If you have just started learning how to play the drums or are considering learning then you may be wondering what beats should be learned first. You’ve come to the right place as we have gathered the top 10 drum beats that you should learn during your drumming career.
From starter beats to more complex backbeats, this list covers an array of beats used in various types of music such as pop, heavy metal, jazz and everything in between.
It’s advised that you learn these beats in the order given in our guide as we start with the most common and easiest beat and gradually work our way to harder beats that require more stamina and skill.
Most importantly, remember that drumming is supposed to be fun and making mistakes is all part of the learning process. If you find yourself struggling or making mistakes, keep going as this will help you to develop your skills and become a great musician in the long run.
Here are the top 10 common drum beats that every drummer should learn:
1. Standard 8th note groove
The most common and popular drum beat is the 8th note groove. It also happens that this is the easiest drum beat to learn which makes it a great starting point for drummers.
Used in a wide range of music such as pop, rock and metal among many others, this drum beat is probably what you listen to the most without even realizing it. The standard 8th note groove is played to the standard bar of music where there are 4 beats.
The low pitched bass drum is played on beats 1 and 3 and then beats 2 and 4 are played with the high pitched snare drum. This helps to create a constant rhythm that is memorable and unique.
Being able to learn how to shift between the drums seamlessly is what makes a good drummer great.
You also want to incorporate the cymbals during the 8th note groove and this is known as the 8th note. This is often referred to as a hi-hat note which is an in between note.
As you are shifting between the different drums, you’ll find that drummers often hit the cymbal in between and this is why there are 8 notes in total despite having a 4 beat rhythm.
2. Four to the floor
A more advanced form of the standard 8th note groove is the four to the floor drum beat. Perfect for pop and disco drumming, this is the perfect beat to learn as it incorporates the bass drum on all four beats rather than just 1 and 3.
The most iconic song played using the four to the floor drum beat is Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” which incorporates the heavy use of bass drum beats with the improvised hi-hat cymbal.
This adds extra funk to the song and brings a personality to the rhythm that wouldn’t be there if a regular 8th note groove was played.
It may sound easier than the previous entry because you are playing the same drum on all four beats, however, this requires more attention to the timing as any slip ups in tempo will be more noticeable.
If you struggle with your tempo then this is a great drum beat to help get you into a consistent groove and rhythm.
The four to the floor beat is so popular because of how much depth and bass it brings to a song and helps to produce a richer sound, even when the cymbal is incorporated into the hi-hat notes.
3. Shuffle groove
Another popular drum beat is the shuffle groove which is another beat that incorporates the bass and snare rhythm but also brings in a unique cymbal pattern which helps to develop the name of the beat.
The cymbal pattern makes up a triplet rhythm which has a bouncing feeling and is often referred to as a shuffle hence the name. As you can guess, triplets are made up of 3 notes but in this case, the triplet is only made up of 2 of the 3 notes.
This is because the shift between these notes creates an extra note from the busyness which makes it a triplet. A brilliant example of the shuffle groove is Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Pride and Joy” which is one of the most famous blues tracks.
A lot of legendary drummers have garnered a reputation for their ability to do a shuffle groove as it takes a lot of stamina and timing skills to do perfectly.
The spontaneous sound of the cymbal pattern makes it ideal for jazz and blues music and helps to incorporate a business that makes the rhythm stand out.
4. 16th note groove
For drummers who are wanting to play hip-hop or R&B then the 16th note groove is the best drum beat for you to learn. An extremely busy drum pattern, this beat contains four hi-hat notes played with every bass and snare beat.
This means that this is one of the most advanced beats that you will come across at the start of your drumming career as it is very tricky and takes time to perfect.
The 16th notes are known as semiquavers and are twice as hard to play than 8th notes. The best way to learn how to do this beat is to listen to videos where it is applied and try to replicate.
As mentioned before, this beat is twice as hard to play than the 8th note groove which is due to the fact that it is twice as fast. To master this beat, you will have to build up your stamina and muscle memory by practicing constantly.
When you are not at your kit then practice using a pad. It’s all about building your speed and stamina to be able to maintain that fast beat without stopping.
5. 12/8 groove
The 12/8 groove is a drum beat that requires a tremendous amount of control as the drum is played loudly and quietly to create a contrast in the rhythm.
Often used to accompany ballas, slower rock tracks and blues, this beat allows the singer and guitar performers to overpower and the drummer’s job is simply to keep time.
3 hi-hats are played for every bass and snare beat meaning that there are 12 8th notes hence the name. Gary Moore is a great artist to listen to as he often incorporated the 12/8 groove in his songs.
Because the 12/8 groove has to be played subtly and softly, drummers sometimes substitute their drumsticks for wire brushes as this can help create a more delicate sound to suit the song better.
This is a great technique to apply if you struggle to play quietly as you’ll be able to perfect this beat easily.
The 12/8 groove may be a slower beat but remember that the amount of control needed takes a lot of concentration as any mishap in the tempo will throw the song off completely.
6. Motown Groove
As a drummer, it’s important to look into the history of drumming so you can better your knowledge and understanding. Not only is it always handy to learn these things, but it can also provide inspiration and help you to develop your skills and approach.
One important time in drumming history is during the 1960s when Motown was at the peak of popularity.
With artists such as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and The Supremes dominating the charts, a new drum beat was formed that was an innovative new take on the 8th note groove that changed the drumming world. This new drum beat is called the Motown Groove.
The Motown Groove differs from the standard 8th note groove as the snare is played to every beat which creates a driving rhythm that provides an upbeat feel.
Simply listen to any Motown track and the beat will become instantly recognizable. Iconic Motown drummer James Gadson helped to revolutionize this drum beat and it is always worth checking out his videos online to see how he approaches his drumming.
7. Half-time groove
For those who want to practice a slower drum beat, this is the one for you. The half-time groove is exactly how it sounds. It is half the speed and is often used for more laid back songs in a variety of rock and pop songs.
The bass and snare drums are only used half the amount of time that they are in your regular 8th note groove which means that you can play at a slower and relaxed pace. This is a great beat to learn for those who want to practice their control and tempo as it requires a lot of concentration.
The half-time groove is important to learn because it has been used in a wide variety of music from rock to pop to heavy metal and is often used in combination with other beats.
You’ll find that the best drummers in history dedicate a lot of time to mastering the half-time groove as it opens the doors to learning more complex drum beats such as the half-time shuffle which we will get to later in this list.
8. Disco groove
For those who want to learn disco drumming then the Disco Groove is the one for you. The Disco Groove differs from other beats as they put their emphasis on the 8th notes rather than the actual beats.
What this does is subvert the drumming expectations and change the entire vibe of the song. It is because of this topsy turvy approach that has given this technique the name ‘offbeat’.
Drummers often have the hi-hat cymbal open on the offbeat so it can be difficult to learn as it is as if you are doing everything backwards.
Having the hi-hat cymbals open helps to create a fuller and brighter sound which is why disco is often filled with richness and depth.
By opening and closing the hi-hat throughout, you are adding variety to the rhythm and therefore meaning that the listener is going to pay attention to the drum beat.
9. Jazz Ostinato
One of the most complex drum beats that every jazz drummer should learn is the jazz ostinato. This is a swing rhythm that allows you to improvise. Often played on the ride cymbal, there is a soft bass drum on each beat which is played quietly so it is felt rather than heard.
The main sound should come from the cymbal rather than the drum, giving it a spontaneous quality. The hi-hat pedal is also pressed on beats 2 and 4 which creates a ringing sound to keep the timing consistent.
The jazz ostinato requires the drummer to use the feathering technique which is when the bass drum is played extremely softly and this can take some time to master.
What makes this a difficult drum beat to master is that there is a lot of multitasking as a lot of the drums and cymbals are utilized. It also requires the drummer to think on their feet as there is plenty of leeway to improvise and lead the band rather than the other way round.
One of the best examples you could listen to for preparation is Miles Davis’ iconic track ‘So What’ which has influenced many jass musicians throughout the years.
10. Half-time Shuffle
The half-time shuffle is the last drum beat on our list and is also the most difficult. Applied by many famous drummers such as John Bonham, Phil Collins and Bernard Purdie, this drum beat takes its name from the shuffle and half-time feel which gives it the name.
This beat is unique as the space between hi-hat notes are filled with quiet snare drum beats which are referred to as ghost notes.
Before you practice, have a listen to the masters at play and really pay attention to the ghost notes in between the beats. This will help when it comes to your practice as you can try to replicate it.
What makes this such a popular beat is how nuanced and controlled it is. Bringing more depth to the drum beats, the half-time shuffle creates a rich sound that requires a lot of practice to master.
It is advised that you learn all of the previous beats before attempting this one as you need to build up your muscle memory and stamina to get the dynamics and tempo right.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the most famous drum beat?
The most famous drum beat in the world is Clyde Stubblefield’s “Funky Drummer” which has been sampled over 7 million times.
Who is the richest drummer in the world?
It may come as no surprise to learn that the richest drummer in the world is Ringo Starr. Thanks to his time drumming for The Beatles, one of the most famous bands in music history, Starr has accumulated a massive fortune and is now worth a staggering $350 million.
Can you lose weight by drumming?
Believe it or not, you can actually lose weight by drumming. Despite remaining seated, drumming can help you to burn calories as well as assist in building muscle and get your heart pumping.
An hour of drumming can burn more calories than running, aerobics or weight lifting making it incredibly beneficial to your health.
Drumming has now become more accessible than ever thanks to the internet which contains a host of free and paid tutorials on websites such as YouTube.
Even if you are unsure whether drumming is for you, you can get started by tapping on a pad to see if it is right for you and whether you want to commit to the instrument. The best thing to do is to at least give drumming a try rather than regretting not trying it later.
With many cheap and free resources available at your fingertips, you would be foolish not to. Remember to have fun and good luck!