This is a guest blog post from Ryan Alexander Bloom.
An interesting style of drumming that has become popular recently is live breakbeats or human drum ‘n’ bass music. Bands like Nerve and Shobaleader One have been on the cusp of the movement and players like Johnny Rabb and Jojo Mayer have been using their considerable chops and applying them to electronic sounding, yet still very acoustic, beats for decades. Playing in this style can be a lot of fun because it is improvisational like jazz, technical and chops heavy like metal or prog, and very flashy with a prominent and featured drum part.
To get into this style you can start in a couple of places. Drum and Bass beats are traditionally either created by sampling existing music off of a turntable, or by programming rhythms into a drum machine. In this selection of exercises we will focus on recreating the drum machine sound, rather than the sampled sound. Programmed beats are sometimes called steps because of the 16 steps (16th notes on which you can apply sounds) of an old loop sequencer drum machine. These exercises all feature essentially the same 3 core steps. These are classic rhythms that permeate much of electronic music and can be embellished in many ways to come up with more interesting grooves. These first 3 patterns are demonstrated here:
The hi-hat or ride cymbal can be used with any of these steps. We can also change the value of the cymbal pattern from 8ths to quarters to change the feel. Try to work these basic beats up to at least 160bpm if not higher for an authentic sound.
For slower tempos, more cymbals keep up the energy level. 16ths would be the next logical step.
For a layered texture, add in hi hat with your foot. Drum machines can play lots of notes simultaneously, so layering in another cymbal pattern helps keep up the illusion of a programmed beat.
Keep in mind that drum machines have no soul. Counterintuitively, the less human feeling or groove you can impart to these patterns the better they will sound in a drum and bass context. Try to play all the cymbal notes at the same dynamic level and keep everything steadily right down the center of the beat. Once you master these patterns, you can begin to add ghost notes, hi hat openings, fills, and other elements to make things more interesting. More advanced step patterns, classic breaks, break manipulation strategies, and extended techniques, can be found in Live Drum & Bass – Breakbeats and Electronic Music for Real Drummers available from Hudson Music and Amazon.com
Buy from Hudson Music – https://hudsonmusic.com/product/live-drum-bass/
Buy from Amazon.com – https://www.amazon.com/Live-Drum-Bass-Breakbeats-Electronic/dp/154285864X