A graphic representation of playing on top of the beat
In order to master the drum set you must learn to do things in coordination and with a sense of simultaneous action. Often, you hit the bass drum at the exact same time as you hit the high hat, and other times you hit the snare drum at the exact same time you hit the high hat.
In order to master the back beat you must exceed those norms and find the perfect place to put your snare’s ‘Crack!’ Stanton Moore calls it “giving the full value to the back beat.” That is a reference to drawing terminology and I think it has some validity. In visual art, colors are an identity, but within that identity there are variations from light to dark, called the value. Shading the beat in either direction means moving it to the right or left in the context of time.
Playing behind the back beat may remind you of a flam. The differences are as follows:
A flam is preceded by a grace note. The grace note is quiet and played slightly ahead of the beat.
When playing behind the back beat, there is no pianissimo moment. The high hat is played right on the beat, but the snare drum is played slightly after the beat.
volume levels are determined by your tastes
and as always tastes are acquired through an acquaintanceship with tasteful things
Playing Behind the Back Beat, in a graph. Notice that the bass drum is played right on beats one and three but the snare drum alone is played slightly late.
I tried to draw this out visually. At the top of this post is a depiction of a straight back beat, and here next to this paragraph I have drawn out, with notes, how to play behind the back beat. Experiment and season to taste. This is an advanced Money Beat concept.
I’ve attached a video of me performing with Day VS Night. We’re playing our new song “Dramamine.” In it I utilize this technique. By playing behind the back beat I give a lot of feel, depth and power to this simple slow beat, and it helps the song chug along.
A basic New Orleans feel is on top; I played this in the chorus. I play the Money Beat during the verse. Slowness begets power here.
Playing a very slow and steady beat did not appeal to me when I was younger but as I’ve mastered the drums more I’ve come to love them. Slow beats allow each note to ring out and stand alone, making the music sound very powerful. John Bonham often is slower than he sounds, but the power he has keeps the energy very high.
Slow beats give the other musicians in your band a chance to really fill out the sound. As a drummer a very slow beat is a great way to unconventionally capture people’s attention. Big, slow beats are hypnotizing and get the crowd swaying. My first step towards falling in love with slow beats came from trying to emulate some of Stanton Moore’s New Orleans style beats. In the song I’ve attached below I play a 3 Clave on the bass drum, upbeats on the high hat, back beats and chatter on the snare, and eighth notes on my ride cymbal. I wrote the gist of the chorus drum beats in the chart attached to this blog post.
In the verse, I play a straight money beat. It’s a very slow money beat. This song is played around 88bpm.
You will know you’re getting good when you can make the money beat sound great when played at a slow tempo. I’ll have some nuances on this kind of beat later, but I’ve included the money beat in the attached chart. It’s very stripped down and leaves you exposed. Your perfection or mistakes will be readily visible to anyone who hears you play the money beat. These are some popular songs that shows some people play the money beat better than others: Billie Jean by Michael Jackson, Sex Type Thing from STP.