Syncopation for Hip-Hop Drums

Most hip-hop beats are based on syncopated bass and snare drum patterns. Syncopation is the shifting of accents from where they naturally occur (on the beat) to the offbeat.

Basic Syncopation Examples
To get you started, here are six relatively easy beats with syncopated snare drum rhythms. Keep the hihat steady, and try to avoid slowing down during the more difficult parts.

Example 1
The syncopated snare beat falls on the E after beat 3. This is called a syncopated beat because it falls between the eighth-note hi-hat pattern and not with the hi-hat note.

Example 2
The syncopated snare beat falls on the A before beat 3. When playing these beats, make sure your hihat plays a constant and even eighth-note rhythm and does not follow the snare pattern.

Example 3
The syncopated note comes on the E of beat 1.

Example 4
The syncopated snare falls on the A of beat 4.

Snare Drum Syncopation
The next two examples are syncopated snare beats. When playing these rhythms for the first time, always count the beats aloud (written above each rhythm) as you play. It will help you play each note exactly in the right place.

Example 5
The syncopation falls on the A after beat 2 and on the E after beat 3.

Example 8 Eighth notes are on beats 1 and 3. funky feel.Example 6 The syncopation falls on the E of beat 1 and the A of beat 2. Kit Balance . the bass drum gets busier with more varied patterns. your bass drum pattern should closely follow the notes being played by the bass guitar. In order to achieve this groove. make sure the bass drum beats fall exactly in time with the eighth-note hi-hat pattern to produce a tight. and imagine a line played by the bass guitar. Example 7 Notice the eighth notes on beat 3. or vice versa. The following examples will help you lock in a solid groove. the bass drum has played only a quarter-note pattern. Sing the bass drum pattern. Example 9 This is a good example for getting the bass and drums to work together. Example 10 Next is a similar example to the previous pattern but with a little more actvity. No matter how good the individual musicians may be. When playing these rhythms. Bass and Drum Groove The foundation of any good hip-hop band or record is the rhythm section. Bass Drum Syncopation In the previous six examples. but in the next six syncopated rhythms. which consists of the bass and drums. the band will only be as good as the rhythm section allows. The bass and drums must “lock in” to form a solid groove for the other members to play and sing over.

When playing all these rhythms. it’s important to get the internal balance of the kit right. In the following rhythms. the bass and snare drum should be equal in volume. regardless of whether it’s miked-up. Bass and Snare 2 When playing these rhythms. with the hi-hat pattern. . a little lower in volume. Try to keep the eighth-note hi-hat pattern as even as possible as you go. make sure the syncopated bass drum beats (the E after beat 2) fall between the closed hi-hat beats. Bass and Snare 1 Watch out for the dotted bass drum rhythm on beat 1. you can use the paradiddle as a rhythm pattern. Practice the following examples to get your kit balance right. Example 11 Example 12 Paradiddle 2 If you play some of the right-hand beats of the paradiddle on the bass drum and the left-hand beats on the snare while playing a steady eighth-note closed hi-hat pattern with your right hand. Make sure all the syncopated drum beats fall exactly in between the hi-hat eighth notes. ticking away keeping time.

Bass Drum Techniques for Hip-Hop Drums You may find some of these rhythms hard to play at first (especially the sixteenth-note bass drum patterns). or both. your foot should always remain in contact with the foot plate. But watch out for differences between the first bar and the second in the bass. Never lift your foot off the pedal entirely. with no speeding up or slowing down. but whichever method you use. Remember to keep the rhythm tight across both bars. Some drummers prefer playing with their foot farther back on the foot plate in order to get a faster action. so experiment with different positions until you feel comfortable and in control. Bass Drum 1 Bass Drum 2 Bass Drum 3 Basic Two-Bar Beats Here are two easy ones to start. so try experimenting with the position of your foot on the plate of the pedal. The height at which the beater strikes the drum can make a big difference in your playing. the snare.Bass and Snare 3 This bass drum pattern is a little bit more complex than the previous patterns. Two-Bar Beats 1 .

Notice that the bass pattern remains the same for both bars.Two-Bar Beats 2 Busier Beats Here are two variations on the first two examples. Then pick up speed. Busy Beats 2 In this example. both the bass and snare patterns change in each measure. . Busy Beats 1 Play this example slowly at first.

.Hi-Hat with Foot Having practiced all these rhythms as written. setting the tempo from slow through to fast (80 bpm– 120 bpm). remember to add the hi-hat with the foot on beats 2 and 4 as a variation. try playing the closed hi-hat pattern on the ride cymbal and add the hi-hat (played with your left foot) on beats 2 and 4. Here it happens quickly on the & of beat 3. Hi-Hat with Foot 1 Hi-Hat with Foot 2 Try playing this pattern along with a metronome. Open Hi-Hat 1 When playing these beats. but do not take your foot completely off the pedal. also known as the offbeats. Once you’re comfortable. let the hi-hat foot plate up just enough to produce the open sound.

the open hi-hat occurs on the & of beat 1. . Hi-Hat Variation 2 This example includes two open hi-hat beats in the same bar. try playing the example with a closed hi-hat for three measures. Open Hi-Hat 3 Here. the open hi-hat happens on the & of beat 4. you allow the rhythm to have a more relaxed feel. This will work with all the examples in this section. Hi-Hat Variation 1 The open hi-hat comes right at the end of the second bar but on the E of beat 4. rather than on the &. then add the open hi-hat (as written) for a four-bar pattern. Make sure you get to it on time. These fall on the E after beat 2 and on the E after beat 4.Open Hi-Hat 2 In this example. Hi-Hat Variations By not restriking the closed hi-hat after playing an open hi-hat beat. For additional variations.

The following examples show how to apply Purdie’s technique to a hip-hop drum sound.Phrasing Like Bernard Purdie One of the trademarks of legendary drummer Bernard Purdie is his use of the open hi-hat. Purdie 3 Play the same pattern but add the right hand. try playing the following sixteenth-note bass and hi-hat pattern (right and left feet only) to get the feel of opening and closing the hi-hat on alternate beats to the bass drum. Purdie 2 If you found the open hi-hat beats in bar two difficult. try striking the open hi-hat beats with your left hand. For extra practice. You may find it difficult to count and play this at the same time. so try slowing it down several times to get the sound of the phrase in your head before you practice it at full speed. Purdie 1 Bar two of this example shows a typical Bernard Purdie phrase. . striking the open hi-hat in unison with the bass drum beats.

Swing Beat 2 This example maintains a steadier hi-hat pattern than the previous example. which lightly accent and add to the beats. the hi-hat pattern grooves with the bass and snare. In this example. try to keep the rhythm light and bouncy. . and the bass drum pattern is a little busier. Swing Variations When playing these next beats.

try playing these hi-hat patterns with reverse hands—e. . play the hi-hat with your left hand..g.Syncopated Swing For extra practice. if you are right handed.

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