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Introduction to Hip-Hop Drumming

Learn about hip-hop drumming from drum teacher Jason Gianni in this Howcast drum video.


When you play the drums for hip hop music, you have to keep in mind that a lot of the influence of your drum parts are going to come from pre-programmed parts, such as something from computer or a drum machine or whatever that might be. So a lot of your parts need to almost sound like they would come from somebody who pre-programmed them. A lot of it has to do with tuning, your approach, your feel, so on and so forth. For this groove, what I had done was brought up the pitch of my snare drum, and I put a little tape on the snare to really bring it up high. And I kind of muffled it down a little bit to sound almost like something that was programmed.

There are a lot of variations you could do with your cymbals, like using tape on the cymbals or different effect sounds on cymbals, smaller cymbals, cymbals that come with jingles or holes in them. And a variety of companies make effect-type cymbals. You could also do different things with your bass drum, tuning your bass drum in different ways, maybe making a little more open sound. But the idea is that you want to sort of incorporate the sound of what you would program into live drums.

You also want to listen to some drummers that play live with these type of bands. Tony Royster, Jr. plays with Jay-Z, Questlove who plays with The Roots. And get an idea of how live drummers approach the hip hop feel. In general, what you want to play for hip hop is you want to take basic beats and sort of incorporate a swing when you play them. Rather than something that's straight and even-timed, you want to have an overall pulse or rate of juk-a-juk-a-juk-a-juk-a-juk-a underneath it.

Now there's many variations of hip hop rhythms, but it's a good place to start. What I'll do is just take a normal groove, doont-jat-ga-doon-jat, doont-jat-ga-doon-jat, and I'm going to play it with a little bit more of a skip or a swing feel to it. Doont-jat-ga-doon-jat. Sounds like this. One, two, three, four.

And again, just keep in mind there are so many variations with hip hop drumming, especially coming from programmed grooves. You want to just get an idea of how they sound and how the tones are and try to replicate them on a real kit. And again, just a good place to start is take a normal groove and begin to swing it to try to obtain that feel.

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