As drummers, we must always remember that time, feel, and pocket are the most essential aspects of our existence. If it does not groove, it is useless. Today’s gospel drumming pioneers (Brian Frasier Moore, Gorden Campbell, Chris Coleman, etc.) coined the term “pocket chops,” the concept of sneaking in some tricky licks within a groove. Here is another idea you can incorporate into your pocket playing without altering your basic groove.

This month we explore a balance between the pocket world and the chops world by diving into “pocket chops.” These techniques present an opportunity for to play pocket but slip in a little sneaky chops every now and then—a little Tabasco on the scrambled eggs, if you will.

Pocket Chops: Sneaky 32nds

We start by playing alternating (RLRL) sixteenth-notes on the hi hat (Ex. 1).

Ex. 1

Next, add a back beat on the snare drum (Ex. 2).

Ex. 2

If we want to throw the thirty-second-notes onto another surface, such as a tom or a stack, a few sixteenth-notes may need to be deleted in order to physically prepare for the thirty-second-notes. In Ex. 3, all hi hat activity stops on beat 4.

Ex. 3

Ex. 4 leaves some of the hi-hat notes in place.

Ex. 4

Another technique associated with modern pop, dance, and gospel music is the use of side snares and auxiliary electronics, usually placed to the left of the hi-hat. Ex. 5 shows a useful sticking that can allow some freedom when shifting over to groove on the left side.

Ex. 5

Now, add the thirty-second-notes (Ex. 6).

Ex. 6

Remember to practice this idea simply and slowly at first. Make sure all notes are evenly placed and dynamically accurate. Finally, once you are comfortable with this lick get in that woodshed and just play without thinking about it and let the lick fall into places you feel work best for your playing.

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