Mike Portnoy is a songwriter, vocalist and without a doubt one of the most iconic and influential drummers of all time. Being the backbone and driving force of pioneering progressive rock group Dream Theater strengthened Portnoy’s ability to come up with unique compositions, delivering an astonishing and signature performance in any genre of music.

‘Honor Thy Father,’ Dream Theater

When the name Mike Portnoy is mentioned among drummers, it is mostly associated with fast and long, six- or four-group hand/feet combination fills, as well as grooves in different time signatures than the rest of the band. “Honor Thy Father,” the fourth track on Dream Theater’s Train Of Thought, has both of these right at the beginning. The opening fill switches from groups of six to groups of four. Five measures later, Portnoy plays groove in three on top of a 3,3,2 guitar phrase. 

‘Another Dimension,’ Liquid Tension Experiment 

Because his usual drum set was in transit at the time of this recording, Portnoy was forced to piece together a much smaller, yet still very interesting kit for the studio. In the beginning of “Another Dimension,” the ride cymbal and bell alternate with the toms and snare drum, with subtle changes starting at the fifth measure, to lead us into an accented floor tom groove. 

‘Signs Of The Time,’ Sons Of Apollo 

“Signs Of The Time” is a great example of Portnoy’s ability to make common time feel odd, and visa versa. This powerful and energetic groove turns into an orchestrated two-bar phrase conversation between the ride and the hi-hat, complementing the established bass drum, toms, snare, and cymbal stack foundation. 

‘Dark Melody,’ The Neal Morse Band 

“Dark Melody” is the fifth track on The Neal Morse Band’s double album, The Great Adventure. Here we hear another unique and signature approach to these mostly odd-time grooves. After building up the tension for eight bars using hi-hat and splashes, upbeats on the cymbal stack take the same groove to another level.