There is a land of groove that lives between the realms of straight and swung (triplet-based) eighth-notes. This is a wonderful place where feel and vibe mix to create an undefined subdivision, the “in-between” groove. Many musical styles use it, including blues, funk, reggae, mambo, rock and roll, soul, and others. Everyone plays it a little differently making it a very personal groove.

What can you get out of exploring this feel? To name a few things, a better grasp on note placement, a greater sense of feel and pocket, and the ability to bend your groove when needed. Here are a few exercises to help along the way to developing your own in-between groove. The main thing you want to maintain is a strong quarter note pulse. Laying down a fat groove allows you to nudge the eighth-notes ever so slightly to help create feel nuances.

Play this quarter-note groove to lock in your pocket (Ex. 1).

Ex. 1

Next, play eight bars of straight-eighth rock feel with a simple bass drum pattern, followed by eight bars of a swung eighth-note feel around 110 bpm (Ex. 2).

Ex. 2


In Ex. 3, play eight bars of straight-eighths, followed by eight bars of “in-between” eighths (this is where you need to explore and experiment with the placements of the eighth-note upbeat). Don’t worry if you are a little inconsistent with your eighth-note, it will dial in the more you do it.

Ex. 3

Finally, play four bars of straight-eighths, followed by four bars of “in-between” eighths, then four bars of swung eighths (Ex. 4). Add small set up fills and bass drum variations.

Ex. 4

Check out the changing eighth-note feel in this video below.

Stewart Jean is Program Chair for Drums at Musicians Institute in Hollywood, CA.

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