Drumese for Dummies – Lesson 1

I am not a drummer. I don’t even play one on TV.

I can play the guitar, piano, and a bit of the trombone, but when I sit behind a drum set, it’s dangerous. A cacophony of noise arises that could most accurately be compared to an explosion at a bomb factory – a bomb factory that also makes cymbals.

So I would never attempt to play drums for any reason, especially not on a worship team or during a worship service. However, I’ve had to learn how to listen to a recording and know what the drummer is playing, how to arrange (in my head) what I’m looking for my drummer to play on a certain song, and how to speak “drum-ese” to be able to communicate this in an understandable way to a drummer who knows what he’s doing. Since I don’t.

So I would like to share my basic language of drumese with you, in the event that it’s helpful. You might find it more humorous than helpful, and that’s fine. I’m sure any drummer who reads this will immediately know that the dummy is me. And I would agree with that.

So with that out of the way, I’ll begin with how to hear different bass drum (or “kick” drum) patterns, how changing up a bass drum pattern can change the dynamic of a song, and then how to ask a drummer to play a certain pattern without sounding like a complete idiot (that last part is always difficult to judge).

“Beautiful One”
Listen to the chorus of “Beautiful One” (written by Tim Hughes), as recorded by Stuart Townend on The Mandate: O Church Arise.

Now listen to the same part of the song as recorded by Tim Hughes on When Silence Falls.

Notice a difference in the groove? A lot of it has to do with the bass drum pattern.

In Stuart’s version, the drummer plays something like “doom-do-do-do-doom-do / doom-do-do-do-doom-do”.

(Remember, I’m not a drummer, attempting to speak drumese.)

In Tim’s version, the drummer plays something like “dooooom –  do – do  -, dooooom – do – do  -….”

That’s how I would speak it to a drummer. I would hope he would understand. If he didn’t, I could tap it on my guitar or something. Yes, he would probably laugh at me. But at least I’m trying. It helps keeps me humble.

I think the Tim Hughes version has a better bass drum pattern because: it’s tighter and a bit more aggressive. In Stuart’s version, the chorus feels more relaxed and predictable.

“How Great is Our God”
Listen to verse two of “How Great is Our God” (written by Chris Tomlin, Jesse Reeves and Ed Cash) as recorded by Chris on Arriving.

Now the same version as recorded by Leigh Barnard on One God.

The studio recording (by Chris Tomlin) has a kick drum pattern that sounds like “doom-doom —  do dooo do do”. Leigh Barnard’s version sounds like “do-do   —   do doom.”

I actually think both bass drum patterns work well. Depending on how I felt on a given weekend, I might suggest we switch it up and try Leigh’s pattern.

The bass drum pattern can make a huge difference to the dynamic of a song. Figure out what pattern would work best, use the “doom-doom-do-doooo” drumese language if you must, and make sure your bass player is speaking the language too.

So, in summary, to speak bass drum in “drumese” just fiddle around with “do”, “dooo”, “do-d0”, etc., etc. You’ll feel silly (rightfully so), but it’s good for you.

2 thoughts on “Drumese for Dummies – Lesson 1

  1. Matt Scott January 15, 2010 / 1:09 pm

    That’s hilarious, Mr. Doom-Do! But seriously, getting the right bass drum pattern (and thus the bass guitar pattern) can make or break a song. For me ‘How Great is Our God’ is a really important one to get the right kick drum pattern the way Chris Tomlin’s drummer plays it. It’s surprisingly nuanced. And the bass guitar has to be right on top of it. Without that, the song starts to sound very ordinary instead of glorious.

  2. Matt Blick January 17, 2010 / 1:09 pm

    You must speak a different dialect to me (and I thought it was Drummish).

    A bass drum is pronounced “bum” unless it’s played without dampening and/or by John Bonham in which case it’s pronounced “boom”. Double bass drums/double pedals are pronounced “bub”

    A snare can either “da” or “dah” depending on the amount of reverb (going all the way up to “KKrrraaaaaaahhh” for extreme heavy metal power ballad reverb) and a snare with a rimshot is “dang” as in the famous heavy metal ending “bubba dang – psssshhhhh”

    apart from that – spot on!

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