What I’m Practicing: Summer ’23 Edition

Posted on July 31, 2023

 what im practicing summer 23

We’re in the dog days of summer now, so I want to share the next installment of my “What I’m Practicing” series. Only a couple of these chops are currently subject to extensive woodshedding; a couple of others I know inside and out, but I still want to share them since they’re fun ideas. Without further ado: 

5:4 Polyrhythm

This idea has been on my mind since I wrote about Chon’s “Perfect Pillow” at the start of the year. There’s a lick in that song where drummer Brian Evans plays quarter notes on the ride ad quarter note triplets on the snare, giving the 3/4 time an interesting lope. 

I really started getting interested in playing “incomplete” polyrhythms, and I’ve been having great fun with five over four polyrhythms.

This is what a five over four polyrhythm looks like in 5/4 time — five hits on the cymbal, four on the snare:

Now, because most music I play is in 4/4, you can make an interesting lick by mashing the polyrhythm into 4/4, cutting out the last notes:

It’s a fun and syncopated changeup, although tempo is a factor — if the tune is not at an appropriate BPM you might derail the song. 

5:4 Polymeter

This lick is built from the “five-adiddle”, a paradiddle with an extra note: RLRRL.

I really like the five-adiddle, and tend to play it as a quintuplet. Last time, I talked about creating polymeters with quintuplets, but this idea is to play the five-adiddle as sixteenth notes:

This is a lot of fun, but it must be used sparingly depending on your bandmates; they might lose track of the beat, a problem you’ll often get blamed for.

Most of the people I play with can handle two measures, with a turnaround to get back into the downbeat. Here’s another idea for a turnaround:

I tend to use this on faster songs — with less time between the beats, it’s harder to lose the pulse of the song.

Offbeat Triplet Solo Motif

While I rarely have the need to play extended drum solos, it’s a good idea to have a few licks in your pocket in case the need arises.

Anyway, a few months ago I was messing around with this rhythm:

I had another lame “ah ha” moment when I realized that, when played as singles, the left–hand plays offbeat triplets:

If you only play the left–hand notes (staying on the snare) with sporadic right–hand hits around the toms, you’ve got a fun little solo motif (I’ve written this in 12/8 to clean things up):

This is probably the one lick that still needs the most practice — keeping the timing true with your left hand is tough. Here’s a practice drill:

Nonuplet Doubles

I enjoy nonuplets quite a bit, typically playing them as RLK. I’ve been wanting to explore more sticking patterns with this subdivision — one of my favorites is to use the six–stroke sticking (RLLRRL), a lick I mastered years ago. It flows very naturally:

Something that doesn’t flow as naturally is playing nonuplets with double strokes:

A couple of problems here. For one, when using singles or the Bonham hand–to–foot triplet, it’s easier to keep track of the beat since both of those approaches emphasize the quarter note triplet. Even my six–stroke sticking gag emphasizes a triplet (the half note triplet).

With doubles, you’ve got double strokes going in between groups of three, making the pulse a bit wonky. Moreover, one measure of nonuplet doubles will start on one hand and end with the other — something that’s unusable for a full measure of doubles.

You could only play one half note worth of doubles, which only works if you don’t want to play a crash afterward:

This could be usable for half–time grooves. 

Here’s a simple check pattern to help master the timing of these:

Nonuplet Diddle Lick:

As I was messing around with nonuplets, trying to make doubles more playable, I cooked up a fun little chop using a puh–duh–duh (RLL) and then a seven–stroke roll (RRLLRR L):

There’s not much else to explain; the timing is the trickiest part. Again, the sticking obfuscates the pulse of the subdivision.

Offbeat Triplet Accents With Drags

We’re starting to get into the licks that I’ve gotten down pat, but have still been on my mind lately.

For shuffle songs, I’ve been enjoying playing drags on the beat, and big accents off the beat, using triplets:

Shouldn’t be too much trouble to learn yourself.

Paradiddle Inversion With Left–Hand Accents

This is my most recent discovery — I was messing around with paradiddles and developed a fun lick. This one using a sticking I’ve heard described as a “rock paradiddle”: RLRR LRRL. You’ve got a stock paradiddle, and then an inverted paradiddle (which is also called a reverse paradiddle, because drummers will be drummers).

The secret to this one is to only play accents on the left–hand notes. If you move your left hand back and forth between two drums, you’ll get an interesting lope. I like to do this with the snare and hi–hat, going out of a groove on the hats:

Things might become easier if you swap the order of the hats and snare: