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!
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.



A Guide To Choosing Drum Stick Sizes Online

A Guide To Choosing Drum Stick Sizes Online

So you’re looking for advice into choosing drum stick sizes in a post-retail world! I hope the following article will help you in choosing the best drum sticks for you without being able to try them.

You may have noticed, we’re currently living in uncertain times. Coronavirus has impacted all of our lives, and lockdowns have become common place. The latter, it seems, have been on and off and then back on, with differing levels of restrictions. This, unfortunately, has meant that many music shops have either shut down temporarily (and some operating online), or closed down for good, such a the sad closure of Bell Music.

drum stick sizes shop

The pandemic has affected musicians and music retailers alike

Yet all is not lost as online retailers are able deliver the gear we’re after! And whilst there’s a plenty of information about drums, cymbals and how they sound (e.g. via YouTube), or even drum books (like mine, which you can buy directly from me here), it’s more difficult to convey tactile information such as drum stick sizes and how they feel in our hands.

So, what’s the best way to choose drum stick sizes and models online, without trying them? How do we choose a pair of sticks that we’ve been curious to try without actually feeling them in your hands? It all boils down to sorting, in my opinion. Below are my thoughts on this that I hope are useful in your decision-making process!


A general guide

I thought it would be useful to offer a quick, general guide to drum stick sizes / models and they’re applications with some notes:

  • 7A: light, and thin. Great for jazz, or softer situations. Suitable for younger beginners too
  • 8D: similar to the 7A, but slightly longer
  • 1A: the longest stick. It can help provide that extra reach needed
  • 5A: this is the standard drum stick. A great all-rounder
  • 3A: longer and thicker than 5A
  • 5B: thicker than the 3A, but slightly shorter. Great for louder volumes and heavy music
  • 2B: this is the thickest drum stick; great for heavy music, or getting a thick tone out of the drums without too much energy

Keep in mind that pairs of drum sticks in the same model may, by nature of being made of wood, weigh differently! Companies try to always match pairs of sticks according to their weight and tone, so you’ll get an even pair! However, if you’re after next level consistency, synthetic material drum sticks such as ones made by Ahead can be a great option!

drum stick sizes

Drum sticks come in lots of different sizes, weights, material… But how do we choose them when we can’t try them?



What genre or style do you want the sticks for? Drum stick sizes, shapes and weight are usually sorted by the kind of music we’re playing. As simple as this sounds, it’s important to think about! Think that big, heavy drum sticks will make it difficult to play at low volumes with finesse (i.e. playing jazz with 2B sticks). Conversely, playing energetically and loud with light, thin sticks will be tricky too (i.e. playing metal with 7A sticks)!



Similar to functionality, having a look at what your favourite players (or those whose style you want to play) use. This may take the shape of their signature stick or what they generally use in terms of their drum stick sizes, weight, balance, etc. You can always look at the specs of their signature stick and try to find a stock model that closely matches it if you don’t want to pay that premium.

Another thought with regards to looking at other players’ stick choice and signature sticks which might not be so obvious is these players’ physical builds. A generalisation might be that a very muscular, fit player might find heavier sticks “less heavy” than a less muscular one. Now, of course, this may not be necessarily true in terms of comfort, but I think it’s something to be aware of and maybe think about.

danny carey drum sticks

Tool’s Danny Carey playing live using his signature sticks



This is highly subjective, in my view. All major stick brands produce high quality products. Their manufacturing processes, wood suppliers, etc might differ but generally-speaking you can’t go wrong with the established brands. The point being that if your manufacturer of choice doesn’t have the model you’re looking to choose, be open-minded to try a different brand. You may find different companies produce different models that you like best, e.g. I really like Wincent 5A sticks, and love the Vic Firth 2Bs.

As a side note, speaking of brand loyalty, whilst I think it’s great to be recognised as being part of a group (as it’s in our nature to do so), not being tied down to this idea comes with great benefits. Having the right tools for the job is beyond a label, and extends to all elements of our favourite instrument. For instance, if Pearl happens to make the snare drum that you need, and Tama makes the right bass drum for the session then use / purchase those.

And hey, trust me, I’m precious with certain brands too but with experience my views have softened about this stuff. Of course, if the brands you love make all the gear you need and they happen to be a great company, that’s cool too! Being an endorsed player does come with benefits too, but that’s another topic altogether.


Familiarity benchmark

A great way to benchmark which way the drum stick sizes, weight, length and diameter, balance and so on, would be to make note of these attributes for the sticks you’re familiar with. You can get this information on the manufacturer’s websites.

Important: As I mentioned, note that most drum sticks are made of organic material (wood), so there’s always going to be weight variance within the same models.


Standardisation and crazy extras

Another thought with standardised products is that they’re easier to get a hold of. Going for really specialist models means these might be more difficult to get as demand for these is less. So, for example you’re more likely to get a pair of regular 5As than Danny Carey’s signature stick! This holds true when you’re touring too (boy doesn’t that seem like a long time ago, huh?).



I think this sums up the biggest, most important considerations when choosing your drum stick sizes in a post-retail / online retail environment. Remember, try to think about what your needs are, do your research and be smart about your decision-making!

And finally, experiment. You won’t know what you like without trying different things… You also might not like something at first but it might grow on you, or you might find an unexpected use for it. It’s a win-win whether you like it or not!


If you found this article useful, why not check out my drum lessons? My approach to teaching the instrument goes beyond grooves and fills into all sorts of business and practical tips!