Free Drum Lesson: Linear, Gospel & Triplet Style Drum Licks & Fills

A lot of drummers today are playing a style of drumming known as Gospel Drumming. This style of drumming evolved from playing along to Gospel Music which first came out of African-American churches in the 1930.

It has since grown and adapted over the years so that it’s influence can be heard in modern Gospel, RnB, Rap and Pop music too.

Gospel drumming, like the style of music, is mostly based around the swung sixteenth note. It involves predominately triplet or swung based rhythms at medium to fast tempos and with a lot of energy. It’s for this reason that this style of drumming has become so popular and exciting amongst drummer today.

Although impossible to classify, I like to think of Gospel drumming licks and fills as playing mostly linear sixteenth note triplets, thirty second notes and hand/bass drum patterns. This seems to be the essence of drumming in this style. I love it.

The most exciting aspect of drumming for me is the linear, hand/foot combination type patterns. There’s something very cool about involving the bass drum in your drum fills as well as playing fast triplet based patterns around the drums. It also turns out that it isn’t that difficult in theory…with a little practice. So, with this in mind, let’s start the lesson.


Basic Linear Hand/Foot Building Blocks

Most of the time Gospel Linear style chops are played through triplets. Because the style of Gospel music is predominately played in a swung or triplet based meter, the sixteenth note triplet subdivision lends itself really well to the style of music. Straight sixteenth notes just don’t sound right as would any other straight meter played in a swung style of music.

So, because our Gospel chops are going to be played through sixteenth note triplets our patterns are going to be based in groups of three and six. These “building blocks” are simply patterns to be learnt and then combined with other blocks to form longer patterns and phrases.

Here are the triplet based linear blocks that are going to be used in this lesson. The suggested stickings for each block is written below each.

1. Three Notes: Two Hands/One Bass

Gospel Linear Triplet Lick

2. Three Notes: One Hand/Two Bass

Gospel Linear Triplet Lick

3. Six Notes: Four Hands/Two Bass

Gospel Linear Triplet Lick

4. Six Notes: Five Hands/One Bass

Gospel Linear Triplet Lick

These happen to be four of my favourite common hand and foot combinations. They’re pretty cool on their own when used as individual drum fills and linear grooves but we want to do more with them.

I am able to play these four patterns at slow and fast tempos with a single bass drum pedal or a double bass drum pedal (depending on the tempo). I have tried to get these patterns to feel as natural as possible so that I am then able to apply the next step; combine them to make more interesting and musical linear patterns.

I recommend you do the same. First learn these four linear patterns (Building Blocks if you like) so that you are able to play them smoothly and at a range of tempos. Once you feel ready you can move onto the next step.


Combined Linear Gospel Style Licks & Fills (Triplet and Thirty Second Notes)

This lesson is only focussing on the above four “building blocks” from which we can combine to make more complicated linear patterns. Saying that though, there are still many possible combinations to play with. This section of the lesson will focus on just a few of these potential combinations. Bare this in mind when trying these out for yourself, the possibilities are endless with these combination ideas.

Gospel Linear Triplet Style Example 1

Gospel Linear Triplet Lick

This drum lick takes linear building blocks 1 and 3 to create a combined Gospel Linear fill idea. You can see that the beats of the bar have been labelled above the music so that the alignment of the groupings can easily be counted.

This particular idea takes a rather cool idea where a pattern of nine is created using a group of six and a group of three. You can see that the first beat and a half of the bar is made up from this group six and three and then again on the next beat and a half. The final beat of the bar is resolved with a simple group of six.

So already you can hopefully see the fun that can be had with combining these simple blocks into more complicated and fun linear style gospel licks. Here, we’ve created groups of nine that move across the beat of the bar creating a very sophisticated rhythmic feel.

Gospel Linear Thirty Second Note Style Example 1

Gospel Linear Triplet Lick

Another rhythmic idea you hear played a lot in RnB/Gospel style drumming are thirty second note linear patterns. These are played at a faster rate than sixteenth note triplets and so can be harder to play more accurately.

Playing thirty second note linear style gospel fills really deserves it’s own lesson but for now I’m going to introduce this concept by using our four building blocks from above and applying them through thirty second notes.

The above linear pattern contains a whole bar of thirty second notes with the same grouping of “Building Blocks” from above. We have two groups of a Six/Three followed by the single group of Six (Blocks 3, 1, 3, 1, 3). Each individual building block has been labelled on the music using a little block bar written above the notes indicating where the block starts and stops.

Interesting Point: You can see that something cool has happened here. A whole bar of sixteenth note triplets takes up exactly three beats of a bar of thirty second notes when transferred over. This means that we have a neat and easily counted single beat (beat 4 in this case) to fill with what ever we want. In this case it’s been filled with a beats worth of thirty second notes.

This is cool because all of our sixteenth note triplet linear licks can be transferred over to thirty second notes with only one beat left over each time. Neat, tidy and easy to remember for future experimentation and jamming.

Gospel Linear Triplet Style Example 2

Gospel Linear Triplet Lick

In this example we’re using the same building blocks but in a different order. Just think how many different combinations could be possible with just these two blocks. This excites me because I only have to learn a few basic linear blocks and then simply combine them to create all the cool patterns I want.

Gospel Linear Thirty Second Note Style Example 2

Gospel Linear Triplet Lick

Again, we can transfer over all of the triplet linear gospel patterns into a thirty second note linear gospel lick. In this example though we’re experimenting with playing different subdivisions within the same bar for the first time.

Beat 4 is filled with six triplet notes made up from two groups of three. This has a cool affect because we have two groups of three played through thirty second notes just before the two groups of three played through sixteenth note triplets. This makes the pattern sound like it’s slowing down as we move into a slower rate of notes. Mixing the subdivisions in this way can create some really cool patterns with the tempo appearing to be pushed and pulled!

Gospel Linear Triplet Style Example 3

Gospel Linear Triplet Lick

This triplet linear gospel chop uses “Building Blocks” 2 and 4 from the beginning of this drum lesson.

Gospel Linear Thirty Second Note Style Example 3

Gospel Linear Triplet Lick

And here we have the same linear pattern through thirty second notes.


Combined Linear Gospel Style Licks & Fills (Triplet, Thirty Second Notes AND Sixteenth Notes)

Now, just because Gospel music tends to be naturally a swung or triplet based music, this does not mean that you don’t get exceptions. Some music is straight and played in a funky style and some swung music benefits from the playing of straight notes (sixteenths and thirty second notes). We also just want to be able to play these patterns, that we’ve practiced so hard, in more places and with more possibilities.

This next part of the lesson will look at playing the triplet based linear blocks with different subdivisions including sixteenth notes.

Gospel Linear Mixed Subdivision Example 1

Gospel Linear Triplet Lick

This is a cool idea using block 1 and playing it through sixteenth notes and triplets. The triplets start on the “+” of beat 2. This one group of three is played three times to fill a whole bar using these subdivisions.

Gospel Linear Mixed Subdivision Example 2

Gospel Linear Triplet Lick

Starting to get a bit more complicated now with all of the possible combinations and note values but still sounds awesome!

Gospel Linear Mixed Subdivision Example 3

Gospel Linear Triplet Lick

This is also a nice idea where the same group of six is played first through sixteenths, then triplets and then thirty second notes creating the affect of the tempo increasing as the note rates increase. Two groups of three thirty second notes resolve the bar starting on the “e” of beat 4.


Tasteful Linear Gospel Style Licks & Fills Within Grooves

Let’s be honest, so far some of the ideas given in this lesson are a little over the top or chop heavy for most music. Not everyone will appreciate you letting rip around the drums with the latest thirty second note linear lick you’ve just learnt. Sometimes less is more and sometimes subtlety is the order of the day.

This next section of the lesson will look at just a few ways these gospel linear drum fills can be used within a drum groove so not to interrupt the flow of music too much while still adding a bit of spice and excitement.

Tasteful Linear Gospel Style Grooves Example 1

Gospel Linear Triplet Lick

This drum groove has a rather tasty triplet linear style idea starting on beat 3 of the bar using block 1 from the beginning of this lesson. The snare drum notes in brackets are ghost notes and should be played quietly so not to get in the way of the accented snare drum notes on beats 2 and 4. Notice how the Hi-Hat’s are still playing on beats 3 and the “+” of beat 3. The Hi-Hat pattern has not been interrupted by the linear lick. Pretty tasty, eh?

Tasteful Linear Gospel Style Grooves Example 2

Gospel Linear Triplet Lick

This is the same idea as the previous except now we have block 3 from the beginning of this lesson instead. I recommend that you play the Hi-Hat and snare drum notes as doubles, that’s RRLL respectively. Again, play the snare drum notes quietly.

Tasteful Linear Gospel Style Grooves Example 3

Gospel Linear Triplet Lick

Some drummers might recognize this groove idea as belonging to the great John Bonham. The lick is known as the “Bonham Broken Bass Drum Triplets (you can view another drum lesson , including a full video lesson, discussing this subject by clicking here). The Hi-Hat is still grooving on the eighth notes keeping the flow moving while adding a little spice underneath.

Tasteful Linear Gospel Style Grooves Example 4

Gospel Linear Triplet Lick

This final example attempts to maintain the back beat on beats 2 and 4 while playing around with notes in between the back beat. All of the patterns are still played single handed (RLRL) but move around the tom toms and back to the snare drum in key places. This is more of a drum fill than a drum groove but one that maintains a strong back beat while also throwing in a few gospel style linear licks.


More Lessons and Related Viewing

You can view more drum lessons and drum videos on subjects related to Gospel licks and fills in a linear style by clicking on the following links. Each will take you to an individual Drums The Word drum lesson or video.


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