Did you know that by learning just 6 simple drum beats, you can play almost any rock, pop and country song ever written? Pretty amazing, huh!
These six drum beats are easy to learn, easy to remember, and form the basis for learning any song imaginable. Knowing these beats will allow you to get your first drum audition with a band and jump-start your musical career.
This is the first in a series of blog posts where you’ll learn how to play these 6 powerful drum beats. In this post you’ll learn a little bit about the first 3 beats. In the next post, we’ll quickly cover beats 4-6. Then in 6 future blog posts, you’ll learn how to play each beat by breaking it down, starting with something you already know and gradually adding to it.
I believe that you can become the best drummer possible by constantly learning songs, lots of songs! Listening to music helps you learn from other drummers, what they play and how they work with other musicians. Learning the drum beats and fills played by top drummers on recorded music helps you have a strong foundation on which to build your own style. And playing along with recordings helps you improve your tempo, and gives you a feel for playing with a band.
I’m working on a drum book that includes a list of the best play along songs for drums. As I was researching which songs to include on the list, I was surprised that all the songs I listened to could be played with 6 drum beats. Sure, there are some minor variations, but you can sound good playing all of the most popular rock, pop and country songs in the past 50 years by knowing 6 drum beats.
So what are the most powerful, most important drum beats?
We’ll start with the basic eighth note beat, and then go from super slow to super fast. Then in the next post, we’ll talk about a couple of blues beats and finish with a beat named after the famous guitar player, Bo Diddley.
If you need to refresh your memory about how to read drum music, visit this post: The Key to Reading Drum Music.
1. The Eighth Note Drum Beat
The simplest and easiest drum beat to play is what I call the Eighth Note beat. If you’ve been reading and practicing the lessons on the LearnDrumsNow.com blog, you’ll recognize this as the first drum beat you learned.
This beat is played with eighth notes on the hi-hat and the snare drum on 2 & 4. Quarter notes are played on the bass drum if you want a driving beat or played on 1 & 3 for a more laid-back feel.
What’s great about this beat is that it can be played at many different slow, medium and fast tempos between 70 and 160 bpm. Songs like Viva La Vita by Coldplay, Billie Jean by Michael Jackson and Another Brick In the Wall by Pink Floyd all have this as their basic drum beat.
2. The Super Slow Drum Beat
The slowest drum beat I know is what I call Super Slow.
This beat is played with sixteenth notes on the hi-hat (by the right hand), the bass drum on 1 & 3, and the snare on 2 & 4 (with the left hand). It’s played at tempos from 50 to 80 beats per minute (bpm).
Songs like It’s Been Awhile by Staind, Purple Rain by Prince and Free Bird (the slow part) by Lynyrd Skynyrd can be played using this beat. The 16th notes on the hi-hat help to keep the tempo steady without speeding up (rushing).
3. The Super Fast Drum Beat
Next is the fastest of all the drum beats. Notice how we added notes on the Super Slow beat to keep the tempo from rushing. On the Super Fast beat we leave out notes to keep the tempo from slowing down (dragging).
Play quarter notes on the hi-hat, bass drum on 1 & 3 and snare on 2 & 4. This beat can be played as slow as 130 bpm (Maggie May by Rod Stewart) to 208 (It’s the End of the World by R.E.M.). Songs as diverse as Single Ladies by Beyonce and Forever and Ever, Amen by Randy Travis use this beat.
Next Up: Drum Beats 4 – 6
In this post, we covered the first 3 of the 6 essential drum beats. In the next post, we’ll review beats 4 through 6. For now, you can start working on the first 3 drum beats. Then you’ll have a head start when we break them down in future posts!