Basic Drum Beats: The Ultimate Guide

Basic Drum Beats: The Ultimate Guide Basic Drum Beats: The Ultimate Guide

Drum beats make up the foundation of many different styles of music. Rhythm can say a lot about music’s culture and emotion and is often a particular musical style’s defining quality. With so many different styles out there, it can be challenging to find the right kind of drum pattern for what you’re trying to produce.

This list includes some of the most elementary drum beats in modern music (including one that you may not know by name but will more than likely recognize once you hear it). With maybe a couple of exceptions, these drum patterns can be played with some variation, as musical styles sometimes (if not often) break their own rules.

But the beats and their names should give you a sense of what to look for when trying to find the right rhythm and feel for the music you want to create.

Top 10 Most Common Drum Grooves

1) Simple Eighth Note Groove

The simple eighth-note drum groove is the first drum beat most drummers learn.

Knowing how to play a simple eighth-note drum beat is crucial for any drummer. Most of the popular music that we listen to nowadays has drum beats with eighth notes, whether pop, blues, rock, metal, or just about anything else.

In a standard bar of sheet music , you will find four beats. In this groove, the bass drum is played on the first drum beat and the third drum beat of the song. On the second beat and fourth beat, you play the snare.

Start by playing this pattern with only the bass drum and the snare. Once you have this down, it's time to add the hi-hat notes. The hi-hats will use eighth notes, which will hold the entire drum beat together like glue. The hi-hat will be played each time the snare and kick are played, as well as in-between each of those beats.

Let's say you were to count out the kick and snare pattern as "1 2 3 4." For the entire eighth note drum beat with the hi-hat included, you will count it out as "1 & 2 & 3 & 4" to get those extra drum beats in there. Once you feel more comfortable, you can move the eighth notes over to the right.

Check out the video below to see this drum beat in action:

2) Four on the Floor

With the four on the floor drum beat, you're going to play the same thing as the eighth pattern, though instead of only having the bass drum play on the 1 and 3, you will now play it on all four beats (all the quarter notes).

For pop, disco, and funk, the four on the floor drum beat is necessary.

Having this consistent pulse from the bass drum drives the song forward and can be a great way for you to work on your timing.

Check out the video below to see the four on the floor drum beat in action:

3) Simple 16th Note Groove

Once you're comfortable with the eighth notes, it's time to divide the rhythm even further. The 16th note drum beat is one heard in R&B, classic rock, and hip hop. It is a very busy drum beat, to say the least, as you fit double the number of hi-hat notes into every four bars compared to the eighth note drum beat.

This particular drum beat requires quite a bit of stamina, which is why we often recommend starting out by just playing the groove on the hi-hat until you get your muscle memory going.

Check out the video below to see the 16th note drum beat in action:

4) Simple 12/8 Groove

Now we're going to switch up the time signature. Until now, you've been playing in 4/4. In a 4/4 time signature, you have four quarter notes in each measure. In 12/8, which is classified as a compound quadruple, we sub-divide the beats even further. Because there are four beats in each standard measure and our goal is to fit 12 beats into the measure, each of the four beats gets three beats so that we have 12 in each measure altogether.

It might sound confusing, though in practice, it makes total sense.

The 12/8 drum beat is often used in ballads, blues, or slow rock tunes. Drummers often learn to play this drum beat with an element of control and subtlety. They will often either use the ride cymbal or the hi-hat to play the three beats for every bass drum and snare drum hit.

Check out the video below to see the 12/8 drum beat in action:

5) Shuffle

If you've ever listened to blues music, then there is no doubt you've heard this great drum beat. It's the first drum beat that most blues drummers learn. While the pattern for the bass drum and snare are the same as most of the grooves before, you will use a unique cymbal pattern known as a "shuffle" to differentiate it.

The shuffle cymbal pattern makes use of triplets, which are duplets that allow us to play three notes in the span of two quarter notes.

Check out the video below to see the shuffle drum beat in action:

6) Half-Time Shuffle

The half-time shuffle is very similar to the regular shuffle groove, though we play it in half-time! This iconic groove has been popularized by some of the world's greatest drummers, including Phil Collins of Genesis, John Bonham of Led Zeppelin, and Bernard Purdie of Steely Dan.

The idea with this groove is to fill up the spaces between the hi-hat notes with quiet snare drum hits known as "ghost notes."

Check out the video below to see the half-time shuffle drum groove in action:

7) Motown Groove

From the 1960s onward, Motown record label produced some of the best-selling singles and albums in popular music. From Marvin Gaye to the Jackson Five to Stevie Wonder to the Supremes, you're probably familiar with Motown.

Motown's hit factory churned out so many big hits that they even ended up crafting their own drum beat, which was a revamp of the standard eighth note drum beat.

Instead of keeping the snare drum exclusive to the 2 and 4 beats, the Motown drum beat has a snare on all the beats. Similar to the four on the floor drum beat, this unique take on the 8th note drum beat helps to drive the song forward.

Check out the video below to see the Motown drum beat in action:

8) One Drop Reggae Groove

There are thousands of genres these days, though only a few of them have drum beats so unique that they are worth talking about. One of the most influential drum beats around comes from reggae music, and is known as the "one-drop" drum beat.

The great thing about reggae drum beats is that they are typically very easy to play.

In the one-drop reggae groove, you only play the bass drum and snare drum every four beats.

To add a little spice to your one-drop reggae groove, you can use the cross-stick technique every time you hit the snare drum to get a snappy, metallic tone.

Check out the video below to see the one-drop reggae beat in action:

9) Disco Groove

Nothing can get a party going quite like the disco groove. It doesn't even take a great drummer to learn how to play one either!

Disco drum beats use what we call "offbeats," in which the emphasis of the beat is placed on the eighth notes in-between the bass drum and snare drum hits. You will play the kick drum on all the quarter notes and the snare drum on the 2 and 4.

The hi-hat will get eighth notes and will often be opened up on the offbeat ( &'s ) using the foot pedal. Opening and closing the hi-hat is a unique way to add a bit of variety to your drum beats.

Check out the video below to see the disco groove in action:

10) Jazz Ostinato

For the last of our common drum beats, we'll give you something that is a bit more complex. We recommend getting comfortable with the other drum beats first before attempting this one, as it requires more control.

Jazz is a musical genre where players are often free to improvise and show off their chops. When a drummer plays a jass ostinato, they give the rest of the band the ability to play with more freedom.

The jazz ostinato drum beat uses a swing groove and is often played on the ride cymbal. The kick drum plays on every beat, though is often played so softly that it is felt, not necessarily heard. Jazz drummers will often refer to the technique of hitting the kick drum this soft as "feathering."

More often than not, drummers will use the hi-hat to keep time when playing the jazz ostinato by softly stomping on the hi-hat pedal on the 2 and 4. The "chk" sound should feel consistent enough to keep the rest of the band in time.

Once you have the kick drums and the hi-hat notes in place, we will attack the hard part: the snare drum.

In a jazz ostinato groove, the snare drum rhythms can vary. Drummers will often use ghost notes, filling the in-between beats with very soft and quiet snare hits.

Check out the video below for a great example of the jazz ostinato groove:

Additional Drum Patterns

1) Hip Hop Drum Groove (Trap)

This popular beat is the product of a hip-hop style that originated in the American south. It often features deep artificial kick drums with an electronic snare drum and distinctive, intricate cymbal patterns that vary between tuplets and regular notes, lending a tension/release feel to the rhythm.

Because trap lyrics and imagery commonly employ harsh themes, trap drum beats are often aided by very dark and atmospheric production and effects but with clean and clearly articulated staccato notes.

Check out the video below for an excellent example of a trap drum groove played live:

2) Bossa Nova Drum Groove

Latin America (especially Cuba and Brazil) has contributed many challenging yet prominent rhythmic concepts to popular music. One of those concepts is the clave, which basically describes how beats are organized over time. A key characteristic of music that employs clave in its rhythm is a feeling of tension and release, which (by many musicologist’s accounts) has to do with the juxtaposition of quarter notes and triplets. There are several variations of this idea and corresponding musical subcategories that rely heavily on it. For example, here’s a bossa nova rhythm with a 3-2 clave .

Check out the video below to learn how to play the bossa nova drum groove:

3) Samba Drum Groove

The samba drum groove is very energetic and upbeat, though it's not super complicated by any means. The idea with this particular drum beat is that it is easy for people to groove to. In many ways, the samba groove has a very similar sound to the bossa nova.

Most samba drum beats are felt in 2, meaning there are two strong beats in each bar. If we're explaining it in terms of western music, then the time signature would be 2/4 or cut time. Drummers will use the kick drum to accent these main beats and drive the song forward.

You can then use an 8th note pattern for the hi-hats with your hand or an 8th note pattern with your foot to create a backbeat to keep time.

The snare drum is where you really need to pay attention, as you'll typically see samba drummers playing cross-stick with the left hand in order to outline percussion rhythms.  

Check out the video below to see how to play a samba drum beat:

4) Rock/Pop Drum Groove

A staple of modern popular pop and rock with countless variations, this beat is typically measured in common (4/4) time with characteristic onbeats (1 and 3) and backbeats (2 and 4). The rock/pop beat can be played with different subdivisions and at a wide variety of tempos . But for the most part, it’s based on a simple kick drum and snare pattern combined with a straightforward and repetitive cymbal beat.

Check out the video below to see rock/pop drum beats in action:

5) Dubstep Drum Groove

Like the trap beat, dubstep is characterized by tuplets. Except, in this case, the tuplets are mostly left to the other instruments (particularly the wobbly bass synth), while the drum patterns are a bit more regular. Nevertheless, dubstep rhythm is no less intricate and employs just as much (if not more) synthesized drum sounds and effects as other electronic and hip hop derived styles.

Possibly the most notable quality of dubstep beats is the heavy attack on the onbeats and backbeats, which help give it its aggressive sound. The kick drums are typically very heavy sounding.

While the sound of dubstep is often synonymous with programmed electronic drums, it is easy to play these types of songs on live drums.

6) 2-Step (UK Garage) Pattern

2-step is a subcategory of UK garage, a type of electronic dance music that originated in England during the 1990s. What makes 2-step unique is mostly its syncopated bass beat instead of the constant four-on-the-floor pulse of many other dance music types. Although it’s a common-time beat at its core, 2-step is often considered somewhat rhythmically chaotic and unpredictable.

Check out the video below to see drummer Mike Barne taking the 2-Step drum beat into the live realm:

7) Funk Drum Pattern

Funk is a broad category of music encompassing several subcategories (like gogo and boogie) and is often fused with other styles. It originated in the 1960s among several different drummers that were challenging the simple and often confining standard musical conventions of the era.

Funk’s identity is rooted in its rhythm, which alternately emphasizes onbeats and offbeats to constantly shift its foundation in a way that seems designed to get people to dance. It’s often played in half time, and it frequently uses intricate hi-hat or ride patterns to make it even more compelling.

The kick drums and snare drums can also vary pretty heavily in a funk beat.

Funk drumming can be pretty diverse, which is why it is hard to define it as a single beat like the drum beats above.

To learn more about the various drum beats that you hear in funk tracks, check out the video below for 10 must-know, easy-to-play funk drum beats:

8) Ska Drum Pattern

Ska is a very formative style of Jamaican music that (like funk) has been fused with other genres throughout the years. It’s believed to have originated in the 1950s and inspired similar popular styles in the region, such as reggae. The accented offbeats of ska give it its syncopated feel. And although this rhythm has been incorporated in faster sounding, cut-time music (like punk rock) in the latter era of ska, the original variety had a much slower and steadier pace.

To learn more about how to play a ska drum groove, check out the video below:

9) Soca Drum Pattern

The soca beat is similar to the disco beat in its hi-hat syncopation but often features a more intricate bass-snare pattern that makes it busy but still very loopable.

Soca music first started to develop around the 1970s in Trinidad and Tobago and has since become a staple of that country’s music scene. It’s heavily influenced by calypso music (the name ‘soca’ is believed to be a portmanteau of ‘soul’ and ‘calypso’). The beat is interchangeably played with electronic and acoustic drums, typically at a fast but dance-worthy tempo. While it's not the best beat for beginners to learn, you can start playing it very slowly to get familiar with the feel.

The soca drum groove uses a four on the floor kick drum groove and hi-hats that sit on the first three sixteenth notes of every beat before opening on the fourth beat.

To learn more about how to play the soca groove on drums, check out the video below:

10) New Wave Drum Pattern

A frequent drum pattern in many 80s new wave and post-punk songs was likely inspired by the song “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division. It features a pretty straightforward rock beat but with a speedy and repetitive 16th note pattern played on a mostly closed hi-hat. Beyond new wave music, this beat has also popped up in other ‘-wave’ categories (particularly in more electronic styles, like synth wave) over the years. It also had a pretty significant influence on later rock and pop music, with bands like Interpol and Foo Fighters using variations in some of their most popular songs.

To learn how to harness the sounds of new waves drums, check out the video below:

11) Punk/Metal/Grind Drum Pattern

Although much of punk and metal might seem like simple rock music but faster, louder, and more distorted, specific characteristics give these styles their own distinctive rhythmic quality. The d-beat and blast beat are two basic drum patterns that emerged from hardcore punk’s race with metal during the 80s to become the fastest-sounding music in existence.

This ultimately resulted in the rise of grindcore, a style that uses both beats (but especially the blast) almost exclusively. There are plenty of variations of each beat currently in existence, but here’s a basic example of a d-beat followed by a blast beat .

While metal and punk beats can get super complicated, you can check out the video below for a few easy grooves to get you started:

Drum Beat FAQs

How Long Does It Take To Learn Drums?

Becoming proficient at drums will take you anywhere from 10 to 12 months if you are practicing for at least an hour every day. Beyond your regular drumming practice, you should be playing on a drum pad to develop your muscle memory faster.

Can You Learn Drums By Yourself?

If you don't have any tools or resources, trying to learn the drums on your own as a complete beginner can be incredibly tough. We highly recommend getting yourself a teacher when you're starting out. Teachers are there to help beginners develop the right technique when practicing and playing, which will make your playing better in the end.

How Many Drum Beats Are There?

There are infinite drum beats out there. With millions (if not more) sounds in the world, it's hard to keep count of all the drum grooves ever made. Drummers are coming up with new grooves every single day.

How Do Drum Beats Work?

Drummers will play drum grooves on their drums using a combination of right hand, left hand, and foot techniques to create a backbeat for melodies. Drummers will also often repeat the grooves that they play, adding unique fills and strokes to differentiate their beats from standard beats.

How Many Beats Does a Drum Have?

With so many songs out there, there are several different beats you can play, from sixteenth-note rhythms to eighth notes to quarter notes and beyond. When you consider how many pieces there are in a typical drum set, including the kick drum, snare drum, hi-hat, toms, ride cymbal, and crash, it is easy to create unique grooves when playing.

What Is The Most Famous Drum Beat?

The "Funky Drummer" groove by Clyde Stubberfiled is the most popular drum groove of all time. In fact, the song from which it comes has been sampled more than seven million times.

Are Drums Harder to Play Than Guitar?

Guitars and drums are two completely different instruments that are hard to compare in terms of playing difficulty. A beginner drummer will likely find drums far more physically demanding.

When it comes to playing and practicing, it is also difficult for beginners to deal with the sheer size and volume of drums, which is why there are many more musicians who learn guitar rather than drums.

Which Drumming Is The Hardest?

Progressive metal is the least beginner-friendly style of drumming, as it incorporates just about every style of drumming out there. Drummers in the realm of progressive metal have likely spent years mastering their drumming skills and can now use their creativity to create new and interesting grooves.

What Are The Easiest Songs To Play On Drums?

Some of the easiest songs to play on drums include:

  • Seven Nation Army - White Stripes
  • Another One Bites The Dust - Queen
  • Nothing Else Matters - Metallica
  • Let It Be - The Beatles
  • Billie Jean - Michael Jackson
  • Highway to Hell - AC/DC
  • Come as You Are - Nirvana
  • Starlight - Muse

What Are The Hardest Songs To Play On Drums?

Some of the hardest songs to play on drums include:

  • Dance of Eternity - Dream Theater
  • Moby Dick - Led Zeppelin
  • Bleed - Meshuggah
  • Hot For Teacher - Van Halen
  • La Villa Strangiato - Rush
  • 21st Century Schizoid Man - King Crimson
  • Lateralus - Tool
  • Tom Sawyer - Rush

What Do Drummers Call Their Drumsticks?

While drummers will typically just refer to standard drum sticks as "sticks," there are other kinds of sticks out there that get different names, such as beaters, which are drum sticks with a mallet-style head.

What Happens When You Hit a Drum Harder?

When you hit a drum hard, you get the full, loud sound of the drum. Hitting a drum hard and loud can be inspiring, especially for beginners, as it allows for more confidence. Remember, it is essential for a drummer to play with authority and passion, as they hold down the groove of the song.

How Do You Increase the Loudness Of A Drum?

There are a few different ways that you can get louder drum sounds when drumming, including:

  • Playing with larger drum sticks
  • Playing rimshots in the middle of the snare
  • Hitting the middle of the head (snare and toms)
  • Playing the kick pedal heel up

Conclusion - Becoming the Best Drummer You Can Be

Learning standard grooves is essential as a beginner. As you move out of the beginner realm, you can start adding your own creativity and variation to your drum grooves with fills, ghost notes, and more.

We highly recommend that you practice playing these grooves above with sheet music until you are comfortable with drumming on your drum set. Once you have some of these beats, start learning how to play some of your favorite songs. At some point, you can go out and find a band to play with.

Drumming is all about having fun. If you're not having fun, there's no reason to play.

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