They say that drummers using brushes is a lost art. Well, the art of brushes is certainly thriving in the pop and rock world. This month, we explore some non-jazz brush patterns for those quieter or more mellow gigs.

While you may not be striving to be the next Ed Thigpen, Jeff Hamilton or Clayton Cameron, it’s good to have a handle on the basics of brushes. To get some brush chops, especially for pop music, start by playing your basic rudiments like singles, doubles, paradiddles, drags, and ruffs, with brushes instead of sticks.

In this lesson we analyze an amazing groove by session drummer Ricky Fataar on a tune called “Funny How Time Slips Away,” composed by Willie Nelson. The version we are looking at is from the 1994 album Rhythm, Country, and Blues, produced by Don Was. This collection features great pairings such as Little Richard and Tanya Tucker, Aaron Neville and Trisha Yearwood, and, notably, Lyle Lovett and Al Green on “Funny How Time Slips Away.”

The tune is driven by a uber-funky bassline provided by Hutch Hutchinson, paired with Fataar’s slick, sixteenth-note brush groove (Ex. 1). This is a great groove to get started with pop brush playing. It involves simply playing hand-to-hand sixteenths with a backbeat on 2 and 4 and an easy bass drum pattern. Start by first playing a template of unaccented sixteenth-notes on the snare to find your footing. Next add the backbeat and the bass drum pattern. You want to make sure you find the sweet spot for the backbeat and keep it consistent.

Ex. 1

Ricky adds some flair by adding two thirty-second-notes at the end of the 1-bar pattern. He also peppers in a few syncopated accents here and there which you can get to in time. Once you master this groove you will have already increased your brush repertoire substantially as you can use this pattern for a number of tunes.


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

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