Designing the beginner rock and pop drum course was a task that required a lot of planning, as well as trial and error to create something that takes students through all the key aspects of drumming that I feel every drummer should know.
This rationale will explain the theory behind how the this course is designed and what sort of skills students will have developed upon completion of the course.
Why Rock and Pop?
First, let’s clarify that by discussing rock and pop, we’re also including a number of subgenres which fall within this bracket such as hip-hop, R&B, blues, reggae, funk, punk, and so on. There are many reasons that make rock and pop music a brilliant starting point for drum students. Here are some of the most important ones:
- Popularity - Most people listen to some form of rock or pop music on a daily basis and are probably inspired to learn to play the drums by having listened to such music. This was certainly the case for myself; I learned how to play rock and pop music before being immersed in other styles later on in my musical development.
- Simplicity - Rock and pop music is often (though not always) very simple music. One can expect to play a basic rock groove and be able to play along with other musicians or a backing track within weeks, something which simply isn’t the case with other styles of music. Of course, rock and pop music can also be very complex, but the fundamental rhythms are usually simple and easy to follow, which is why rock and pop music is so accessible.
- Broadness - These styles incorporate a huge amount of music from many different eras, so by learning about rock and pop you’ll also be discovering the following styles:
- Drum n’ Bass
You’ll also develop a good understanding of fundamental drum technique and coordination, which will enable you to go on to studying other styles at a later stage such as:
- Orchestral percussion
When you're taking online music lessons, it is tempting to rush through more content than your brain cope with at any given moment.
I recommend that you take this course slowly. I’d advise one lesson each week with a 30-minute practice session each day in between. If you’re unable to do so much practice, then the beauty with lessons through Liberty Park Music is that you can go at your own pace, just increase the time between lessons and fill the time in between with additional content such as reading exercises, transcribing, play-along backing tracks, etc.
Second, play along to music you enjoy. This will develop your sense of time and will show you how the patterns you’re learning can be applied to most rock and pop songs.
By following the following guidelines and course breakdown, you’ll optimise your learning by the end of this course will be ready to take on the intermediate rock and pop course.
The course is designed chronologically, so any material at the start of the course will inevitably be easier than that towards the end. Students would need to complete the course in this way in order to develop the best possible fundamentals, which will be needed to tackle the more difficult material later in this course or in future courses.
Learn with LPM
Module 1: Knowing Your Instrument
The first module in this course is designed to give students some basic knowledge of the drum kit itself. We start by learning which individual instruments make up a drum kit, which are the best manufacturers, which drum configurations suit different musical styles, and how to set up the kit. It’s important that students know a little bit about their instrument before they start playing, and that’s what these lessons do. That being said, for those of you who want to get straight in to playing the drums, you can skip to module 2 (The First Steps) and come back to module 1 at a later stage.
Module 2: The First Steps
This module will teach you two of the most important grooves in the history of the drum kit, one which focuses on quarter note subdivisions, and one that focuses on 8th-note subdivisions. You’ll start to develop the basic 3-way coordination between the bass drum, snare drum, and hi-hats/ride cymbal, which is the foundation for all rock and pop drumming. We’ll then learn how to make your grooves fit in a more musical context by learning about how rock and pop music is phrased, and how as a drummer you can outline the start and ends of those phrases by using the crash cymbal and fills respectively.
One of the most important skills a drummer can develop is a good sense of time, both in the context of playing with a band, but also when playing with a backing track or metronome. For that reason there is a great emphasis on putting everything we learn into practice by playing along to a custom made backing track written and recorded by Liberty Park Music’s very own guitar maestro, Tom Coppin.
You’ll also be introduced to the basics of music theory. We’ll look at time signatures, the staff, note values and rests, rhythm reading, and drum voices. We’ll also begin to discuss the most fundamental concept in rock and pop drumming: backbeat--before finishing with some drum rudiments (the drummers’ answer to scales and arpeggios.)
Module 3: Bass Drum 8ths
One of the most common ways of adding variety and interest into a rock or pop groove is by varying the bass drum, so rather than always playing beat 1 and 3, we add 8th-notes throughout the bar. This module aims to give you a vocabulary of bass drum variations to prevent your groove from sounding stale and too repetitive. Varying the bass drum in this way will enable you to create longer phrases rather than just repeating a 2-beat cycle. We’ll also start learning some more complex fills that incorporate 16th notes rather than just quarter notes and 8th notes.
Module 4: The Left Foot
For most drummers, the non-dominant foot (left for right-handed players or right for left-handed players) is the most neglected of the limbs, especially in rock music. However it does have an important role to play and incorporating it into our playing at this early stage will pay huge dividends in the future.
This module will look at adding the left foot to our grooves in two different ways, first as a time keeping device by playing the hi-hat on every beat of the bar, and secondly to add tonal contrast via the hi-hat pedal. By lifting our left foot off the pedal, we can produce a sizzly open hi-hat, a sound that works brilliantly in certain points of a rock and pop groove.
Module 5: Backbeat Variations, Stylistic Studies
By this time you’ll already have a fair understanding of backbeat (the placement of the snare drum on beat 2 and 4 of each bar), but this module will show you how we can vary this backbeat slightly. We’ll look at how different rock and pop subgenres have subtly different backbeats by learning about rock n’ roll, hip-hop, funk, and soul.
This module will also introduce us to our second time signature, 6/8. We’ll learn how to play a 6/8 ballad, a rhythm which is not only a fantastic and versatile rhythm in it’s own right, but also a great introduction to other triplet-based styles such as jazz and blues.
The module will finish by focusing on some more drum rudiments.
Module 6: 16th-Note Grooves
So far we’ve learned how to incorporate quarter notes and 8th-notes into our grooves, while playing quarters, 8ths, and 16ths in our fills. This module will show us how to further embellish our grooves by adding 16th notes. By doing so in the snare drum we’ll learn how to play some common indie rock and funk grooves. We’ll then learn two grooves which are very similar but have contrasting applications which both incorporate 16th notes in the hi-hat. One is more at home in hip-hop music, while the other is a groove that’s key to both punk rock and disco music.
Module 7: 16th-Note and 8th-Note Bass Drum Independence
In previous modules, our bass drum has very much been led by the right hand (hi-hat or ride). We haven’t yet begun exploring the possibilities of freeing the bass drum and treating it as a more independent voice. This module will do exactly that by incorporating bass drum 16th notes into our grooves, much in the same way we did with the snare drum in the previous module. We’ll also look at how we can play 8th-notes in the bass drum while keeping the right hand playing quarter notes, a concept that feels at home in faster musical styles such as punk.
Module 8: Making it Musical
This module will aim at transforming our playing and studying exactly what separates “good” drumming from “great” drumming. We’ll learn some techniques which drummers use to add depth to their grooves and fills such as:
- Articulation - Adding ghost notes and accents into grooves and fills to add a new layer of interest.
- Dynamics - The drum kit has a greater dynamic range than any other instrument. We can play at a whisper that is barely audible in a large venue, or at a deafening roar which makes people cover their ears. The best drummers incorporate the whole range of dynamics into their playing.
- Band hits - Playing rhythms in unison with the rest of the band to make the music feel more arranged and polished.
We’ll then look at combining what we’ve learned in the previous two modules by playing grooves which incorporate both snare drum and bass drum 16th notes into the same pattern, creating a busy dynamic feeling that’s suitable for rock or funk music.
Remember that music is a language; like any language, it needs to be spoken, heard, and written.
This course was designed with the intention that one should immerse oneself both in the instrument and the music that inspired you in the first place. Remember that when you’re playing drums, you’re playing music!
Don’t lock yourself away at your instrument without ever listening to the actual music which inspired the drumming you’re practicing. You’ll develop a rigid feel and won’t be able to apply what you’ve learned.
If you follow these steps by the end of this course you should already be able to play a wide array of materials. You’ll have developed:
- A good grasp of music theory
- A solid pulse
- The ability to subdivide into quarter notes, 8th notes, and 16th notes.
- The ability to play appropriately in a number of subgenres
- A sense of how music is constructed into beats, bars, phrases, sections, etc.
- A good degree of syncopation in your grooves, incorporating 16th-note bass drums, and snare drums.
Most importantly, you will have developed all the fundamentals you need to tackle the intermediate rock and pop drum course!
About the Author: Brendan Bache
Brendan has been in love with the drum kit since the age of 8. His love for music spans many musical genres but his great passion is the study and performance Latin American music. This interest has led Brendan to study many Latin percussion instruments such as congas and bongos as well applying these rhythms to the drum kit. Brendan is the drum kit teacher at Liberty Park Music. Check out his drum kit courses!