Free Drum Lesson: Beginner Lesson 10 – Basic Syncopated Snare Drum Beats (Offbeat/Upbeat Snare Drum Placement)
Up until now all of our drum beats have had the snare drum backbeat placed on Beats 2 and 4 of the bar. This is fine for most music but occasionally the music requires a drum beat with a bit more syncopation between the bass drum and snare.
This means that the drummer is given the opportunity to inject some excitement and “quirkiness” into their grooves. One of the most popular ways to add a bit of spice is to move the snare drum from Beats 2 and 4 to other Beats within the bar, most commonly the upbeat.
This lesson is going to focus on moving just one snare drum (either Beat 2 or 4) onto an upbeat (the + of the beat). This gives the drum beat its syncopation and edge.
Drum Beats, such as the following examples, can be used in all kinds of music but perhaps most commonly are used in Funk. Though the ability to play syncopated drum beats, specifically moving the snare drum around the bar, can be found in all genres of music.
It’s a technique that will allow you to play wonderful and imaginative drum beats so these exercises are well worth investing some practice time into.
These examples show you just some of the many ways the “feel” of the drum beat can be totally changed into something more interesting and unique, simply by moving the backbeat (snare drum on Beats 2 and 4) within the bar.
Playing/Practising the Exercises
These exercises have been written as two bar examples; both bars are exactly the same apart from the Hi-Hat. The first bar is played with eighth notes on the Hi-Hat and the second bar is played with quarter notes on the Hi-Hat.
Both are going to feel uniquely different to each other. Drummers tend to find the quarter note drum beats the harder of the two as notes are now falling in between the right hand (Hi-Hat).
Take your time with the quarter note drum beats, the snare and bass drum notes must fall exactly between the Hi-Hat. If the upbeat notes are misplaced then the whole drum beat is going to sound disjointed.
Focus on the Hi-Hat part and allow all other notes (snare and bass) to fall where the right hand tells them to. In other words, the Hi-Hat is leading your other limbs in their note placement. If the Hi-Hat part is steady and even then the rest of the drum beat is going to flow and sound great!
It is not necessary for you to play both bars together in one go. To start off with just play each bar on its own until you are able to play it correctly and comfortably. Once you are happy you can then try putting the two bars together into a two bar loop. The ability to change Hi-Hat patterns while maintaining the groove is a great skill to master.
It’s time to get syncopated!
Syncopated Snare Drum Beats
Drum Beat 1
Drum Beat 2
Drum Beat 3
Drum Beat 4
Drum Beat 5
The two snare drum notes either side of Beat 4 give this groove an edge of syncopation but at the same time not pulling too far away from a straight feel either.
Drum Beat 6
Drum Beat 7
Drum Beat 8
Drum Beat 9
Drum Beat 10
Drum Beat 11
Drum Beat 12
This groove is grounded with the use of three bass drum notes on Beats 1, 2 and 3.
Drum Beat 13
Again, the two downbeat bass drum notes help to stabilise this drum beat so that it doesn’t sound too “out there”.
Drum Beat 14
Drum Beat 15
This groove has no snare drum backbeats on Beats 2 or 4. Take your time with this one as it can be a little tricky to hear the first time you play it.
These grooves are just an introduction to playing cool syncopated beats. In later lessons we will be looking at more sophisticated manipulation of the back beat and how it can transform the sound of drum beats.
If you spend some time getting comfortable with these first then we will be able to build on them later.