Response: Rick Beato’s “TOP 20 DRUM GROOVES OF ALL TIME”

Posted on October 3, 2021

Sorry I missed last week. I don’t really have anything to blame, other than my motivation for taking a nosedive toward the end of last week. I didn’t really have anything else to write about, but I sincerely wanted to talk about this video… and yet, I just didn’t feel like writing about anything at all last week. I think next Sunday I’ll share some of my struggles with keeping the site updated, but in the meantime, let’s carry on.

A few months ago, Rick Beato shared a video called “Top 20 Drum Grooves”. I’ve talked about one of Rick’s drum videos already, and he has a few more from a while back that I eventually want to talk about. For this one at least I can be somewhat timely.

So what do we consider a drum groove? Well, there are two answers. Firstly, “groove” can mean the specific pattern a drummer plays to drive the song. This is also sometimes referred to as a “beat”, but nowadays drummers use the term groove since beat already has a musical definition (the pulse of the song). I think regard, a good groove would sound inventive or unique in some way

However, “groove” can also mean the vibe of the song; the particular timing of the musicians. This is a trickier thing to talk about, as it’s often subjective and abstract. You can look at a creative drum set orchestration on paper and see why it’s cool, but you can’t really do that with the feel of a song.

Rick takes both definitions into consideration for this list. I also think Rick had to avoid some overlap between songs on this list and songs from his “Drum Intros” video. Moreover, I reckon Rick tries to let a drummer show up only once if he can help it.

So, with all that being said, bombs away:

20. “Back In Black” — Phil Rudd with AD/DC (Back In Black, 1980)

Welp. Not off to a good start if you ask me! I hate to say it, but there’s really nothing inventive or interesting about this groove and/or how it’s played. I think a lot of drummers insist Phil Rudd has a good sense of groove, but I have to wonder if drummers are just trying to justify Phil’s success. AC/DC hasn’t sold millions of records because of Phil Rudd. AC/DC sold millions of records despite him.

19. “Green Onions” — Al Jackson Jr. with Booker T. and the M.G.’s (Green Onions, 1962)

You see how things work: on paper, this is more or less the same groove from “Back and Back”, and yet it’s played with some real feel and it fits the song much better.

18. “The Root” — Questlove with D’Angelo (Voodoo, 2000)

A bit of a deep cut, but this groove seems pretty influential — songs like this may be responsible for the weird trend of contemporary music that tries way too hard to be groovy, usually with drummers that slouch their shoulders, purse their lips, and insists on drumming with EarPods. Ahem. Sorry, that got specific. Anyway, this is how you do it.

17. “In Bloom” — Dave Grohl with Nirvana (Nevermind, 1991)

Obligatory grunge. I guess it was this or “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. I dig the tom hits — this tune is a good example of blurring the line between fills and grooves, and this approach can lead to some inventive playing.

16. “Eulogy” — Danny Carey with Tool (Ænima, 1996)

I’ve tried my darnedest to enjoy TOOL, but… I just don’t know. This is some ambitious songwriting for sure, and this groove has what I would actually describe as a polymeter (the hi–hat in 3/4 or 6/8, while the rest of the pattern is in 4/4), so that’s something.

15. “Chameleon” — Harvey Mason with Herbie Hancock (Headhunters, 1973)

There’s funk, and then there’s funk. This is more of the abstract idea of groove rather than the specific pattern the drummer plays. In fact, I sometimes feel like Mason’s drumming is a little clunky on this track. Still a positively bitchin’ song

14. “Walking on the Moon” — Stewart Copeland with the Police (Reggatta de Blanc, 1979)

This one’s alright, but it’s nothing spectacular. I do like the intricate hi–hat stuff first heard around the 1:00 mark, but that part isn’t in Rick’s video. Like the Questlove entry, the influence of that kind of stuff is enjoying the spotlight these days.

13. “Cold Shot” — Chris Layton with Stevie Ray Vaughn (Couldn’t Stand the Weather, 1984)

This is a good example of something that’s invariably known as a “Double Shuffle” or the “Texas Double Shuffle”. It’s a ubiquitous and essential pattern, but I wonder why this particular track was chosen. Whatever, it’s good.

12. “Come Together” — Ringo Starr with the Beatles (Abbey Road, 1969)

Pretty hard to understate the impact of this song, both in the pattern, the way it’s played, and the sound of the kit. Good inclusion.

11. “Manic Depression” — Mitch Mitchell with the Jimi Hendrix Experience (Are You Experienced, 1967)

Very interesting track. “Fire” would be another good choice for Mitch, and I think it’s the better overall song, but “Manic Depression” is very adventurous for a pop–rock song.

10. “Hot for Teacher” — Alex Van Halen with Van Halen (MCMLXXXIV, 1984)

In my previous post regarding Rick Beato, I said that the main groove for this song was much more interesting than the famous drum intro. I still don’t think that means it should be on a list like this one! I guess there’s something to be said for coming up with a double kick shuffle. It’s well–played no doubt.

9. “Use Me” — James Gadson with Bill Withers (Still Bill, 1972)

Now we have a bit of R&B. The off–beat barks at the end of the second measure are pretty neat. In fact, there are a lot of subtleties in Gadson’s playing on this.

8. “Oakland Stroke” — David Garibaldi with Tower of Power (Back To Oakland, 1974)

Now we’re talking. I appreciate Rick for including this one. I regard “Oakland Stroke” as having one of the most challenging drum grooves of all time.

7. “Seven Days” — Vinnie Colaiuta with Sting (Ten Summoner’s Tales, 1993)

I think the overall riff is the more interesting part of this song, so I guess this is another philosophical groove. I think the flairs and changeups are what make the drum part; the time–keeping pattern is pretty routine.

6. “Late in the Evening” — Steve Gadd with Paul Simon (One-Trick Pony, 1980)

It was either this or “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”, which I’m guessing Rick avoiding since it’s in his “Drum intros” video. “50 Ways” is probably the better groove, but nonetheless many drummers were first introduced to the Mozambique groove through the song. Obviously,

5. “Cissy Strut” — Ziggaboo Modeliste with the Meters (The Meters, 1969)

This is the kind of groove that is both interesting in its composition, as well as how it’s played: Ziggy gives this groove a very interesting lope, and many of the hi–hat notes feel slightly behind the beat. Unfortunately, Rick’s drummer misses the snare ghost notes in the video.

4. “Cold Sweat” — Clyde Stubblefield with James Brown (Cold Sweat, 1967)

What can I even say about this one? Two thumbs up.

3. “Rosanna” — Jeff Poraco with Toto (Toto IV, 1982)

2. “Fool in the Rain” — John Bonham with Led Zeppelin (In Through the Out Door, 1979)

1. “Home at Last” — Bernard Purdie with Steely Dan (Aja, 1977)

I’m gonna talk about all three of the final songs together since I don’t really have anything to say about them individually, and it’s tough to think of one song without thinking of the other two. I’m not very surprised about how this list ended, even though half–time shuffles have become a bit of a punchline for good grooves.

In fact, I’m not sure any drummer nowadays can play a Purdie Shuffle without sounding pastiche. I’m not sure what kind of legacy that is. As another example, I am perpetually irked by all the drummers who hear “Grapevine Fires” as a typically Purdie Shuffle instead of McGerr’s approach with the hi–hat pedal. But the grooves still sound killer; there’s no denying it.

What’s Missing:

I guess we’ll start on the classic rock side of things. Cream’s “White Room” has a nice, heavy beat to it. Some people in the comments were clamoring for “Break on Through” by the Doors, but I’d say that “Peace Frog” has the more interesting playing. And of course, there’s the deceased Charlie Watts — I think my favorite is “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”.

On the funk side of things, some people thought “Superstition” was missing, but I haven’t been too impressed with it, in all honesty. Rick has also talked about it in past videos. I think Rick otherwise hit all of the real famous funk drummers (save for Omar Hakim and Rick Marotta).

Both Steve Gadd and David Garibaldi made the list, but their funk sambas on “Aja” and “Squib Cakes” (respectively) are very unique and inventive and deserve more attention from drummers.

To get more contemporary, I’m a big fan of Jason McGerr’s aforementioned playing with Death Cab. I’ve already talked about “Grapevine Fires” and “The New Year”, but some other favorites of mine include “What Sarah Said”, “Cath…” and “Summer Years”, all of which I plan to talk about sooner or later.

Another modern maestro is Travis Barker; “Adam’s Song” is pretty famous, but my overall favorite is probably “Feeling This”.

Continuing to stay hip, the finale to Chon’s “Story” is pretty wild. “Inner Assassins” by Animals as Leaders is quite slinky, while the groove for the main riff on Plini’s “Impulse Voices” is something else.

There’s not a lot of heavy metal on the list. I think the unholiest blast beat of them all has to come from Gene Hoglan on Dethklok’s “Laser Cannon Deth Sentence”.

There’s also no jazz. This isn’t surprising, as there aren’t many famous jazz grooves, and comping is typically improvised. “Take Five” has a pretty solid pattern, while Art Blakey’s “Moanin’” has a good sense of groove, abstractly. People tend to say such a song “swings hard” more so than it “grooves”.

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