I KNOW YOU can't wait to start beating the promised rhythm out on your gleaming new (or rusty old) drums, so go ahead and set them up, ("Can I really? Gosh thanks!") Play around with all the stands to see how each one extends and retracts and, if your gear is flash enough, angles. Park yourself on the stool, with the snare loosely between your knees. (From here on, I'll imagine everyone's right-handed, so you left-handers, provenly the most creative section of the population, please forgive me and do the opposite of everything.)
Put the hi-hat to your left, where your foot can easily reach the pedal. Set the bottom cymbal between six and 12 inches higher than the level of the top of the snare drum. Then thread on the top cymbal, with its screw released, 'til it sits on the bottom one. Now push the pedal down between ½" and 1", and tighten the screw. Hey presto! You can now open and close the hi-hat cymbals. Practise playing with your right stick on the hi-hat in the closed position, and quickly shut it again. It should make a nice, choked "tsss" sound. You can vary both the distance between the cymbals as you hit them and the time between hitting them and closing them - experiment until you get the sound you like.
Same goes for the bass drum: put it where your right foot can comfortably reach the pedal. Think of the pedal beater like a stick. It is sprung so that, when you hit it, it should flip back again to the playing position. If you hold the beater against the drum skin, it'll dull the impact of the beat, so let it come straight off. Make sure the drum skin isn't too loose (or too tight for that matter - you're after a thud, not a "bong"), and that your padding (an old pillow will do) inside the drum is well below the spot where the beater hits the skin. If necessary, adjust the springing and the length of the beater until you get a good response from the pedal, so it's not too hard to play but still returns smartly.
Now to your first rhythm - the basis of most pop, rock and soul beats. Play regular, slow, single beats with the right hand on the closed hi-hat. Slightly accent the first of each four (ie. hit it a little bit harder).
Now play the bass drum on each of these accented beats - that is, at the beginning of each "bar" of four beats. Practise this until you're completely happy with it. Then introduce a snare beat on the third beat of each bar of four. You'll have to slow right down to achieve this, and even then it'll take a lot of concentration to co-ordinate it. It depends on slow, careful repetition, but you'll get there. Try to match the force of the bass beat with that of the snare beat. The notation is shown in Diagram S which, you must admit, is quite easy to follow.
Once you've mastered this, and made it sound smooth and rhythmical, there are three variations you can try. First, play the bass drum on the fourth beat as well as the first that is to say on the "up" beat. This makes for a more continuous feel to the rhythm connecting one bar to the next and is shown in Diagram T.
Second, use the "choke" effect on the hi-hat in a similar way to the extra bass drum beat - ie. open it on the fourth beat and close it on the first. (This'll need some careful practice, too.) This effect doesn't bear too much repetition, so only put it in every four bars at most.
Third, stress the beginning of each "phrase" of eight or 16 bars by hitting your crash cymbal (use the tip of the stick - no point beating it senseless) on the first beat of the bar, returning next beat to the hi-hat.
Clearly, these variations can be combined according to taste, but I can't stress enough the importance of getting the feel of the bare rhythm right. Try to make sure your rhythm is danceable, and remember that nothing gets in the way of a dance beat like unnecessary complication. Make sure the variations add to the danceability of your playing. Next month, we'll try tackling the mysterious phenomenon they call "the paradiddle".
Do It Yourself
Feature by Trevor Parsons
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