From DRUM! Magazine’s January 2018 Issue | Text, Music, And Video By Joe Smyth

The concept of playing four quarter-notes to the bar on the snare drum came out of Motown, driving songs like The Four Tops’ “It’s The Same Old Song” (1965) and The Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” (1966), as well as rock and roll, as on The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (1965).

I often use this concept to build grooves when certain songs call for its powerful and insistent feel. I tend to play it as a two-measure pattern, and vary the bass drum rhythm to keep it interesting (Exs. 1 and 2).

Changing the snare drum part to rim-clicks tightens up the sound and might make a good choice for a quieter section of a song (Ex. 3).


Exs. 4-7 show a great way to approach playing four on the snare, by starting with a rhythmic groove playing beats 2 and 4 on the snare, and then adding snare hits on 1 and 3.

Finally, to really drive the groove, move the hi-hat part to the ride cymbal bell and play quarter-notes along with the snare (Ex. 8).

Have fun adding four-on-the-snare grooves to your toolbox and take it somewhere all your own. Enjoy!

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.