Ever since I first heard “100 Mile High City” by Ocean Colour Scene I’ve been in love with this drum groove. Little did I know that this would be the first 1/4 note triplet style groove I would ever learn and that it would appear in multiple tunes later in my playing life, including “No One Knows” by Queens of the Stone Age no less!
When first trying to play along to this song the beginner drummer will probably get lost very quickly when trying to break away from the main groove due to the drum beat and song being written and performed in triplets (or the time signature of 12/8) it doesn’t really matter which you write/count it in as they both sound the same.
This triplet based feel means that the traditional fills and grooves most of us learn in straight 4/4 don’t quite work. It’s simple numbers at the end of the day but can cause all kinds of headaches if not understood. So lets take a look at the first groove now…
“100 Mile High City” Famous Verse/Chorus Drum Beat
As you can see, the time signature is simply 4/4 but is filled with four groups of triplets. Each group of triplets is one Beat of the bar so you can see that Beats 1 and 2 of the bar are the same as Beats 3 and 4 of the bar.
The hands end up playing the triplets single handed (RLRLRL) between the Hi-Hat (right hand) and the Snare Drum (left hand). This flow of RLRLRL is maintained throughout the entire bar and is not interrupted.
The right hand ends up playing 1/4 note triplets on the Hi-Hat due to the fact that it’s playing every other triplet note. In effect, playing a group of 2 (one note on and one note off) through the triplets. It’s because this grouping of two takes two beats of the bar to resolve that it ends up sounding so cool and quirky, and as an effect, quite hard to feel and count.
OK, so now that we understand that the right hand is playing 1/4 note triplets on the Hi-Hat we can look at the Snare Drum. The left hand plays all of the Snare Drum notes in between the right hand. The first Snare Drum note is written in brackets, these are to be played as quietly as possible. If you can’t play this note quietly (as a ghost note) then it’s best to leave it out all together as it will end up making the groove sound wrong.
The next two snare drum notes are played at a normal volume or as rim shots depending on how much you’re getting into the groove. These two Snare Drum notes create the Back Beat of the bar.
The Bass Drum is simply played on the first two Hi-Hat notes of the bar, at the same time as the right hand is played.
Exactly the same drum groove is played in the chorus of the song except Oscar plays all of the right hand notes (1/4 note triplets) on the Bell of the Ride Cymbal, creating that high pitched bell sound that sounds so cool!
Lets now take a look at the Bridge section because it also involves a very similar drum beat…
“100 Mile High City” Famous Bridge Drum Beat (Occurs For First Time 0:37)
This bridge Drum Beat is very similar in execution to the Verse/Chorus groove. The hands are still playing RLRLRL throughout and we’re still in triplets.
The Bass Drum is played in the same place as the bar before except that the Bell of the Ride Cymbal is played at the same time as the Bass Drum instead of the Hi-Hat. This changes to the Crash Cymbal half way through the Bridge. A ghost note (quiet note) is still played in between the right hand as well. Again, leave out all ghost notes if your technique isn’t good enough to play these quietly.
Beats 2 and 4 of the bar involve three notes played on the Snare Drum with the first left hand played quietly (as a ghost note). The second and third Snare Drum note is played loudly and rolls into the next set of two Bell/Crash hits.
This is such a cool and slinky groove to play around with and I guarantee you that once you’ve learnt it you won’t be able to resist sneaking it in during 12/8 or triplet based tunes.
Have fun! 🙂