In this drum lesson (put together by one of our fantastic drum teachers) we will discuss how you can get started with funk drumming using some basic grooves. Funk is a great direction to move in if you want to get a tighter sense of rhythm or get your chops under control.
If you listen to James Brown or Sly & The Family Stone, you are likely to hear a pretty straight-forward rock beat underpinning the rhythm. You might hear a few extra 8th notes on the bass drum or the snare, but for the most part it is nothing that is too hard. Despite the simplicity of these beats, they sound funkier than your average rock beat. Part of that is simply a tight rhythmic feel. If you are losing time with the simple stuff, don’t advance, take a step back and work on it with a metronome.
Stemming from this groove-centric approach, drummers like David Garibaldi, Steve Gadd and Stanton Moore have beefed up funk drumming from a number of different angles. The most basic ingredient to add to your funk drumming is 16th notes. By filling in the spaces you are providing more rhythmic interest as well as adding syncopation. Syncopation means emphasizing irregular parts of the beat. 8th note grooves featuring the bass and snare on the & of the beats is a form of syncopation, however you can add more syncopation by placing a bass or snare drum on the e or the a.
We will start this drum lesson with a simple groove. The bass drum acts as a kind of pick-up to the snare, pushing the music forward. Try it with the bass drum on any of the ‘a’s
Naturally, you can add 16th notes with the snare drum. Be careful when you start doing this. Due to how prominent the sound of the snare drum is, you might end up stepping on other band member’s toes. Be careful of your volume on each part of the drumkit.
Another useful technique that you will commonly hear in funk is backbeat displacement. While the snare normally falls on 2 & 4, forming a backbeat, what we are going to do is relocate one of the snare hits to a different part of the beat. You can use this to create tension and release it. By playing a displaced pattern first and following it up with a normal backbeat, you are disrupting the audience’s expectation, and then meeting it shortly afterwards. In the following example we are displacing the snare that is normally on 4 to the & of 4. The key is that you are not adding a snare to the &, but moving the one that is already there. Feel free to displace the snare to other parts of the beat as well.
In the last example of this drum lesson, we will get busier with the snare and bass drum 16th notes. When you can freely mix in 16th notes like this, it provides a very useful option for creating rhythms. You can align your hits with melodies or basslines or create a form of rhythmic counterpoint.
This is the only the beginning of playing funk drums. Modern funk drummers have combined solid grooves with New Orleans second-line drumming and jazz-fusion sounds to create an all new style that is both technically demanding and groovy.
Elite Music Academy offers drum lessons for funk. If you live in Toronto, you can take a trial music lesson to meet one of our teachers. Call 416-406-5355.