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5 essential drum beats for beginners

Cameron, in Music lessons
Apr 28, 2021 | 2 min read

If you’re just starting out on the drums, it can be hard to know exactly what to practice – especially if you’re learning on your own. As the main timekeeper of the band, it is the drummer’s job to set the tempo, feel, and groove of each song. It is therefore vital that you have a solid repertoire of beats you can pull out of your toolkit at any time. Here are our top 5 drum beats every aspiring drummer should know, as well as example of popular songs that use the same or similar grooves:

  1. Basic backbeat

The backbeat is the foundation of most modern drum grooves, and is often the first beat that most drummers learn. This simple but effective rhythm places the emphasis on beats 2 and 4 via the snare drum, while the kick drum only plays on beats 1 and 3.

This is one of the most common beats in popular music today, so be sure to practice it until you can play it effortlessly. 

Example: Michael Jackson – Billie Jean

  1. Sixteenth-note backbeat

This beat is similar to the previous one, but utilizing sixteenth notes instead of eighth notes on the hi-hat. The most common way of playing this is to alternate between your right and left hands for the hi-hat notes (RLRL). You can also try playing the hi-hat with just your right (or dominant) hand to build your speed.

Example: Ozzy Osbourne – Crazy Train

  1. Disco beat

Another modified backbeat, this essential drum beat places an additional kick drum on the 2 and 4 along with the snare. Layer this beat with flourishes on the hi-hat or cymbals for additional texture.

Example: Daft Punk – Get Lucky

4. Half time beat

This beat is very useful when you have a song that needs space for the other instruments to shine (e.g. during a guitar solo), or to mark a section change without altering the bpm (during a bridge for example). Practice playing a simple backbeat in half time first, and then move on to more complicated rhythms.

Example: Rush – Tom Sawyer

5. Easy Shuffle

The shuffle groove can be a difficult one to master, so here’s a basic beginner’s version to get you started. This beat forms the basis of many iconic shuffle grooves such as the Purdie Shuffle, Rosanna Shuffle, and many more!

Example: Stevie Ray Vaughan – Cold Shot

For more drum content, check out our five tips for improving your metronome practice as a drummer.

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