In live settings many songs are stretched out or “broken down” in order to create audience interaction or extended soloing. There are numerous ways for drummers to approach these breakdowns and it is important to have a plan of attack when these opportunities arise. We explore this here in part two of our four-part series on changing the atmosphere of a song with the drum set.

Most often the drummer can simply play the hi-hat, or perhaps a steady bass drum pattern in these moments. But breakdowns also provide a great chance for a drummer to slip in some subtle creativity as the rest of the band is sharing in the banter with the audience out front.

My go-to pattern is a simple hand-to-hand sixteenth-note pattern between the snare drum and hi hat with a few enhancements.

Start with a basic alternating sixteenth-note pattern between the hi-hat and ghosted snare (Ex. 1).

Ex. 1

Next, add an accent to the upbeats on the hi-hat (Ex. 2).


Ex. 2

Add the bass drum on beats 2 and 4 (Ex. 3).

Ex. 3

Now add a accent on the snare on the “ah” of 2 (Ex. 4).

Ex. 4

Add a diddle on the e of beat 2 (Ex. 5). Be careful not to get too repetitive; keep it random and interesting.

Ex. 5

Finally, create your own patterns and shapes to this simple, yet effective technique to allow you to change the atmosphere of a tune when called on.

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