The classic country train beat is a drum groove that can date itself all the way back to the roots of country music. When the first snare drum was allowed on the stage at the Grand Ole Opry, variations on train beats were played. Since then, drum sets have gotten larger, and songs and genres have changed, but train beats have stood the test of time. This groove is now a staple in the country genre and one every working drummer should have a confident grasp on.
“High Tone Woman”
If I had to pick one song to learn a train beat the right way, this would be it. Eddie Bayers plays wonderfully and gives a clinic on rock-solid country drumming. Pay close attention to how he never steps on the vocals and supports the auxiliary instruments throughout.
“Forever and Ever, Amen”
This is a great example of playing a train beat with brushes. With brushes, the hi-hat takes a more dominant role and accent control becomes even more valuable.
“One More Last Chance”
This track features a classic version of the train beat: sticks with a medium-low tuned snare. This is another great example of playing around the vocals and supporting the melody.
“Your One and Only”
McBride and The Ride
McBride and The Ride take a little more of a rock approach to this train beat variation. The chorus is a full train beat, with the verses going back to a cross-stick, two-beat section. This really allows the train beat to shine on the chorus and bring the energy up. An Eddie Bayers trick happens on the turnarounds where quarter notes are added on the ride cymbal.
“Pick It Apart”
The New Nashville Cats
This is a fun one. Coming in at a blazing 360 bpm, Paul Leim really drives the bus hard with this train beat! This song serves as a great test in dynamic control, relaxation, and maintaining tempo.
The New Nashville Cats
Sonically, this is a very cool variation on a classic train beat. To my ear it sounds like some sort of Hot Rod or wood bundle stick was used. This gives a nice attack and lets the accents sit on top of what is a very dense mix with multiple unison lines and solo sections.
“Oh Me, Oh My, Sweet Baby”
This track is another classic train beat and a great example of not stepping on the vocals and working in between the vocal phrasing. This song also uses the rim as another sonic source for the train beat.
“Close to The Edge”
This Diamond Rio track is a solid train beat from beginning to end without much variation. On the recording/mixing side of things, it sounds like they overdubbed a brush train beat on top of one with sticks. This adds a lot of depth to the beat and a certain consistency that works almost like a shaker track.
“Train of Memories”
This is a perfect example of playing a train beat over a dense vocal passage with harmony. The drums never get in the way, but are playing slight fills and variations almost every four bars.
“Love Is Burnin’”
Ricky Van Shelton
Van Shelton’s tune takes a more rockabilly approach to the train beat with very rhythmic guitars and upright bass supporting the accents on beats 2 and 4.
“Mud on the Tires”
This is a modern take on the classic train beat. With half-time verses and a sort of double-time chorus feel, the train beat really drives the song along. This is also an excellent example of layering shakers and tambourines to help bring out the subdivisions and add weight to the backbeat.
Christian Dorn is a professional drummer and recording/mixing engineer based in Dallas, Texas. He plays drums for Texas legends Eleven Hundred Springs, and is an in-demand session drummer at studios all over Texas. In 2018, Christian was voted the “Drummer of the Year” by the Texas Country Music Association. He is a graduate of the University of North Texas, works frequently as an educator and clinician, and is a member of the PAS Drumset Committee.