Drummer Issue 78 – Groove Vocabulary – Triplet Grooves

TUITION - James Hester

 Groove Vocabulary – Triplet Grooves

James delves into the wonderful world of triplet based grooves…

Following the same principles as when we looked at eighth and sixteenth note grooves, here we will gradually build up our confidence and coordination, so this month the focus is on the basics of triplet patterns and with a great deal of emphasis on consistency, timing and feel. We’ll be increasing the difficulty over the coming months and also using these basic examples, so get these thoroughly under your belt!!

Example 1

This looks a little odd – you haven’t miss read it – it’s just a simple quarter note groove, but I’ve written it this way as I want you to really feel the triplet that you aren’t playing. Counting will help hugely and will help you develop what Billy Ward calls – The Undertow – the counting/ feeling of notes in between the ones you are playing. The value of this example will be very apparent when practiced in the manner outlined at the end of this article.





Example 2

Here’s a 12/8 feel. I’ve written it in 4/4 and eighth note triplets to make it sit with the other examples. Focus on the consistency of the riding hand (on hi hats, ride, cowbell etc) and that the flow is smooth.





Example 3

This is a basic shuffle. A lot of people really struggle with this feel so, again, focus on counting and feeling the missing note and try to slightly accent the quarter note – this really helps it swing and gives it a lilt.






Example 4

This is a basic jazz ride cymbal rhythm and again, can be played on any riding surface. Also try to accent the quarter note once more – it makes it swing. Watch the timing and feel of this one as you’re playing even fewer notes.






Examples 5 and 6

Here you are creating a 3 over 2 polyrhythm by only playing every other partial of the triplet. It’s a great feel and the ability to play this open many doors! As with the other examples, really feel all of the triplet notes, especially the ones you aren’t playing. Examples 5 and 6 are just starting on different beats.










Example 7

All of these ideas can be played with two backbeats in a bar or one (half time) so practice them with both. Here’s Example 2 with a half time feel. The ability to change from two and one backbeats to a bar will open up many feel options, but keeping the rest of the groove the same and not changing anything can be a challenge!!






Practice Ideas

1. The first way I would suggest to practice them is in isolation – that is to say, time spent on each example, with a metronome focusing on the timing, the feel, the coordination etc.

2. Once you can play all of the ideas, it’s time to transition between them (otherwise you’ll be asking the band to stop between the verse and chorus so you can change groove..!) so play each example eight times and move onto the next one. Don’t just play 1 – 6 and stop, go back to the start – this is when you value the first example as it feel much more solid the second time around as you’ve been playing the triplets in the other examples. Do this with two and one backbeats in a bar.

3. Pick an example and switch from two to one backbeat per bar. Focus on how the feel changes.

Next month we will begin to increase our bass drum/snare drum coordination.

Good luck with it!


© James Hester 2008