Two Slick--FAST---Time Playing Licks That You Can Use Right Away.

How To Come Up With Slick Drumming Patterns You Can Actually Use In Your Grooves

Table of Contents

Introduction: Steve Gadd and “Dirty Old Man”

It was somewhere in the mid-eighties when I first heard the type of idea that is the subject of this post. The drummer was Steve Gadd. The album was called NY Connection by Tom Scott, the great saxophonist. The tune was “Dirty Old Man.” On the track, Gadd plays a slick little hi-hat, bass drum and snare drum lick that occupies the space between beats “one” and the “e of two” in the groove. The tempo was around 82 bpm; a perfect speed to use that kind of idea.

So, the bass drum hits beat one, and the snare drum hits the “e” of beat two. That “e” of two is the backbeat. It’s a little bit of a different place to put the backbeat, but this was 70s funk (the track was recorded in the mid-seventies despite the fact that I didn’t hear it until the eighties) and the placement sounds wonderful. It’s a simple, kind-of-classic type of funk idea that Gadd would often play.

But what made it spicy was that the entire space between that bass drum note and snare drum note was infiltrated by 32nd notes! 

Those notes were kind of quiet. But the speed and the subtlety of it and the way it fit right into the groove without disturbing anything—that’s what excited me. In fact, these extra notes just spiced everything up and I’d wager this is a part of Steve’s drumming that generally excited people and still excites listeners to this day.

I’ve spent a lot of time dissecting Steve’s ideas and this one particularly interested me. In fact, understanding what Steve did here and how he did it set the stage for me understanding how to create ideas of my own that excite in that same way.

I’ve used Steve’s way of doing this as a springboard to come up with lots of cool things.

Today, I want to share how you can do this too.

Explaining The Concept With Words And Videos

Below are a couple of videos that will help you understand how the concept works. It’s kind of difficult to put into words. That’s what the videos are for. But let me try to describe it anyway.

Each video teaches a different example of something that I’ve come up with that keeps the groove, but has a bunch of unexpectedly fast subdivisions thrown in. And those faster notes, although crisp and discernable, are low enough in volume, and the main bass drum and snare drum notes that delineate the groove are loud enough that the combination yields that same feeling that Gadd evoked when he played his original pattern on “Dirty Old Man.” 

A run-on sentence for sure, but I think those words capture the concept we’re going for.

Below are the two videos, using my own vocabulary that is undoubtedly inspired by Steve Gadd’s work.

Note that there are no PDFs in this post for you to download. But if you watch the videos, the ideas are fully explained with notation and stickings (in one case) and just the sticking patterns (in the other case). In both videos you’ll be able to walk away from watching them with all the information you’ll need to be able to play the licks taught. 

OK, here are the videos: 

How You Can Apply This Concept To Your Own Playing

You’ll have to go through a little trial and error to find your own ideas that will work using this concept. But consider the following as a mini “framework”: 

  • Pick a subdivision that you want to work with (16th note triplets or 32nd notes are the most likely candidates for the rhythmic structure that will yield good results).
  • Create a pattern in that subdivision that fills up the space between the notes you want to use to delineate the groove. 
  • Use what ever voices you wish, but just know that hi-hat notes and ghosted snare drum notes are “proven” to work.


For example, let’s say you want to use 32nd notes and you want to move from the snare backbeat of beat “4” to the bass drum of the following beat “1.” Just make something up that you like!  As I mentioned, a combination of hi-hat notes and ghosted snare drum notes will usually work. Again, you’ll have to use trial and error to find something that you think sounds good. 

And remember there are not really any rules. The only things to be certain of are that:

  • you think it sounds good and
  • that it maintains the groove.


Give it a try and let me know how it works for you–watching the videos I’ve posted here should give you some ideas.

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