From Steve Gadd on “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” to George Daniel on the 1975’s “The City,” drummers play in a linear fashion to create new and unique drum patterns. Even grooves tapped out on drum machines including “I’m Not Real” by Mac Miller or Run-DMC’s “Sucker MC’s” have funky, linear grooves that makes listeners bob their head. Playing linear drums means that no two parts of the kit are played at the same time, and in this lesson, you will learn a linear groove in a sixteenth-note subdivision.
Although the groove is only one measure long, let’s break it down into two parts. Part 1 is based oﬀ the kick, right, left (or kick, left, right if you play left hand lead) linear pattern. Notice the first time through the pattern your hands are on the hi-hat, then move to the snare for the second time. The last two sixteenth notes are on the hi-hat and kick drum.
Part 2 alternates, first between the kick and hi-hat, then between the snare and hi-hat.
Once you get both patterns down, piece them together. Take it one step further by opening the hi-hat on the & of beat 2, then close it again on beat 3.
Now it’s time to change it up! Experiment by shifting your hands around the kit to change up the groove. Here are just a few examples to get you started:
Now that you have this down, here are a few songs that feature linear drumming. Give them a listen and try to learn the parts.
“50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” —Paul Simon
“The City” —The 1975
“I’m Not Real” —Mac Miller
“Sucker MC’s” —Run DMC
“Sade” —The Sweetest Taboo
“Cissy Strut” (A Section) —The Meters
“RX Queen” —Deftones
“Jack and Diane” (famous drum break) —John Cougar Mellencamp
“Fever” —St. Brendan (this exact groove)
Nick Costa is an educator based out of Philadelphia, a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) candidate, and a member of the PAS Drum Set Committee. He is also an independent drummer, clinician, and drum technician, with both national and international touring experience. Nick’s primary focus as an educator is in drum set, and teaches over 150 students weekly throughout the greater Philadelphia region. He has provided ways to integrate drum set studies into K–12 music curriculum for the School District of Philadelphia, and was a consultant for the Pennsylvania Department of Education as they created and implemented the current state-wide “Modern Band” curriculum. Nick has written and recorded lessons for Modern Drummer magazine, PAS Rhythm! Scene, and is an active session musician engineering and recording drum tracks remotely from his studio. For more information, visit nickcostamusic.com.