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
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.
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”.
DAM THAT RIVER
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.
DOWNLOAD THE PDF HERE
LAST BUT NOT LEAST
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!
And if you’re looking for a gift for your drummer buddies, get an awesome CHOPZzz pillowcase, the world’s only pillowcase practice pad for drummers!