Deep down in every guitarist, there’s a frustrated drummer screaming to get out.
After all, take away those pesky notes and we’re just a bunch of string chuckers.
So why, despite all our similarities, have guitarists developed such a reputation for lack of rhythm? Simple – drummers are high on the beat, guitarists are not.
By the time we struggle to barre our first F chord, most drummers have mastered the essentials of drumming – the 26 “basics” – and are diligently working on their four-way independence.
Guitarists, who do not have such a diet, have an interest in adapting the rudiments and rhythms of drums to their instrument.
Playing music from the perspective of another instrument can take you down roads you might otherwise have overlooked.
To master this concept, we’ll look at three snare drum basics and apply various drum grooves to the fretboard.
Keep in mind that the notes and chords in the following examples are of secondary importance to the rhythms.
Once each rhythm is internalized, the possibilities of choice of notes and chords are endless.
Rudimentary, my dear guitarist
Example 1a illustrates the basic alternate sticking pattern of a single-stroke roll (rudiment #14) progressing from quarter notes to the 32nd note.
One could easily equate pasting left/right with selecting down/up. In this sense, any continuously alternating selected note or notes would be a one-shot roll.
Example 1b assigns different pitches (G and F) to each hand. Choose each note first, then incorporate pull-offs and hammer-ons for a more organic guitar feel.
Eighth note indents create a sense of time transfer between the hands similar to a left/right (or, in this case, right/left) collage.
Example 1c ventures beyond the 2-note trill by inserting a D pedal between alternating G and F.
Think: different drum, same hand.
Develop a series of conceptually similar exercises incorporating dynamics (ppp to fff for example).
The reverse collage on each example produces a mirror image, a retrograde version of the rudiment.
The remaining one-shot rolls are notated in eighth notes, but each must be bored the same way as Examples 1a-1c.
Example 2 breaks down three triads into upper and lower register components that alternate in a single stroke.
Organ-like results, arranged here for fingerstyle, could also be played hybrid (the middle and ring fingers alternate with the pick) or completely flatpicked.
Ascending inversions of the G and F triad alternate with an open G chord on the pedal in Example 3a.
Play the same down, then reverse the triad order, i.e. F to G.
Example 3b puts these inversions to good use by describing a I, IV, V progression.
Examples 4a-4d feature fragments of punctuated chords on an open A pedal.
Examples 4a, 4band 4c are A7 flavored vamps, while 4d emphasizes Am7.
Again, try reversing the order of the chords or playing each bar backwards.
Our adaptation of the double-stroke roller (rudiment #1) follows the same exercise.
Example 5a illustrates the roll and its gluing of quarter notes to sixteenth notes, 5b adapts it using two notes, and 5c introduces a third tone.
New phrasing options are available, since we now have two identical pitches in a row.
In the quaver part of Examples 5b and 5ca four-note down/up/pull-off/up pattern appears.
For sixteenths, an initial downward stroke sets up a continuous flow of upward strokes.
Example 6 presents the broken triads of Example 2 applied to a double stroke roller.
Alternate picking seems to work best, but you can also try index and middle fingers on partials and thumb on Gs.
Example 7athe ascending double-stroke G and F triad draws of , and Ex. 7b‘s I, IV, V progression, mirror Examples 3a and 3b respectively.
Again, notice how the first downward stroke in Ex. 7b sets in motion a series of consecutive upward strokes.
Examples 8a-8d focus on dual-stroke versions of previous A7 and Am7 part-tuned A-pedal vamps.
Remember to play each example retrograde as well as reversing the order of the chords.
Perhaps the most useful rudiment for guitarists is No. 21, the “paradiddle” (Example 9a).
This play-it-like-you-say-it pattern contains elements of one- and two-stroke rolls, but its combination of alternating and repeating notes produces more interesting, almost polyrhythmic results, especially as the distance between the notes and chords increases. .
Like before, Ex. 9b applies the rudiment to simple G and F notes (try this one with octaves), and Example 9c introduces the D pedal.
Ex. ten contains our broken chords I, IV, V layered on a single paradiddle.
Things get really interesting when we apply the paradiddle rhythm to our ascending G and F inversions (Ex. 11a), voicings I, IV, V torn (Ex. 11b), and partial chord/pedal-A vamps (Examples 12a-12d).
Don’t forget the two variations for each example: Reverse the order of the notes or chords and play each one backwards.
Drum licks to guitar riffs
Next, let’s explore simulating guitar drum beats.
Heavyweights such as Hendrix and Page regularly turned Mitchell and Bonham beats into a killer electric guitar hooks.
The basic concept is to divide the guitar into two registers that match the bass drum and the snare drum.
The bass part apes the kick drum and the chord/melody hits follow the snare drum.
Examples 13a-13g raise the question, “Which came first – the beat or the riff?”
Beatle-y, Hendrix-y and Page-y respectively, Ex. 13a-13c use this formula verbatim.
The bass in Ex. 13a jumps from root to 5 between snare/chord jumps D7.
In Ex. 13b, the bass remains stationary while the chord hits follow the accents and snare trails. The bass/bass, chord/chord pattern reflects an unbalanced double-stroke roll.
Ex. 13cThe galloping bass/snare onslaught uses only two notes separated by an octave.
Example 13d is built on a bass line harmonized in fifths.
The accented 79 chord bomb on the fourth beat creates a call-and-response effect in a single measure.
Ex. 13thin Tower of Power tradition, drops a funky two-bar call-and-response phrase into the slot.
The only kick/snare left open is on the “one” of bar 2.
A popular 5/8 jazz guitar vamp, Ex. 13f follows the rule halfway, then substitutes a bass note for the last snare hit.
The last example, 13gis a composite of the bass and rhythm guitar parts of Todd Rundgren’s “Worldwide Epiphany” that I concocted while playing guitar on his 1995 tour.
Although the raised chord fragments were recorded as straight eighth notes, the added syncopations help keep the original bassline intact.
This, combined with the extra notes in parentheses, makes the entire figure much easier to play without compromising its intent.
The syncopated rhythmic variation at the top of bar 2 deviates from the drum groove just long enough to create a call-and-response riff of anthemic proportions.
Do you have the idea?
Any drum rudiment or beat can inspire a hotbed of guitar ideas. Stealing drummers is fun and profitable!
Analyze any rhythm that excites you and put it to work in your repertoire.
Grab a drum book, learn the other 23 rudiments, and while you’re at it, buy sticks (opens in a new tab)!