Keith Cronin presents:
Response to my Drum Licks from Hell page was overwhelming, so I decided to extend the idea, and created a page featuring my favorite grooves. Not necessarily the most technically challenging stuff, but instead focusing on the stuff that makes you tap your feet, snap your fingers, or even bang your head.
I encourage you to browse through them all, giving them each a serious listen. Some of them may fall outside the musical styles you typically listen to, but I think you'll find that each has a powerful effect.
Just click on the CD cover photos to listen to each MP3 clip. Enjoy!
Part 1 - Feels So GoodHere's a variety of clips, some slick and technical, others raw and primal, but all unified in how great the grooves feel.
|Although this list isn't in order of preference, it's only fitting to start out with the late, great Jeff Porcaro, who blew about a million drummers away with Rosanna. From Toto IV, this song has one of the most talked-about grooves ever. Jeff credits the ghosted halftime shuffle to John Bonham - see Part 5 of this page, Variations on a Theme by Bonzo, to trace the roots of this groove.|
|Steely Dan's Aja contains some legendary drumming, but their hit Peg is a standout. Rick Marotta plays a killer groove, punctuated with some simple but memorable snare drum licks that help define the song. As much fun to play as it is to listen to, this is one of my all-time faves.|
|On the Bill Withers hit Use Me, drummer James Gadson lays down a groove that is funky as hell, punctuated by a signature lick every few bars. This is one of those songs where if you don't play it like the original, you're playing it wrong.|
|When the Levee Breaks is one of the heaviest grooves ever recorded. On this song from Led Zeppelin IV, John Bonham created a sound and feel that's still being actively imitated thirty years later. Although the echoed ghost notes were created with studio effects, it's fun to approximate them acoustically when playing this song.|
|A groundbreaking track from Sly and the Family Stone, the song In Time is one of the first to feature a live drummer playing along with a drum machine. But instead of just keeping a straight beat, drummer Andy Newmark uses the machine groove as a stepping-off point, creating an amazing groove that is as spontaneous and complex as it is funky.|
|I still remember hearing Ain't Nobody for the first time. In addition to Chaka Khan's amazing vocals, the drum groove was literally the hippest groove heard on the radio that year. John "JR" Robinson is an amazing drummer - although it's not always easy to pick him out by listening, when you hear a slick, memorable drum part, there's a good chance you're listening to JR.|
|The memorable groove on Edie Brickell's What I Am was created by British drummer Chris Whitten (whose name is unfortunately misspelled as Chris Whitton in the liner notes). An unusual aspect of this track is that the drums were recorded separately from the cymbals and hihat - forcing Chris to play only parts of the groove at a time, to be put together later by the producer. You'd never know it listening to the track - I shudder to think how hard it was to create such a smooth, organic groove in such a challenging way.|
|From an obscure (but EXCELLENT) album by Charles and Eddie, the song Would I Lie to You showcases drummer Gene Lake and his obvious familiarity with classic Motown drumming. Although known as a chops monster among fusion musicians, Gene plays this track like an old 60's Motown session man, with a beautiful groove punctuated by tasteful, stylistically correct fills. A great track, from a great record.|
|Another great Jeff Porcaro performance, Lowdown by Boz Scaggs features some of Jeff's tight, funky drumming. A careful listen reveals that there are some overdubbed hihat parts, which fit seamlessly with Jeff's groove.|
|While Vinnie Colaiuta has recorded tons of jaw droppingly technical drumming, he also has a killer feel. On the song Lucille, from Frank Zappa's double CD Joe's Garage, Vinnie lays down a hypnotic reggae groove that I've always loved.|
|Sade is known for sultry, mellow music, but the drum part on The Sweetest Taboo made me sit up and take notice. This one is fun to play, but tricky to pull off. The late Dave Early definitely carved a notch for himself in drum history with this one.|
|Steve Gadd used two sticks in each hand to play the groove on Late in the Evening, creating the feel of several percussionists playing together. From the soundtrack to a rather quirky movie called One Trick Pony (in which Steve is a featured actor), this song kills from start to finish, and is a blast to play.|
|Here's a slower, nastier funk groove from Jeff Porcaro, on a Boz Scaggs hit called Jojo. In addition to the awesome feel of the main beat he's playing, check out how perfectly he sets up and catches the horn hits. Beautiful stuff.|
|Michael McDonald's first solo CD, If That's What It Takes, features some amazing drumming by both Gadd and Porcaro. In Love Lies, Steve Gadd plays a variety of slick grooves that perfectly set up each section of the song. In a recent Modern Drummer interview, Steve talks about how his approach has changed, being less inclined to play different beats on each section of the song. But here, I think his older approach is perfect.|
|Steve Jordan is one of my heroes, with the apparent ability to play any style from any era. On this Keith Richards song called I Could Have Stood You Up, Steve emulates the cool Chuck Berry-style groove that falls somewhere between straight 8th notes and "swung" triplets. I love this kind of stuff, and Steve is one of the best at it.|
|One of my favorite singers and guitarists is Kevin Moore, known to listeners as Keb' Mo'. On the song That's Not Love, drummer Ricky Fataar plays a fat, effortless groove that perfectly suits the song.|
|This is one of those grooves that changed my life. Steve Gadd basically created linear drumming with the beat he plays on Lenore, from the Chick Corea CD The Leprechaun. I recommend this album to anybody who wants to understand what all the fuss is about regarding Gadd. One listen should answer any questions!|
|Another track from one of my favorite records of all time, Jeff Porcaro plays an extremely memorable groove on Michael McDonald's I Keep Forgettin'. True Porcaro fans also can't help but smile when Jeff starts throwing in some fast 32nd-note bass drum parts towards the end, but I didn't include them on this clip. Go out and get this record for yourself, for some of the best Gadd and Porcaro pop tracks you'll ever hear!|
Part 2 - Keep it SimpleThe clips in this section all feature very basic, simple drum grooves. But they are deceptive in their simplicity - anybody who's ever tried to lay down a simple, solid track in the studio knows how hard this can be. These are examples of the "less is more" approach, and in each case, I think if the drummers had played busier parts, the grooves wouldn't have been nearly so cool.
|I've always loved the groove on Tempted, the biggest hit British group Squeeze ever had. Drummer Gilson Lavis lays down a solid, assertive groove that is the perfect complement to the song's moving bass line. Perfect placement of cymbal crashes add some spice to the mix.|
|I've studied with Kenny Aronoff, and know what a great player he is. But for some reason, Check It Out just floored me - it's the first time I heard so much emotion - so much Kenny - in the groove. The John Mellencamp album The Lonesome Jubilee is where I first started hearing what a truly unique voice Kenny has on the instrument.|
|Most drummers wouldn't guess that the drummer on Riding with the King (from the Eric Clapton/B.B. King CD of the same name) is none other than Steve Gadd. His trademark licks, ghost notes, and 32nd-note flurries are nowhere to be seen on this track, because as always, he's playing for the song. In this case, all the song needs is a solid, swampy rock groove, which Steve delivers in a big way.|
|This song defines the term "toe-tapper." British drummer Martin Chambers plays a rock-solid groove on Brass in Pocket, the song that introduced The Pretenders to the world.|
|Although the guy's got enough chops to play duets with Bozzio, this is still my favorite Pat Mastelotto track. The song is called That's Just the Way It Is, Baby, a minor hit from the Rembrandts (before they wrote the theme to Friends). The track has a killer groove that reminds me of the Squeeze song Tempted, featured earlier on this page. But Pat adds a nice touch: the Charlie Watts hihat approach, resting on the backbeats to allow the sound of the snare to ring through by itself - sweet!|
|Mick Fleetwood is one of those drummers who comes up with parts that would never occur to most other drummers. His approach to The Chain (from the Fleetwood Mac album Rumours) is no exception, with a simple bass drum heartbeat on the verse, and a plodding straight-four snare drum part on the chorus that suits the song to a T. As simple as Mick plays, I find it very hard to imitate him in sessions or cover band scenarios - he truly has a unique voice on the instrument.|
|Dark Horse, a haunting song from Amanda Marshall's debut CD, has one of those deceptively simple grooves that is terribly hard to play with the proper conviction and consistency. But conviction and consistency are Kenny Aronoff's specialties, and he nails this track, complementing the pumping bass with his 8th-note-based groove.|
|Russ Kunkel is another less-is-more guy. On Hard to Say, from Dan Fogelberg's The Innocent Age, it's the spaces more than the notes that make this groove so great. As with many great grooves, it's not just the drumming that makes this feel so cool. Everybody's part fits together seamlessly, and the stop-start nature of the groove is reinforced in almost every bar.|
Part 3 - Down and DirtyThese are the kind of grooves no drum machine can duplicate, dripping with so much funk you may need to take a shower after you listen!
|The unique groove of New Orleans drummer Zigaboo Modeliste was probably a big influence on the rest of the drummers in this section. Here Zigaboo is playing the famous instrumental Cissy Strut, by the Meters. This song is a gas to play, but the groove can be pretty challenging to cop. Check it out!|
|Stanton Moore is a drummer more and more people are paying attention to. With a swampy feel he developed growing up in New Orleans, Stanton plays nasty, old-school funk with a conviction few young drummer can match. White Russ, from the Robert Walter CD Money Shot is a fine example.|
|On John Scofield's CD A Go Go, he is backed by Medeski Martin and Wood - a wonderful combination. Creating an unusual New Orleans-style feel over 3- and 6-beat phrases, Billy Martin plays a groove on Southern Pacific that beautifully supports the melody, catching its unusual rhythm verbatim at the climax of the phrase. Nice stuff from a guy with a very organic sound and feel.|
|This is one of those mind-bending feels where part of the band is playing triplets, part of the band is playing 8ths, and part of them are playing something in between - and somehow it all just works! From Johnnie Johnson's Johnnie Be Back CD, the song Hey Hey features Johnnie's regular drummer James Wormworth (Max Weinberg's fill-in on the Conan O'Brien show) playing double drums with Steve Jordan.|
|Here's another song falling between straight 8ths and swung triplets: Bonnie Raitt's No Business, featuring a solid nasty feel from drummer Ricky Fataar. Listen to the way the emphasis changes from 8ths to triplets at various parts of the song, without ever changing the overall feel. It takes more than a drummer to play this way - it takes a band.|
Part 4 - Shuffles from A to ZHere is a wide variety of triplet-based grooves, ranging from the laid-back delicacy of Peter Erskine to the relentless sledgehammer attack of Vinnie Paul. The one thing they have in common is the strong sense of forward motion.
Note: this section doesn't even begin to cover everything a shuffle can be - to do that, I'd have to post about a million blues clips! Instead I'm just trying to point out some particularly memorable and/or unusual triplet-based grooves that have made an impression on me.
|One of the most unique rock shuffles ever, the Tears for Fears hit Everybody Wants to Rule the World sent tons of drummers back to the practice room. The offbeat triplet hihat pattern is tricky to play over a bass drum-oriented shuffle, but when you get it down, it's a blast to play. Drummer Manny Elias made an amazing debut with this record.|
|On what is essentially a jazz tune, Peter Erskine adds a backbeat to the solo section of Steve Tyrell's It's the Mood that I'm In, creating a shuffle that is SO laid back it's scary. The ringing tone of the snare heightens the effect, making each backbeat seem to last forever. Try playing along with this - at first you'll find you're way ahead of Peter. But once you fall in synch with him, you'll see how much fun it is to lay back sometimes!|
|And now for something completely different. Pantera was rare among hardcore bands in that they had an amazing feel, creating a sense of forward motion that is unstoppable. On the song Walk, from the Vulgar Display of Power CD, drummer Vinnie Paul lays down a ferocious beat that is locked with mechanical precision to the guitar riff. Together, they create a brutal groove - you should see the way a live audience responds to this!|
|While not technically a shuffle, this is a beautiful example of Buddy Rich actually keeping it simple, playing an effortless hihat part that drives the band perfectly, on a song called Basically Blues, from his Collection CD. Buddy makes this stuff sound easy, but it's a lot harder to pull off than it sounds. Buddy's chops are undisputed, but people often overlook how much the man could swing.|
|Okay, you've heard how normal people play shuffles. Now let's see what Vinnie Colaiuta can do with one. From the bizarre way he sneaks into You Dream Flat Tires, to the effortless way he shifts from a rock shuffle to a complex halftime groove, this track is amazing, as is the rest of the Joni Mitchell CD, Wild Things Run Fast.|
|Here's one of the coolest, most unusual shuffles I've ever heard. On the live Dwight Yoakum track It Only Hurts Me When I Cry, drummer Jim Christie plays a shuffle with no back beat, which I think is called a flat tire shuffle (I'm working on confirming this). I love this groove, but have yet to find a song to use it on.|
Part 5 - Variations on a Theme by BonzoMost people credit John Bonham with creating the ghost-note filled halftime shuffle later polished and modified by guys like Porcaro and Bernard Purdie. Here's a variety of approaches to one of my favorite grooves.
|When you listen to John Bonham in the context of the drumming that was happening at the time, you can only ask, "Where the hell did his stuff come from?" NOBODY was doing the sort of things Bonzo was. Carmine Appice had a similar bass drum concept, but Bonham's ghost note approach seems to have developed in a vacuum. From the Led Zeppelin album In Through the Out Door, John created a memorable halftime shuffle on Fool in the Rain that probably spawned the next few clips I feature on this page.|
|Bernard Purdie proudly calls this feel "the Purdie Shuffle." And he's got a right to be proud - he plays this feel better than anybody, as evidenced on Babylon Sisters, from the Steely Dan album Gaucho. But I still think it came from Bonham.|
|Carmine Appice opted for a more muscular approach to this groove. On the song Blue Murder, from the band and CD of the same name, Carmine mixes triplets and 16ths in his fills, and uses an interesting sticking variation on the first half-bar of the groove. Great stuff - I've seen him play this live, and it KILLS.|
|Okay, I know I already posted this - but I look at Rosanna as kind of a culmination of this idea, with Jeff Porcaro raising the bar on how hip a drum groove can be. Enjoy!|