Welcome to this drum lesson on “Linear” drumming; one of my favourite styles. The Linear style of playing is a very fun and creative way of approaching the drums. Some of my favourite drum grooves and fills are in the Linear style and give me great joy in hearing them performed. It’s a technique that, if developed, will really open up your playing to all kinds of possibilities – I really mean that!
Linear playing can be complex but it can also be very simple, both to understand and execute. It’s up to the drummer as to how far they take the complexity. Because Linear drumming can be simple, you probably are already playing Linear style ideas already without even realising it! In fact, most drum fills are usually Linear in style.
This lesson will be focusing on creating Linear style drum beats only. Future lessons will focus on linear fills and licks.
What Is Linear Drumming?
Linear drumming can be described as the following…
“Playing a groove or fill where no two limbs hit a drum/cymbal at the same time”
That’s it! It sounds so simple doesn’t it? Well, it is simple really, in order to play a Linear idea just make sure that no two limbs are played at the same time.
This is what makes Linear playing so interesting and exciting, especially within grooves. Usually, a drum beat will consist of a repeating Hi-Hat pattern (ostinato) played over the top of a Bass/Snare groove. The drummer will hit the Snare and Hi-Hat together as well as the Bass and Hi-Hat together. When playing a Linear groove no two limbs match up so, all of a sudden, we have a Hi-Hat pattern that sounds to be “dancing” in and around the Snare and Bass drum notes. It creates a technical challenge but grooves like a monster at the same time.
One quick bit of advice before we go into the Linear style grooves. Playing a Linear drum beat does not mean that the groove/timing should be sacrificed. A lot of drummers over do it when playing in this style and try to squeeze as many notes into a Linear beat as possible. Another common issue is that they start to think that because this is a Linear drum beat being played that no two notes can EVER be played together…says who?! If you want to play a crash and Bass drum together for example then do it, as long as the groove is working for the song then there are no rules!
How To Construct Linear Grooves
As I’m sure you are already aware, a drum beat consists of a Bass drum pattern following the Bass line or melody of the song. The Snare drum will supply some kind of backbeat, most commonly on Beats 2 and 4. These two elements of the groove are important and constant. This leaves the Hi-Hat/Ride pattern to play around with and it’s this element of the groove (Hi-Hat pattern) that we will manipulate to create a Linear style drum groove.
What we will be doing is deciding on our Snare/Bass drum pattern and then filling in the remaining space with the Hi-Hat. This isn’t the only way a Linear drum beat can be created but it’s a great and logical place to start when venturing into the Linear style of playing.
Here’s what I mean, take this common drum beat…
Common Drum Beat Example
The Bass drum is played on Beats 1 and 3 while the Snare drum is on Beats 2 and 4. Notice the Hi-Hat is playing constant eighth notes over the top. Lets now take away the Hi-Hat ostinato to reveal this…
Common Drum Beat Without Hi-Hat
In order to create a Linear drum Beat no two limbs must fall at the same time. So, for this drum beat we will simply fill in the space left by the Snare and Bass drum with the Hi-Hat like this…
Linear Drum Beat Example
This is now technically a Linear drum beat and if you’ve been playing for a while then have probably already played/heard this drum beat before. The important thing to notice is that now all the notes lie one after the other and do not fall together at any point. To make it easier to read I have marked the Snare drums on Beats 2 and 4 with an accent.
A linear drum beat does not have to be a constant flow of notes like this, there could be rests and gaps but for the sake of simplicity we shall be looking at filling all of the gaps with Hi-Hat.
The remaining examples within this lesson will take 11 more common drum beats and convert them into Linear drum grooves by following the same process.
Linear Drum Beats
Common Drum Beat 1
Linear Version 1
Again, the eighth note gaps left over from the Snare/Bass drum have been filled with the Hi-Hat.
Common Drum Beat 2
Linear Version 2
Common Drum Beat 3
Linear Version 3
Common Drum Beat 4
Linear Version 4
Common Drum Beat 5
Linear Version 5
Common Drum Beat 6
Linear Version 6
Common Drum Beat 7
Linear Version 7
Common Drum Beat 8
Linear Version 8
Common Drum Beat 9
Linear Version 9
Common Drum Beat 10
Linear Version 10
Common Drum Beat 11
Linear Version 11
Hopefully you can see how much fun these grooves are to play. You might be finding some of them a little tricky to play initially as the instinct to play a repeating Hi-Hat pattern can be overwhelming. By learning these patterns you’re training your body to hear and feel individual notes rather than layers overlapping each other. This is a very useful skill to have in your stick bag!
These ideas are just the beginning, as we haven’t even touched upon including rests, accents, ghost notes, moving the Snare drum pattern as well as other subdivisions such as sixteenths. These are subjects for other lessons.
Try creating your own Linear drum beats by following the process above. Take a Snare/Bass drum pattern that you want to use and fill in the gaps with the Hi-Hat. You can very quickly create cool sounding Linear drum beats this way.
In future lessons I will be showing you how to take this concept to even greater heights. You can view a free video drum lesson teaching many more linear style drum beats by clicking here.
View a new related drum lesson teaching Gospel style linear triplet based drum licks, fills & chops by clicking here.
Learn how to play the Herta Linear Drum Lick by clicking The Herta Drum Fill & Hybrid Rudiment – Orchestration & Double Bass Drum Ideas.
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