Rarely does a groove exist in isolation without some relationship to other similar grooves. There is often a chain of connection which, if tapped into, can expand your groove vocabulary. In this lesson we highlight the process by which a simple starting point can grow into a collection of related grooves.

This concept of riding on the hi-hat starts with the jazz-ride cymbal rhythm, transferring it to the hi-hat. Play the bass drum on all four beats, and the snare on beats 2 and 4 along with opening and closing the hi-hat. This basic but versatile groove can be used in jump blues, swing, Dixieland, and other styles (Ex. 1).

Picking up the tempo and playing bass drum on beats 1 and 3 produces a groove suitable for country or bluegrass (Ex. 2).

You can play the hi-hat in double-time and add a funky groove underneath it (Ex. 3).

Try playing a half-time groove with the same hi-hat ride pattern (Ex. 4).

Now, reverse the hi-hat rhythm for a new groove feel (Ex. 5).

By playing four-on-the-floor with the bass drum and hi-hat, and adding a syncopated snare, you’ve got a Caribbean soca groove (Ex. 6).

Add some cross-stick, with the bass drum on beats 2 and 4, and you’ve got a one-drop reggae groove (Ex. 7).

Finally, challenge yourself to the max and you’ve got a songo groove (Ex. 8).

Like giving a man a fish versus teaching him how to fish, understanding the process of expanding on a groove will allow you to widen your groove horizons. Push out the boat and start fishing!

JOE SMYTH is a founding member of the award-winning Sawyer Brown band, touring the world for the past 37 years. He also teaches drums and percussion at Brentwood Academy in Nashville, Tennessee.