Introducing "Pattern Control"-- a system for gaining mastery of new drumming ideas

drum set on stage in sepia

Pattern Control for Drum Set: Exercises on PDF

Now, you can learn any drumming idea you can imagine, no matter how crazy it is, and understand–very quickly–how it can be used in your playing. Welcome to “Pattern Control for Drum Set”

A large amount of musical vocabulary is created through the use of patterns. Much of the time, a great pattern is discovered by listening to our favorite musicians. Many of the best musicians have certain phrases or patterns that they use over and over again, sometimes in many different ways. Steve Gadd and Philly Joe Jones come to mind as drummers who do this very well.

Once I find a pattern that I think sounds great, I want to use it a lot, so I try to figure out different ways to play it. I realized that the following two methods will yield endless possibilities to use a pattern you like: 1) rotating a pattern through different rhythmic metrics and 2) orchestrating a pattern on different sound sources on the drumset.

For example, let’s take one of my favorites: R (Right Hand) L (Left Hand) F (Foot/bass drum). It’s a three note pattern, and I use it as eighth notes, triplets, sixteenth notes, sixteenth note triplets and thirty-second notes. We’ll explore the concept of Pattern Control using RLF as 16th notes below.

Part of the power of the concept of using these patterns is that altering the rhythmic metric or the sound source will create ideas that sound radically different from one another.

Now, here’s the powerful part: you really are only using one single idea that you’ve mastered, and that you know sounds great. Once you can play the pattern and recognize it as one that you like, you can go to town with the variations, and it is really not that difficult to do so. But to the listener, you are playing things that sound completely different. So, the perception is that the vocabulary is different, but the source is a single idea or germ. That is efficiency. And I like that.

OK. That Sounds Good. But How?

The trick in controlling the pattern is in understanding how it works in the different metrics and then picking the parts of the pattern that work best for you, given how you intend to use it. If I’ve just confused you, don’t worry, we’re going to look at an example to clarify.

Using the RLF pattern as sixteenths notes takes a minute to grasp because you are using a three note pattern in an even numbered rhythm. This is where you have to figure out how the pattern “plays out” in the chosen rhythm.

In order to understand how RLF works as 16th notes, you simply must write the pattern out and see how it resolves back to “One.” I refer to this sequence as “The Key,” as it unlocks the mystery of the use of the pattern, and allows me to extract the pieces I need to use as I see fit.

Look at the illustration labeled “The Key to RLF as 16ths” and you’ll probably see what I mean.

the Key to RLF as 16th

It’s easy to see that if, for example, I wanted to play a one measure fill fill using RLF as 16ths, the second measure in the illustration might be one of the best ways to do so. It would be easy to get out of the fill and back to “one” because of the two notes with the hands at the end of the measure.

Here are the Exercises on PDF

I hope that I’ve made this Pattern Control concept clear. It can work for any pattern that you like; simply pick one, and pick one rhythmic metric, and write your own “Key.” Then, extract the parts you like and have at it. Below are several examples of patterns that I’ve experimented with to get you started. 

Just click on the bolded red titles to open the PDF.



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