroke is probably the most difficult thing about it. Once you get over that hurdle, it’s pretty much smooth sailing from there! 

Watch the video below! It’s totally low production value, but it’s got some useful tips on how to approach and nail the technique’s motion. Enjoy it! 🙂




To help you practice the technique and apply the tips from the video above, I’ve put together a PDF with some useful exercises. These will help you develop some initial dexterity and coordination. You can also download the Heel Toe technique PDF below.





If you want to learn more about the Heel Toe or some one-to-one lessons to help you troubleshoot or nail it, check out my drum lessons and get in touch! You can also check out my drum tuition book Concepts to help you create your own awesome grooves and fills!


drum book

Check out my book Concepts to help you come up with cool new grooves and fills with really simple ideas!


Thanks and enjoy! 🙂


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 🙂

Hand-To-Foot Coordination Like A Modern Drummer

Hand-To-Foot Coordination Like A Modern Drummer

Thanks for checking out this video drum lesson! In it you’ll learn to develop hand to foot coordination like today’s modern drummer. You’ll enhance your drumset vocabulary by applying the simple concept of Replacement to a Paradiddle, and level up your drumming game!

Because of the Paradiddle’s intricate sticking, we can take advantage of tons of potential combinations to develop a fluid conversation between our hands and feet!


Tips for the modern drummer

When going through the exercises in this drum lesson, go through them slowly. Pay attention to your motion and the melodies created in every exercise to get the most out of them. Ensure you use a metronome to work on your time too, as every exercise is an opportunity to improve our time-keeping and feel.

One of the cool things about this lesson is that it’s a different way to approach the Paradiddle. This means we’re looking at it from a different perspective, which in this case means using it as a multi-faceted coordination exercise. In fact, we can apply tons of concepts to Paradiddles to make them sound totally new.

My book, Concepts, contains lots of ideas and processes you can apply to rudiments, stickings, chops to expand on your drumming vocabulary. Check it out here and get a copy!

So, do like a modern drummer and watch the full video lesson on YouTube here or below. Either way, don’t forget to download the free PDF to learn with all the exercises below.

Download the PDF HERE

I hope you find this helpful! And, if you get a second, check out my drum lessons if you’re interested in taking your drumming further! I teach students of all ages and skill levels, helping them achieve their goals and develop as drummers and musicians.

Thanks, and see you soon.

Nick 🙂

How To Play Drums: A Guide To Success

How To Play Drums: A Guide To Success

How to play drums is popular Google search, so when trying to answer how to play drums I don’t think there are rights or wrongs. That said, there are commonly accepted beliefs, which include:

  • Solid time keeping is probably the most important aspect of playing the drums
  • Certain specific technical best practices help you achieve power and speed
  • Some styles, phrasings and grooves are more popular / trendy than others
  • The chops (speed and technicality) versus pocket (groove and feel) debate will rage on

But beyond that, in terms of how you choose to play drums, the world is your oyster. That’s the beauty of it; the freedom to express yourself however you like.

how to play drums

Jojo Mayer, the modern master drummer.


Key skills

Any of the key skills that are required to play drums can be developed with practice. Put enough time, patience and perseverance, and you too can become a great drummer. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Tipping Point (2000), suggests that you can master anything if you spend around 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. And whilst this sounds daunting, it’s also reassuring to know there’s measurable metric! But think about it, realistically, you don’t need 10,000 hours to become a decent drummer… But the quest for greatness is irresistible!

Now, for those who have a natural knack for the instrument, all it simply means is that things will come to them more easily. Yet, if you’re thinking “I have zero rhythm” before you’ve even sat down behind the kit, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

So, to answer how to play drums, below are what I consider to be the key technical / practical skills, and the transferable skills essential to address the query.


Technical / practical

These are the skills directly linked with how to play drums.



Having good control of time and keeping a steady beat is the biggest one! This establishes trust with your audience as well as your bandmates. Think that audiences will feel taken care of because they know what to expect. No sudden increases or decreases in tempo means they can focus on enjoying the music and dancing.

Similarly, having steady time also establishes trust with your bandmates! Holding a steady groove means your bandmates can focus on playing the best they can. Moreover, having a good concept of time and being aware of tempos will make a song feel good. Think that if you play your favourite song too slow or too fast, it can break its feel and vibe.

how to play drums time

The metronome is your greatest tool in developing great time.


To me being able to sight read doesn’t just help with being able to do gigs where charts are required. This skill, to me, strengthens the connection between your mind and body, helping reaction times. Reading also means we write music, allowing us to transcribe grooves and ideas!



Yes, when we think about how to play drums we think moving your hands and feet interdependently. But this isn’t something you’re born being able to do, it’s a skill we develop. A simple way to this octopus-like ability is by using short, repeating rhythmic patterns (ostinatos). Here’s a great example of a melodic ostinato with the feet over hands soloing; follow this link and be amazed!

How to play drums

Richard Kass – Drum Interpretations #1 – György Ligeti “Hungarian Rock”



When you see drummers playing at blazing tempos, they’re playing as tension free as they can. They achieve this by letting the stick (and pedals) do most of the work. Playing drums isn’t about “hitting” things, but more about throwing the sticks and controlling their bounce (known as the rebound). Having good technique means being able to do more, at faster tempos, more easily.



To play musically, a drummer needs to understand the music he or she is playing and be sympathetic to it. This is a big aspect of the how to play drums question. Obvious as it may seem, generally-speaking you wouldn’t play metal grooves with a jazz ensemble, unless that’s what’s required. Think musically!

Musicality has several implications, from the gear you’d use (e.g. drum sizes and woods, drum skins, type of sticks, cymbals, etc), to the tuning of the drums, the techniques you’d use and the touch you’d need. All this stuff falls under the “taste” umbrella; knowing what to play and when to do so.


Key transferable skills

The following aren’t specific to the drums but are just as important as the technical ones.



Actively listening to the music you’re playing means paying attention to what each instrument is doing. Likewise, being able to pay attention what your band members say is just as crucial. Listening is an important aspect of communication, and helps you be more musical!

how to play drums

Listening is a key skill in learning how to play drums!


Physical and mental awareness

In order to develop good technique, being aware of your body and, likewise, knowing your mind in order to get the most out of your learning are crucial!

You can learn more about this on my article about using yoga techniques to improve your drumming here!



Consistent practice is king! Carve time out of your daily schedule to sit behind the kit. Remember too that focused practice isn’t the same as jamming to songs for fun. One involves developing specific skills whilst the other is about decompressing involves the latter. This doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t incorporate play-alongs / fun into your practice!


Like I previously mentioned, getting good takes time. Patience is key in achieving long-term results… learning something new takes time! And sometimes you have to practice something really slowly at first to get it right. Practice makes progress!



This is self-explanatory.



Hand in hand with open-mindedness, keeping a humble attitude will make you more receptive to learning new things from others. Particularly those who are farther along the road in their playing journey.


Wrapping it up!

I hope this has been insightful! At least it wasn’t a case of “Q: how to play drums? A: one note at a time”. Ultimately, there are no easy answers, or a magic trick, to the how to play drums conundrum (pun intended)!

If you’re interested in taking drum lessons, check out lessons page here and get in touch and we’ll arrange a time!


Drum Lesson: Level-Up Your Grooves With Ghost Notes

Drum Lesson: Level-Up Your Grooves With Ghost Notes


So, in this ghost notes drum lesson, we’re gonna take a look at developing your snare drum phrasing using grace notes to embellish your back beats. We can really enrich the groove of our beats by using nice details on the snare, but we need to make sure that our motion, and timing are spot on! We don’t want these notes to be sloppy as otherwise the impact won’t be the same, and it will have a detrimental effect on the music we’re playing. Our band mates will not be happy with us!

The CORE SKILLS we’re going to be developing with the ideas in this lesson are:


You should aim to explore the accuracy of your strokes, ensuring that the rhythms are clear and performed cleanly.


As you play these grace notes relative to your back beat, you will need to be aware of how to best use technical strokes including rebound strokes, up strokes, tap strokes, down strokes, etc. Smooth motions will have a positive impact on your timing! Check out Jojo Mayer’s Secret Weapons Part 1 DVD, and / or Matt Savage’s Rudimental Workshop book.

Fluidity and creativity

As you get comfortable playing the examples / ideas in this lesson, try playing your own versions of these. A great way to develop different ideas is to play a couple of bars of one, and then change it slightly, then play that alteration for another couple bars again, before changing it again. Also, writing your own versions is another creative way to develop idea, as you won’t be pressuring yourself to come up with stuff on the spot. However, do make sure allocate time to write your ideas down.


The examples provided don’t include bass drums. This is so you can input your own bass drum patterns to the grooves. Maybe try permuting single bass drum notes along the 16th note grid… The world is your oyster. Check out David Garibaldi’s Future Sounds book for ideas on this.


Download the PDF