Funk beats are some of the liveliest sounding things you can play on the drums. Having the ability to play a locked-in funk groove shows that you’re a tight drummer who has plenty of pocket. What is pocket, you ask?
Pocket refers to how good you sound on the drums. Having an excellent sense of timing, feel, and dynamic variety is what reflects from a drummer with a deep pocket.
Here are 5 funky grooves that will help keep you in the pocket.
Table of Contents
We’ll start off with a straightforward 16th note groove. It’s one of the most used drum beats in funk music. This is because the notes on the hi-hat resemble a shaker and since there are many of them, it’s easier for the band to hold onto.
There are a few things you can do to make this groove sound good. Firstly, focus on making the hi-hat notes sound organic, light, and natural. The best way to do this is to accent all the downbeats while playing the offbeats a bit softer. It’ll be easy to do if you play the downbeats on the shoulder of the hi-hat and play the offbeats on the surface.
The second thing you should do is play the snare drum loudly and with authority. If you do those two things, you’ll have yourself a powerful drum beat that can be used in a variety of settings.
Make sure to get the first groove mastered before trying this one as it builds onto it. This second groove maintains the 16th note vibe while adding a few kick drums and ghost notes on the snare.
The snare drums have accents written above them, meaning you should play rimshots instead of normal snare strikes. Rim shots are used frequently in funk music as they add a strong sense of punchiness.
Make sure to play the ghost notes as lightly as you can. The contrast between loud rimshots and soft ghost notes will give the groove plenty of depth.
Unlike the previous grooves, this one just has 8th notes on the hi-hat. It’s a bit easier to play, allowing you to focus on how it feels and sounds. You can play it with a straight feel or a swung feel. Playing it swung means the offbeat bass drum notes will be pushed a bit closer to the snares that follow them.
Having a heavy swing will make the groove sound like it’s influenced by Steve Jordan who is one of the most famous funk drummers around.
The next groove keeps the 8th note hi-hat rhythms but makes use of more rimshots and ghost notes. It’s a classic funk groove that can be heard in many songs.
The defining part is the kick drum being played twice at the beginning of the bar. Play those kicks very strongly to establish the mood for the rest of the groove. If you play them weakly, the groove won’t sound as it effective as it has the potential to.
The final groove is arguably the most difficult one to play. It’s very similar to groove 1, but you need to open the hi-hat just before every backbeat. The last kick drum is added there for a bit of flavor.
The groove sounds the best when you play it at a medium tempo. If you can play it comfortably, try swinging it to add a bit more challenge.
Funk Drummers to Check Out
When playing different styles of music, it can help you immensely if you listen to some established drummers in those styles. Checking out famous funk drummers will help you see and hear how they play the drums to suit the music.
Some funk drummers to check out are Steve Jordan, Clyde Stubblefield, David Garibaldi, Stanton Moore, and Dennis Chambers. There are dozens of videos of these guys playing on YouTube. Watching them will improve your ear when it comes to playing drums to funk music.
Here’s a YouTube video of me playing 3 funk grooves:
Importance of Playing with Music
It’s also important to apply these grooves in musical situations once you’ve learned to play them. You may be able to play it well on your own but playing it with music is a new skill to develop. Find some drum-less funk backing tracks and test out each of these five grooves with them.
Remember that funk drumming has a driving, yet relaxed feel to it. You’ll notice that all the drummers I’ve mentioned have incredibly calm vibes to them. The funkier they are, the more relaxed they tend to be. That’s what you need to aim for.
If you feel like you’ve mastered funk drumming, perhaps you could give jazz drumming a try. The two styles often blend into each other.