Objective: To develop a vocabulary of various bass drum and snare variations that are usable when playing in the 6/8 time signature.

Variations: The right hand could be moved to the floor tom or ride, and accents / ride bell / open hi hats could be added

About the drum beats in 6/8

The first drum beat is the standard beat to play for many when playing in 6/8 and is a good place to start. The bass drum is on the first beat of the bar, and the snare drum is on the 4th quaver beat of the bar – these are the beats where the emphasis is in 6/8. You tend to count it with emphasis like 1 2 3 4 5 6.

The hi hats are playing on all 6 quaver beats of the bar, which is the same on all of these drum beats.

About the 6/8 time signature

Beat 3, 4, 5 and 6 all give a strong indication of a ‘swing’, or ‘shuffle’ feel to the beats. This is easy to do in 6/8 because it can easily feel like you are playing triplets, with a perceived time signature of 2/4 or 4/4. This is why the 6/8 time signature is sometimes used in blues and jazz music. It is also a popular time signature in musicals, especially in slower pieces where the crotchet beat would be too slow if notated with triplets. The same goes for blues, where instead of having a very slow “1 trip let 2 trip let” feel, the slow 1 2 3 4 5 6 is sometimes preferred, especially if staying in that feel for the whole song. Going back to musicals, and also for classical songs or any groups with a conductor, a 6/8 time signature is more efficient and clear for a conductor to beat, than a slow piece in 2/4 or 3/4.

Related (Premium): Grades 1-2 Beats & Fills Drum Book – Unit 1 – Rock Pop Soul Funk – PDF ebook
Related: Practice sheet for learning to play drum beats in 6/8 time