The band I play with generally wants a simple 8-beat rhythm but I can find it a bit boring to play! So I'm looking for suggestions/tips/sheet music/video on how to develop a standard 8-beat drum pattern to make it more interesting/challenging to play whilst still keeping true to the 8-beat framework.

3 Answers 3


Subdivide the 8 beats in unorthodox ways. For example: Coldplay's "Clocks" subdivides 8 beats into a 3-3-2 rhythm. Not exactly groundbreaking, but a bit different from the usual. You can take that idea and run wild with it. Here are some ideas:

  • Re-arrange the more familiar 3-3-2 subdivision into 3-2-3, which is a bit more unusual.
  • 3-5. Play a beat in three followed by a beat in five.
  • 5-3. Same idea, but play the five-beat rhythm first.
  • Combine two 8-beat measures into a double-long 16-beat measure, and subdivide like crazy. 3-3-4-3-3 comes to mind, or 3-3-3-3-4. Or 3-4-5-4, or etc. etc. So long as the subdivisions add up to 16, you can do whatever you want.
  • 3
    This may be far enough from the desired "simple" rhythm to make your bandmates unhappy though. :-) Interpols "Evil" is a good example of using syncopation and other tricks to have a interesting rhythm to what is basically a song set in a straight 8 rhythm. Remember though that only the drummer in a bands needs to be able to play (Ref: Joy Division), so the band is off to a good start. :-) May 25, 2011 at 9:53
  • @Lennart Regerbro Just listening to Evil now - nice track. I find a song more interesting (to listen and play) when the drummer plays an offbeat pattern. Could just be because I'm a drummer though :) I think I am going to try and make a compromise with the other band members: play more straight rhythms for most of the sections but then a more intricate pattern during the verse. Definitely need to find a balance whilst keeping the flow with the guitars/vocals.
    – xylar
    May 25, 2011 at 12:57
  • @xylar: That's probably a good idea. The chorus should be simple and easy to sing a long too (as well as having a hook) while the verses need to keep interest up until the next chorus, so I think that works. And indeed "Evil" does exactly that. :) May 25, 2011 at 13:40

Listen! Listen to the music what it needs and listen to other drummers playing the same styles and you'll learn a lot.

For a rock band, you usually want to keep a strong backbeat on 2 and 4, so you don't have much choice on the snare drum except for adding some ghost notes here and there. Variations on the bass drum and on the hi-hat pattern are possible of course and you can create nice effects by just omitting some of the hi-hat beats. But be aware that many musical styles don't tolarate too heavy variations in the groove (AC/DC).

If your music has some funky elements, you have more choice of rhythmic variations and you can try to find interesting subdivisions of your 8 beats. Rhythmic Illusions is a nice book about all kind of strange stuff you can do by moving around the beats. Listen to some recordings of the Dave Matthews Band for example, this could give you some ideas as well.

For me personally, playing a straight four-on-the-floor 8-beat (hi-hat 8th, bass drum on 1,2,3,4, snare on 2 and 4) without any extras is the most challenging groove! You really need to practise this to get a solid groove and to have an exact feeling of where the backbeat is placed. Listen carefully to the relation between hi-hat, bass drum and snare and try how it suddenly feels when you delay the snare a few microseconds or put the hi-hat beats a little in front of the others. The variations are subtle and you can't write them down with notes, but make a huge difference!

  • I'd give this a +2 or even +3 if I could (one for every good/great bit :D) May 25, 2011 at 7:31

An 8-beat rock rhythm?? Sounds like you need to look at Boogie-Woogie, AKA Eight-to-the-bar. There's a piano book (I'm sure there are others) called Boogie Woogie Hanon that's full of great rhythms for the piano left-hand. To make it rock, change all the original accents to secondary accents and add a powerful 2 and 4 accent over the top.

Adding the eighth-notes gives a Rock-rhythm a more relaxed feel.

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