I am pretty sure we all have experienced this at some point in our lives. We are trying to be creative and come up with new ideas, or dress up a groove to make it unique and more interesting and we’re getting nowhere. Sometimes seems that we always end up using the same tricks, phrases, combinations and embellishments that we are comfortable with, the ones we know by heart. In order to break this habit we need to get outside our usual creative process and see it from a completely different angle. We need new exercises to break up our routine. Otherwise, our muscle memory will always deliver the same results. But we can jump ahead of it by actually calling the changes, twists and ideas that we need to practice to challenge ourselves.

How does it work?

This a very simple process that will allow you to get creative outside of your comfort zone.

Start with this simple groove.

Comfort Zone

Now, I am going to create a series of rules that will change what you play as you go through the exercise. Follow the rule for each exercise and see what happens. For example:

  • Double the first and third bass drum stroke.
  • Open first and fourth Hi-hat.
  • Double the first two Hi-Hats and open the fifth one
  • Turn the first snare drum stroke into a flam.
  • Play a crash or splash with every snare drum.

The possibilities are pretty much endless.

For the purpose of this lesson I chose these changes

Triple the first two eighth-notes and open the fifth Hi-Hat (3rd downbeat)

We are going to keep these two simple rules and experiment more with them.


The first two-Hi-Hat notes will s will become sixteenth-note triplets. We are also going to open the Hi-hat on the 3rd downbeat.

Comfort Zone Ex. 1


Without changing what we are doing rhythmically we can orchestrate this idea several different ways. Take the two triplets and play their second and thirdnote on the snare. To create a nice feel let’s also make them ghost notes.

Comfort Zone Ex. 2


We can also combine our triplet ideas from Exs. #1 and #2. Keep the first triplet the same and change the second one back to the Hi-hat where it had been at the beginning in Ex#1.

Comfort Zone 3


We don’t have to orchestrate our triplets only with our hands. Get the feet involved. Play the first triplet on our bass drum and keep everything else the same.

Comfort Zone Ex. 4


Keep the bass drum triplet and let’s change the second one into the variation from Ex#2 with ghost notes on the snare.

Comfort Zone Ex. 5


Most of the time we don’t play the Hi-Hat with our foot as a part of the groove so let’s change that, too. The first triplet will become our combination from Ex#2 and the second one will start on the Hi-Hat followed by two Hi-hats played with sticks.

Comfort Zone Ex. 6

Even if you personally did not like any of these combinations I am positive that going through these exercise moved you forward in many ways. You were forced out of your comfort zone and you worked on new ideas you would not have done on your own. As you worked through these exercises did you think of an idea, twist, or change that took you on an “What if I tried…… journey?” Great, that was exactly my point. Now you know that outside your comfort zone are doors that lead to great new ideas.

Most of the time by working on new exercises and practicing new ideas that are outside your comfort zone we come up with our own ideas that are way cooler and better than we ever imagined and thought possible. Here’s a musical idea (below) that came to me when I was recording these exercise for you. Have fun!

Comfort Zone 8