Breaking Down Complex Grooves

A discussion on how to make difficult patterns a little easier to learn.

On this page I will be talking through some ideas of how to make learning busy and complex grooves a little easier using a practical example. The groove will be looking at is this:

The groove we will be focusing on.

So, we have a one bar pattern in 4/4 with a right hand part that moves around different cymbals, several sixteenth kicks, ghosted snares and some displacement. There are a couple of approaches you could take when breaking this down. You could start at the left hand side of the bar and gradually work your way across as in our Left To Right reading method. This is useful if you are fairly advanced in your playing and are just a little overwhelmed at the content of the bar. If you are a newer player and there are elements of the bar you haven't come across before or aren't as confident at this method won't help so much. For that it is better to follow a method more like our Groove Development lessons, which is what we will focus on for the rest of the page.

This method involces stripping the groove right back to its most basic form then adding back in the more complicated elements. This allows you to focus on one element at a time then gradually combining these elements until the groove is complete. As well as helping learn a more complex part this is actually quite useful in Identifying Problem Areas in your playing also.

The first thing to do is strip the part basic to only having eighth and quarter notes, so remove anything on an 'e' or 'a' count. At the same time, move any orchestrated right hands to one voice, in this case the ride. In this case that leaves you with this:

The first step.

At this point, if there are any aspects of the full groove you are really happy with that aren't included here you could add them in. For example if that 'a' count kick at the start of the bar is something you play all the time then don't bother removing it. For the sake of this lesson we will assume you are unsure on the full part.

The next thing to do is pick one aspect of the groove you have removed and add it back in. In this case let's go with the displaced snare towards the end of the bar. The would change the groove to this:

The second step.

Try and find what it was that was causing you to struggle with the element and spend time playing the part slowly working on this. In this case, placing the snare in between right hands can be tricky so you could work on the timing of that.

Once you are happy with that you can then pick another element, let's add that 'a' count kick at the start of the bar this time. Try adding it into that original bare bones groove (shown below on the left) and then with the previous step (shown below on the right). Again, think about why this might have been causing you problems and focus on ironing out that kink.

The third step.

One final example. Let's now add in the cymbal orchestrations. So first of all in the bare bones version then adding to the two parts you have already learned.

The fourth step.

Using this method, try to complete the groove. I think another four or five steps will be enough.