Few genres draw from such a diverse group of influences as punk, with its roots equally in blues, rockabilly, rock and roll, country, Britpop, and hard rock/metal. This has spawned hybrid sub-genres of punk, including psychobilly. This mix of rockabilly and punk has themes and images of horror, Southern culture, honky-tonk, gore, and an overall retro ’50s vibe. Bands like The Cramps, The Misfits, and Reverend Horton Heat are widely known and helped develop this sub-genre of punk. The drumming leans toward the traditional rock and roll and rockabilly side of things, but with an twist and some added aggression.

In this lesson we take a common pattern and overlay different riding surfaces (hi-hat, ride, floor tom, and snare drum). The challenge here is to maintain a consistent snare and kick sound—plus steady note placement—while you travel from surface to surface. All of these riding surfaces react differently so you need to pay extra attention to the groove. For example, a tight, crisp hi-hat reacts differently than an open hi-hat—the tight hat produces an immediate eighth-note pattern that is clear, while an open hi-hat will produce a hazier eighth-note subdivision. The pocket can get wiggly when the eighth-notes are not clearly defined.

Cycle through the following pattern (Ex. 1) with the different playing surfaces. Stylistically, the tempo should live between 140-190 bpm.

psychobilly punk drum lesson

Ex. 1

Key Points of Focus

  • Recognize any tension in your playing and bring the tempo back once you are playing past your comfort zone
  • Be mindful of the two eighth-notes on beat 2 on the snare drum—this is where you will likely hear the more inconsistencies
  • The floor tom produces eighth-note subdivisions at a lower tone than cymbals and thus its sound waves take longer to develop, creating a potentially bogged down and slushy groove

Take special notice of the sticking when playing the pattern entirely on the snare drum. Both sticks playing the drum at the same time can produce flat flams, so it is best to break up the pattern between the “ride” hand and the “backbeat” hand. This pattern can be more challenging to keep consistent.

As always, make sure to keep your creative side open and be ready to take note of your personal discoveries while playing through this exercise. Enjoy!

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

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