Drum lesson: Get to grips with garage-style up-tempo syncopated beats


One of the things a lot of drummers don’t work on much is how to hear and work with the various ‘off-beats’ instead of the ‘downbeat’. One of the great things with Garage is that there are loads of great ideas for us drummers to explore 

within the style and a lot of them are very syncopated. There are loads of cool grooves and feels within this genre, so take this as a bite-sized introduction.

You’ll see from the notation that we’ve stuck with a theme but spiced it up a bit as we move through the ideas. The key with this kind of playing is to get that note placement correct, if you don’t it won’t sound right – a little  ‘lumpy’ – and it won’t sit well. 

Once you’ve developed this concept, it’ll really add to your playing. In the process it will also develop your ear to be able to pick out those notes more comfortably, as well as develop your ability to hold onto some of those more tricky note placements in the grooves. 

Watch out for the exercise with the stepped hi-hat, it needs to be really accurate or you’ll create an open-hat sound where you don’t want one. Really take your time with this: it’s so important to get those note placements right! 

1 - Our basic hand pattern – all the following examples are based around this so really get this sitting with the click.

2 - Adding the bass drum to form our first groove.

3 - Sticking with the theme but adding a stepped hi-hat on beat one and subdividing the first note of bar two into two 16th notes.

4 - Exploring putting bass drum notes on a couple of different 16th note subdivisions. These are a bit more awkward than the ones we’ve worked with up to this point so make sure that they’re placed accurately.