The ability to play over the bar and not lose the downbeat is essential to all drummers. A great way to develop this skill is with a small three-note grouping of sixteenth-notes between the kick and snare. As an added bonus, by superimposing various hi-hat or ride patterns on top you can develop excellent sixteenth-note limb independence, which will help with ensemble figure set ups, improvisation and sixteenth-note-based grooves.

To start, play the following pattern in a four-bar phrase (Ex. 1) while counting downbeats (1, 2, 3, 4) out loud. The bass drum sound should be consistent and the snare notes should be evenly balanced played at a ghost note volume. Put your metronome on at a comfortable bpm that allows you to count along with it.

Ex. 1

Next, add an evenly played (no accents, yet) eighth-note hi-hat pattern on top (Ex. 2). Make sure all notes are lining up perfectly and keep counting out loud.

Ex. 2

This is usually where my students start to add an unwanted accent that makes this pattern fall into a feeling of being in three. Although this pattern does indeed reset itself after three beats, we want to avoid this and maintain even notes, feeling the downbeats and the four-bar phrasing. Make sure you are not playing the pattern in Ex. 3. Although this may be a cool lick to your ears, it should be avoided for the purposes of this exercise.

Ex. 3

Next, add a downbeat accent to the hi-hat pattern (Ex. 4). For this and the rest of the exercises, play two bars of a preparatory groove to set up the new hi-hat pattern.


Ex. 4

Now switch to an upbeat accent (Ex. 5).

Ex. 5

The next step is to introduce sixteenths on the hi-hat to create layering between the hi-hat and snare drum. Begin with no accents on the hi-hat (Ex. 6).

Ex. 6

Add an accent on the downbeats (Ex. 7).

Ex. 7

Flip the hi-hat pattern over with no accents (Ex. 8).

Ex. 8

Add an accent on the downbeats (Ex. 9).

Ex. 9

Flip the accent to the upbeats (Ex. 10).

Ex. 10

Lastly, move from the hi-hat to the ride, playing all accented notes on the bell and add eighth-notes with the foot on the hi-hat. Ultimately, you will be able to move from pattern to pattern seamlessly.

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