I use LilyPond to write notation for drums, and because the coding behind the typesetting is complex I've integrated the use of vim's "Ultisnips" plugin to help write out bits of that notation. Using Ultisnips means authoring your own snippets and in doing so I'm come across the problem of labeling the keywords that represent the different patterns.

I'm having trouble classifying the riffs that I would code into Ultisnips for reuse in writing out drum beat patterns.


So far I've determined two main classes, or trends within beats, as well as variants on those two trends. The first trend is a 'march' beat. In the single voice this pattern is:

bd4 sn4 bd4 sn4 |

Rock beat, one measure

The second would be a shuffle beat, which I've labeled as 'latin' due to its similarity to the bossa nova beat.

bd4 sn8 bd8 bd4 sn4 |

Shuffle beat, one measure

The shuffle part of the beat however is just the added eighth between the 2nd and 3rd beats. So that the shuffle itself is actually a half note in duration.

bd4 sn8 bd8 

Shuffle pattern, half measure

If that is true in a beat that uses the shuffle that the shuffle can be in the first half, the second half, or both halves of the whole note pattern.

And the same can be said this 'latin' or shuffle pattern's mirror image, a pattern where the eighth comes before the second beat, rather than after. I didn't know if this pattern had a name so I simply labeled it a 'punk' pattern. Here it is:

bd8 bd8 sn4

Punk pattern, half measure

My entire punk snippet looks like this:

bd8 bd8 sn4 bd8 bd8 sn4 |

Punk beat, one measure

I really feel like I'm not even scratching the surface here with the possibilities. And the first thing that comes to mind is how to organize beats when the entire beat is comprised of different half note patterns. Where for instance, the first pattern would be a shuffle and the second would be a punk.

There is also another half note pattern that I can't seem to label correctly. This is a pattern with all eighths, bd8 sn8 bd8 sn8, and is often appended to a march beat, so that it appears as:

bd4 sn4 bd8 sn8 bd8 sn8 |

Hyper march pattern, half measure rock beat, half measure hyper march beat

This seems to be, to me anyways, a type of hyper march pattern.

My main question is what types of half note patterns am I missing out on and how accurate is my labeling of them? Would it be more accurate to label the punk riff as the 'rock' riff, and assign the label of 'punk' to what I was calling the hyper half note pattern?

  • It's an interesting question, but I'm afraid the answer is an open list, and will vary a lot depending on the style. Google "most common drum patterns" and you will get many different answers. I'm also quite sure some drummers play their whole sets without using any of the patterns you listed. Maybe the best is to compile a list of patterns you use the most, and expand the list as you go? Feb 17 at 8:12
  • Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer.
    – Community Bot
    Feb 17 at 13:38
  • If your goal is to compile all the common drum patterns, there's just too many for that to be worthwhile. Can you make a macro for each beat and each instrument? E.g. have a macro for 4 quarter notes on a cymbal, one for each beat of kick drum, and one for each beat of snare drum? That could be efficient.
    – Edward
    Feb 17 at 16:37
  • @Edward, I've done that before and I like the effects. I guess the purpose of this post is to open a discussion on the most commonly used patterns. Of course the patterns would change from genre to genre, and the beauty of composition is with the variety of patterns. I think that I got bogged down in the lilypond notation in the post when it wasn't central. Divided the measure in two gives a different perspective on the types of patterns available and that was what I had in mind. Mar 14 at 0:12
  • Discussion-type questions are discouraged (and usually closed) on this website.
    – Edward
    Mar 14 at 0:17


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