Linear Drumming for Beginners!

female-drummer-on-stageOne of the most creative and fun ways of approaching a groove or developing a drum fill is to engage the linear drumming playing style. Most seasoned drummers have a good number of their favorite drum grooves and fills rooted in the linear playing style. This technique, when fully developed has the potential to open up a drummer to wide range of playing possibilities.

Although somewhat complex, linear drumming can be also quite simple in terms of grasping the concept as well as executing the beats and fills. The drummer determines to what extent they can explore this drumming technique’s complexity. It is possible you are already using linear drumming as a beginner without knowing you are doing so. The thing is, technically, you are often playing the linear style each time you execute a drum fill.

In this linear drumming for beginners and intermediate drummers lesson we will focus on creating linear style drum patterns. I will also teach some teach more advanced and popular types of linear fills and licks in follow-up articles so stay on my list or feed.

So, What is Linear Drumming?

Here’s the popular way to define or describe linear drumming; “Playing a groove or fill where no two limbs hit a drum or cymbal simultaneously”. It is as simple as that. As long as no two limbs are playing simultaneously, you are already set to play a linear style the right way. And as such, linear drumming is interesting as well as exciting, particularly within grooves.

Often, a drum beat will be made up of a Bass or Snare groove. The drummer hits the Snare as well as the Hi-Hat together, and the Bass and Hi-Hat at the same time. Before proceeding to the linear style grooves, there’s something you should know. You need not sacrifice the groove or timing just because you are playing a linear drum beat or fill.

Don’t overdo it as some drummers would do, trying to squeeze in tons of notes into a linear beat or using one just for the sake of it. Make sure it fits within the groove and or song. Another thing is that some drummers also have the misconception that they can never play any two notes together because a linear drum beat is involved. There is no standing rule; in fact, a drummer can play the bass drum and crash at once if he or she so wishes, the most important thing is to ensure the groove is performing for the song.

Constructing Linear Grooves – How Does It Work?

At this point, you ought to have known that a drum beat is comprised of a bass drum pattern in accordance to the melody or baseline of the song. Some kind of back beat will come from the Snare drum, often on Beat 2 and Beat 4. These are essential elements of the groove and are constant as well as important. Subsequently, the drummer can play around with the Hi-Hat or Ride pattern, and it is often the manipulation of the Hi-Hat pattern (an element of the groove) that will result in creating a linear style drum groove.

To start, you will make a decision on your Snare and Bass drum pattern, and subsequently use the Hi-Hat to fill in the rest of the space. There are other methods to create a linear drum beat. But, as a beginner or someone at the intermediate level, the method described previously is a logical and great place to begin.

How to Play Linear Drum Patterns!

First, you should always bear in mind that no limbs match up when it comes to linear drumming. Once the rule is established in your mind, playing a basic beat in a linear style comes easier. But, you are not under any compulsion to keep the pattern linear, especially if you have to sacrifice a beat’s feel. The most important thing is to ensure smooth and easy flow of the song as much as possible.

If playing a linear groove will require altering a song’s style, you should desist from playing the linear pattern. Instead, you can play some parts of a song using a linear pattern and then switch again to the chorus as a way of spicing up the drumming – but it shouldn’t be a change in the style of the song.

Begin your linear drumming with your hands. Create a groove that matches well in terms of its flow with your snare and hi-hats. But don’t make their lining up obvious. You can also use your toms or cymbal to play it. The most important thing is to make it creative.

Many experts recommend that beginners and intermediate linear drummers start with a basic 4/4 groove, which can be experimented on the snare drum and hi-hats. As soon as you have this concept down, you should include the bass drum. And of course, the concept is quite easy using just your hands so you’ll be able to get this down quickly. But then the beat will start to groove when you add the bass drum.

One of my favorite beginner linear drum patterns which I use quite frequently is one I learned from Glen Sobel:

BRLB RLRL

It looks easy and it is in concept but you’ll need to practice it over and over at different tempos and then use it in a groove. Start on your snare drum, and then move around the toms and cymbals. As you change toms and cymbals it gets a little tricky because the change in sound messes with your brain a little bit. So you have to simply practice this linear drum pattern over and over, just like all linear patterns, until it becomes more natural.

When you get better at it you can then double up on the bass drum notes which really opens it up. It’s really cool because you can use it as a groove itself as well as a drum fill. Have fun with it. Thanks Glen!

There is a never ending amount of linear drum patterns you can study but this is a good starting point because it’s fairly easy to learn and you can use it frequently.

Another simple linear drum pattern I like is this one:

RLRL BBRL RLBB RLBB

This one is simple as well but it sounds really good when you get it down. You’ll have to practice it so you can use it at faster tempos, and it’s fun to practice.

There are several more basic linear drum patterns I use which are the John Bohnam and Steve Gadd style triplets. There are several different variations and you can play around with them and come up with unique grooves and drum fills. I’ll write an article on those short so stay in the loop and get my feed, mini course, and or follow me on Facebook.

Please let me know if you want more linear drumming patterns and ideas to work with or if you have questions. And please share this article or video when you get a chance. Thank you!