Most drummers, when they first start, regard the Tom-Toms as the part of the kit to use when playing a drum fill.
Although this is true, the Toms can be used to create interesting and fun drum beats, as well as drum fills. The Toms add an extra dimension of possibility within drum grooves and can turn a standard drum beat into a new and fresh sounding idea!
There are no rules in drumming when it comes to creating drum beats. The Toms can be placed anywhere within the groove and can even replace the Snare back beat if required.
This lesson will look at using the High or Low Tom within a drum beat. The Toms might replace the Snare drum altogether or be used either side of the backbeat. Hopefully you’ll see how the Toms can be used as either a replacement for the Snare drum or as an embellishment around it.
Most modern drummers tend to use just the two Toms on their drum kits (including myself) so these grooves only use the High or Low Tom. Remember that its not the choice of Tom that’s important here but where its placed within the groove, so feel free to try different Toms or include a Medium Tom if you have it.
This lesson has been split into two sections. The first is about Tom-Tom groove ideas that use the right hand on the Hi-Hat and the second section is about using the right hand on the Low Tom.
Hi-Hat Based Tom-Tom Beats
Each drum beat for this section includes one bar with eighth notes on the Hi-Hat (first bar) and the same drum beat but with quarter notes on the Hi-Hat (second bar). The idea is not to play both bars together (although that is useful) but to be able to play each bar, on its own, comfortably and up to a satisfactory tempo.
You will most likely find the quarter note based beats (second bar) much harder due to having to maintain a steady quarter note pulse with the right hand while having Toms and Snares fall in between and at the same time as the right hand. Be careful not to let the right hand pulse be affected while playing these quarter note beats.
Some of these drum beats will have slightly syncopated Snare patterns or Toms played on upbeats. Look out for these beats as its very easy to get confused and play the wrong rhythm when a groove does not contain a steady Snare backbeat on Beats 2 and 4.
The left hand will be moving around the drums while the right hand remains on the Hi-Hat. For most of the drum beats, the left hand will have to cross under the right hand to get to the relevant Tom-Tom. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem, simply slide the left arm under the right without having to move the right arm too much.
All of these beats can of course be played on the Ride cymbal for ease of access to the Toms. I recommend you practice both with the Hi-Hat and Ride cymbal as this will get you used to both and will give you more options.
Drum Beat 1
Drum Beat 2
Drum Beat 3
Drum Beat 4
Drum Beat 5
Drum Beat 6
Drum Beat 7
Drum Beat 8
Drum Beat 9
Drum Beat 10
Drum Beat 11
Drum Beat 12
Drum Beat 13
Low Tom Based Tom-Tom Beats (Tribal)
Another cool technique the drummer can use when creating a drum beat is to “ride” on the Floor Tom (Low Tom) with the right hand instead of the Hi-Hat/Ride cymbal. This creates a tribal sounding and more rocky groove because of the steady flow of Tom Tom notes layered underneath the backbeat and Bass drum pattern.
Any Tom can be used instead of the Low Tom but most drummers tend to choose this drum to ride on, one of the reasons being that it allows the left hand to move around the rest of the drum kit freely.
The following grooves may look confusing on paper but really aren’t once you’ve worked out what limb is playing what. The right hand is playing all of the Low Tom eighth notes while the left hand plays everything else. When reading these exercises you can simply look out for the notes above and below the Low Tom as these are the variations between each of the bars.
Using the Low Tom in these kind of drum beats can be really powerful, both sonically and emotionally. They really do sound big and bombastic and can be used in many different musical styles to add excitement or power to a section of a song.
Drum Beat 14
Drum Beat 15
Drum Beat 16
Drum Beat 17
Drum Beat 18
Drum Beat 19
Drum Beat 20
Drum Beat 21
Drum Beat 22
Hopefully this lesson has given you a new perspective on the Toms-Toms and their use within drum beats. There are so many possibilities that they couldn’t have all been listed here and so future lessons will be looking at taking these ideas further.
Play around with the Toms and see if you can create your own grooves using them. Just think of them as a substitute for the Snare drum and all kinds of cool ideas will start to emerge.
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