Learning How To Read and Play Subdivisions + Subdivision Exercise on the snare drum

What are subdivisions?


8th note Subdivisions

You need to play 2 snare drums per beat. Put a metronome on a slow tempo (60-80) and try to play the right hand on every click.

Then with your left hand, try to add a beat in between the right hands. When you do that you will be playing 2 snares for every 1 metronome click.

Count 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + when you play this. The left hand falls on all the + counts, and the right hand will be with all the numbers.

Triplet Subdivisions

These are trickier. Think of them as groups of 3.

  • The 1st group is R L R (right left right).
  • The 2nd group is L R L (left right left).
  • The 3rd group is R L R (right left right).
  • The 4th group is L R L (left right left).

You should count "1 trip let 2 trip let 3 trip let 4 trip let"

If played with metronome, the click would land on all the numbers.

So it's not just the right hand that lands on the click this time, it swaps onto the left hand for the 2nd and 4th group. That's what makes it hard!

16th note Subdivisions

These are actually easier than triplets. You will need to play these twice as fast as 8th notes.

The counting for these is:

" 1 E + a 2 E + a 3 E + a 4 E + a "

I've written capital E and small a for a reason here. The E is pronounced as a capital E. and the 'a' is said like 'a' rather than 'A'.

The sticking is R L R L all the way through.

With a metronome click, again the click lands on the numbers, and everything else should be played in between. So you get 4 notes (R L R L) per click.

Subdivision Exercise

You need to master the subdivisions seperately first before trying the exercise.

In a song you are likely to be changing between subdivisions frequently, as you move between fills and beats and sections in the music. This exercise prepares you for these changes.

In the exercise you will play 2 bars of a subdivision, before moving straight to the next without stopping. Take practice time to work on keeping the pulse the same when you change from one to the next. Make sure to practice with a metronome after you get comfortable with the changes.

The subdivision exercises are featured in Rockschool exams all the way up to grade 8, as part of the technical exercises. More subdivisions are added further on, but the core principles of changing from one to another remains. So spend time mastering this, it's a valuable skill to have as a drummer.

About the PDF file download

The PDF file is a subdivision exercise A simple lesson for beginners to be played on the snare drum or practice pad. Saying the counting like "1 E & a 2 E & a..." in your head or out loud might help you get it.

Difficulty Level: 


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