Different Genres and Styles of Drumming

Different Genres and Styles of Drumming

Communication is one of the most essential things we do in everyday life to send or receive information, messages, and signals from each other. Music is a special form of communication. We can communicate through music by playing an instrument, to listening, tapping, and singing songs with messages. Music can depict moods from angry to sad, and from happy to downright cheesy. Music is so powerful that it can even assist people with memories.

If music is a powerful communication tool, it can be argued that is its own language. Music is a universal entity – anyone, from anywhere in the world can engage with music.

Since as music is a universal medium, there are many forms of inspiration to help compose music and keep this incredible form of communication evolving. That being said, music has many genres and sub-genres.

So how does drumming fit into this?

The art of drumming is one of the oldest forms of music and music communication. The idea of using drums for rituals and celebration goes back to early recorded history, across a range of cultures. The playing of these instruments would have included call and response with distinct rhythmic phrases from cultures such as Africa, Latin America, and Indian. In western music some of the rhythms heard in other cultures can be identified as polyrhythms. Each country has their own unique type of drumming/percussion from their part of the world, such as the Djembe from Africa, and the Tabla from India. All drums originated with and developed from an animal skin and a log or skull. These world percussion instruments are still known and played today.

Moving into the 18th and 19th century, the log/skull & animal skin drums evolved into the drums and shells we know today. Drum kits, of course, have gone through their own development at stages. They started out with big marching bass drums on the floor with other percussion instruments and cymbals in the jazz era, and developed all the way through to the acoustic drum kit we know today, the electric drum kit, and even pre-recorded drum sounds, samples, and loops used by DJs.


So we are learning about styles of drums?

All styles of music have influenced each other in some way. When we come to learn to play the drums, we normally start off with rudiments (warm-ups) and strokes such as singles, doubles, and paradiddles, using rhythms such as crotchets (quarter notes), quavers (8th notes), 8th note triplets, and semiquavers (16th notes). We can focus on speed and keeping in time by playing these to a metronome. We often play these on a practice/rebound pad or a single snare drum, but it is just as effective playing them around the drum kit.

These basic rhythms and stick strokes are used within all types of drum kit, marching and orchestral percussion playing. No matter what you want to learn style-wise on the drums, everything comes back to these warm-ups, rudiments, coordination drills, and sticking patterns.


Drumming Styles and their Characteristics

The closest genre/type of playing which relates directly to our rudiments is drum corps/drum lines and marching bands. This type of playing is far from easy and involves a lot of patience and practice. These ensembles use single drums per player (snare drum and bass drum doubled up and played by different musicians), with exception of the tenor drums which are grouped together in a set. These sets of drums are also often doubled up on to create a bigger sound. These marching drums are equivalent to snare drums without the snare metal wire strapped to the bottom resonant head. They are made up of different sizes which create various pitches. The marching tenor drums are often referred to by the number of drums that are connected together, for example Quads would be a set of 4 drums. They can also come in a set of 2, 3, 5 and 6.

The drum parts for each player (with drum sticks) are reflected in our warm-up exercises and sticking patterns, as every hit on the drum/s have precisely worked out stickings and strokes. This provides an impression of discipline and incorporates the idea of playing in unison with other drummers, while also providing showmanship and musicianship factors, as stick tricks are often incorporated into routines and performances. Each drum used in these ensembles can be found on the drum kit. The instruments are often doubled up by players and worn with harnesses so they can march and move.

In an orchestra, parts of the drum kit are also usually separated and spread out within a section. On top of the usual parts of a drum kit, an orchestral percussion section would also use tuned percussion such as the glockenspiel, xylophone, marimba, vibraphone, and the timpani. The glockenspiel, and the higher registers of the xylophone and marimba use the treble clef, while the lower register of the latter instruments and the timpani are written in the bass clef. Other auxiliary percussion instruments are also used in the orchestra depending upon the piece of music or the arrangement of the music they are playing. Most pieces of music have a list of required percussion. Auxiliary percussion instruments can vary from the triangle, tambourine, shaker, and claves, to the bongos, congas, and even a full drum kit if it is a ‘pops’ orchestra. As auxillary percussion and the drum kit aren’t considered tuned percussion, they are written out on the rhythm clef.


Let’s Rock ‘n’ Roll

It’s important to note that all types of drumming incorporate movement, purpose, and emotion. All of these elements are encompassed within the type of music or song that the drums are accompanying.

When you are playing the drum kit for the first time, and on top of learning rudiments, we usually learn our first groove: the rock groove. These types of grooves derive from old school rock & roll and are still used in plenty of music today. As you learn the drums you find that lot of what we play maybe inspired by old school playing, but how we play it and what we play it on may change.

Playing straight rock beats on the drum kit with crotchets (quarter notes) and quavers (8th notes) helps build up our coordination. These sorts of grooves are also a good place to start for when we are reading music for the first time. Our basic rock grooves are laid out and easy to read with usually three elements of the kit at a time: hi-hats/ride; snare drum; & bass drum. As we grow confident with the beginning grooves that include straight hi-hats and bass drum/snare drums on and off the beat, we get to learn and read more complicated patterns. There are so many combinations when playing the drums. More complicated rock beats can incorporate semiquaver (16th note) beats & rhythms, and sometimes even odd times like 5/4, and 7/8.

Our rock grooves and elements within our rock drumming can fall under other genres such as pop, ballad, and alternative. The drummers often use different types of drums/percussion instruments/electric drum elements to assist the feel/vibe of the different styles.


Semiquaver/16th Note Grooves & Syncopation

Disco, dance, and hip-hop are considered fun, while soul music can be more mellow. These genres incorporate lots of varied on/off, syncopated patterns and beats between the elements (drums & cymbals) of the drum kit. Disco and hip-hop drummers play syncopation and semiquaver (16th note) rhythms on the hi-hats, and between the ride and the backbeat (kick and snare). These techniques can also be heard in some pop music. Soul music tends to use a varied combination of rhythms including, but not exclusively straight semiqauvers (16th notes) and bounced/shuffled quavers (eighth notes). Funk uses lots of semiquaver (16th note) and syncopated patterns, although funk bands also have a habit of including odd timings in their music.


Angry Music

The more angry music which includes fast energy includes genres such as punk, grunge, hardcore, and heavy metal. This sort of music uses straight crotchets (quarter notes)/quavers (8th notes), but can be extremely fast-paced. Drummers usually execute these styles of playing with loose hi-hats, fast hits on the bell of the ride, and double kicks on the bass drum  (with either a double kick pedal or two bass drums tuned slightly different). While some metal music includes blast beats as an element (fast crotchets on the hats with the left hand, and quavers on the snare drum with the right hand), other metal songs can be slow paced with held chords, and slow crotchets (quarter notes) on the hi-hats, in order for the drummer to incorporate syncopated bass drum rhythms between chords.


12/8 & Triplet Grooves

Blues musicians base their drum parts around the feel of the song. The blues can be felt with triplet grooves (which can be written as triplets in a 4/4 bar, or written as 12/8), and/or a shuffle technique. The shuffle can sound a lot like swing. Unlike swing drumming, a shuffle is continuous in how it is played. Instead of playing straight quavers (8th notes), you can add a bounce to them to create this shuffle feel.

Bluegrass, country, and rockabilly also use the triplet/shuffle feels, but they can also be played with train beats. Drummers experiment and play with a whole range of hitting implements such as sticks, brushes, and even spoons with the 12/8 & triplet grooves.


Jazz & Improvisation

Swung quavers (8th notes)/semiquavers (16th notes) are used to drive the jazz genre in its most basic form. Improvisation is a big deal when it comes to jazz music. To become a great improviser of music, you should first of all indulge yourself in a whole range of different genres and techniques with your playing. Don’t say no to learning new ways of playing rhythms and new sticking patterns. Secondly, the more you play and practice, the more muscle memory will build in your arms. On a side notes, triplets are a great rhythm to play around with and use in fills when playing jazz.

Free jazz is a whole bunch of crazy thrown into the mix. It’s based around improvisation and involves a varied range of jazz musicians to make the music sound complete.


Time Signatures, World Music, & Latin Music

Though technically not a style within itself, different time signatures come up in different styles of music, such as 3/4 (waltz), 6/8, 7/4, 7/8 , 9/8, and 12/8. Both simple (signatures divided into 2) and compound timings (signatures divided into 3) have a natural flow to them. Odd time signatures, however, have a jumpy characteristic when looping a rhythmic phrase from the last beat of the bar to the first beat of the next bar: 5/4; 7/4; 7/8.

As previously mentioned, world percussion encompasses the idea of cultural instruments. Some examples of these percussion instruments include the Djembe from Africa, the Tabla from India, the bodhran and spoons/bones from Ireland, and even the rhythm stick/s played on a didgeridoo in Australia.

Latin music is another fantastic example of world music. Styles of playing within Latin music include: bossa nova, samba, mambo, cha cha, reggae, and calypso. These genres within the realm of Latin music can involve a drummer (drum kit) and percussionist. Latin percussion includes bongos, congas, cowbells/ago-go bells/woodblocks, and timbales.


Our Aim at Sono 

At Sono School of Music we strive to introduce and teach all aspects of drumming.

This includes everything from:

  • Rhythm
  • Timing
  • Reading
  • Rudiments
  • Strokes on the drums
  • Coordination
  • Sticking patterns
  • Freedom around the drum kit
  • Listening / responding exercises 
  • Basic grooves and beats to complex grooves
  • Different styles and genres of playing
  • So much more!


All beats you learn should give you inspiration for what you can play when you are improvising. We also endeavour to inspire clients to explore the huge range of music available to you, while also discovering what you really love to play to and working on repertoire of your own choice.

Everything you learn should bring you closer to achieving your own personal goals.

All of these components and drumming concepts we teach fit into different genres of music. These components act like the building blocks to help form and expand your musician skill set, and give you the confidence to learn and play drum parts of your favourite songs. After mastering specific drumming concepts, we can learn how to put them in context of music we like. We do this by learning different styles of music and different grooves based around those styles. We then put these grooves in context of your favourite songs.

Everything you will learn with us is documented into your own personal client journal, which you will then be able to access at home via our online portal.


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