Coming up with creative parts can sometimes be the most challenging aspect to a drummer’s playing. One of the many wondrous aspects of odd meter drumming is it allows the drummer to explore the creative side of his or her playing. Players such as Chad Wackerman, Mike Portnoy, Neil Peart, and Vinnie Colaiuta have made countless recordings on odd meter-based music, showing their ability to create amazing parts that essentially become part of the composition.

In this lesson we dive into three approaches drummer Chris Frazier takes on the Steve Vai’s “The Attitude Song.” This tune is built around a guitar riff in 7/8 that is superimposed over 4/4. Let’s reduce these ideas into a four-bar pattern that allows us to develop the three ideas (the guitar rhythm is displayed on the top staff).

The first approach (Ex. 1) is basically a “John Bonham-like” approach by simply hammering a 4/4 groove under the 7/8 riff. This approach is great because is allows the listener to feel the friction between the 7/8 and the 4/4. As for drummers, this is a great way to solidify your pocket by hearing the guitar riff land in different spots of your 4/4 groove.

Ex. 1

The next approach taken is to play a double time feel where the backbeat lands on every upbeat in 4/4, but the bass drum grabs the 7/8 riff (Ex. 2). It is crucial to stay relaxed and to keep counting while playing this.

Ex. 2

Finally, the 7/8 riff is orchestrated between the bass drum and snare with the hi-hat remaining in 4/4 (Ex. 3).

Ex. 3

Try toggling between these three ideas with a click and then move on to creating your own ideas over the 7/8 riff. Have fun!


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