Richard Spaven Groove

Hey everyone,

It’s been over two months since my last post here. I’m not one for the food blogging approach to writing where 1/8 of the article is an actual recipe and the other (much larger portion) winds and swirls into a verbose dialogue about what the author did that day. So I’m just going to get straight down to business as usual.

Coming today is 6/4 groove from the man himself, Richard Spaven. This guy has got some serious pocket, like those back pockets on those hip (you know you had a pair) JNCO jeans from the 90s. Except cut a hole out of the bottom and stitch another one to it. Then you might be starting to get a sense of how deep Richard’s sense of groove is.

(just imagine all the groove that could be in there)

Here’s the video clip that spawned this post:


Here is the transcription(and a download link below) with a few extra goodies added. I’ll get to measures 2-4 in a minute.



Measure 1 is Spaven’s actual groove, not accounting for the slight variants. There’s definitely a single conceptual thread running alongside the vocal line, and I believe this is it. This groove definitely pulls from an Afro-Cuban rhythm called the Bembe but with a few extra 8th notes added. 

The triple pulse(12/8) section shares a lot of rhythmic identity with Spaven’s groove. If you were to play only the notes on the bell, the ostinato shift from downbeat to upbeat is signature to the Bembe and is fairly common motif of Afro-Cuban rhythmic stacking where the ostinato usually sits on top of its hemiola counterpart. Richard doesn’t enter that territorial change from triple pulse to duple pulse, but it’s totally possible in context with this groove.

As for measure 2,3 & 4, these are simple displacements of the original idea. Getting the most out of what you know is a very powerful concept. You’ve heard the idiom, getting the best bang for your buck. This is kind of like that. The displacement principle works on those subtle levels in which shifting the heavy accents to other parts of the measure creates an entirely new rhythmic climate at the cost of learning no new licks, dynamics or accents. Technically this Spaven lick yields 8 different variants, but you get the picture!

Happy drumming,

Meshuggah – “Stengah” Drum Playthrough

It took me a bit longer than expected to get last month’s song transcription in video form. Ran into some electrical problems with the Presonus interface and had to wait several weeks for it to make it back home. But all is well. This one was a whole lot of fun and a good challenge that improved a lot of weak areas in my playing. And if you haven’t downloaded it already, below is the link to the full transcription .pdf!


Transcription: Drums – Meshuggah Stengah

Meshuggah – “Stengah” Drum Transcription

I won’t be too long with this post because the real goods are in the link below. This is one of my favorite Meshuggah tracks off their 2002 album Nothing. It’s got all the polyrhythmic grooving you’ll need this week. This song alone has enough material to digest that it will help with coordination, poly-rhythms and just overall accuracy of playing, since the kick drum placement is crucial to really playing this song accurately (which I’m still working on). All in all Tomas Haake’s playing here is really to be sought after. He mostly sits back in the pocket and lays down the hammer.

One thing I will mention too. There are several sections involving a tom groove. My transcription is mostly for reference, as I really don’t play it precisely how it is written. I recommend coming up with you own while sticking to the 16th note motif that runs through those sections. Linear is key here.

I’ll have a video cover uploaded soon when I can actually play the song to the end. Meanwhile…

Feel free to download the .pdf below and use it freely as you wish! All credit and glory of course to Tomas and Meshuggah. I’m just the messenger.

And if you found yourself here not knowing who or what Meshuggah is or what Stengah is, here’s a video clip to get you up to speed:



Drums – Meshuggah Stengah (This is the transcription link)

Mike Mitchell 9


So it’s been a hot minute since my last post. But no worries fellow rhythm travelers. I’ve been occupied elsewhere, but I’ve a got a lot of lessons lined up now. So expect to see a Mark Guliana Solo Transcription (part of it anyways), Eric Coleman Inspired Licks, Tony Williams Inspired Licks, some transcriptions from GoGo Penguin’s album Man Made Object and beyond.

But today I want to give a second to this dynamite 8th note triplet lick by Mike Mitchell. And another nine phrase to offset that duple feel. Yeah!

Set in an uptempo Brazilian groove with a driving cymbal/kick accent on the (2 trip let) makes it less predictable and when up to this sickeningly fast tempo it sounds like an atomic drum explosion going off.




I’ve set it up in two different instances. The first bar being 8th note triplets in a 3/4 time. And the second being 16th note triplet and just filling up a whole four bar with it. This one is a bit trickier but it lands right on the cymbal hit so a double on the kick puts you right back on top of the beat.

As per usual this is a good lick to start in spots other than 1. One is great and all but when started on the anticipation beat of that last triplet in beat 2 it is much more hip. And this is a good moment here to just say. I usually learn new licks like this with the hi-hat foot keeping time. You probably won’t have a metronome at the gig, so you’ll need something to keep you tight. But whenever learning anything new like this -and especially when the beginning is anywhere other than the downbeat – it will make your timing much stronger. Say it doesn’t come out right either. Then you’ve got your foot keeping time to bring you back back home. And thirdly, it helps improve limb independence. Playing triplet patterns with your hands and feet over a quarter pulse hi-hat is in and of itself very rewarding for freeing up all your body parts.

This lick is super fun and very pocket. Happy Grooving!

Until next time.

The Sexy 9

(Featured image totally related by the way. It’s a good geometrical representation of 24 points inside of a 4 pointed object, which is totally relevant to sextuplets in a 4 note Western music narrative.)

Coming at you this week is a lick and some different exercises included with the lick. It’s a 9 note phrasing in a 16th note triple feel. The 9 is an especially interesting number for a triplet phrase inside of a measure of 4 beats. It’s probably safe to imagine that most drummers in the Western part of the world will be playing some incarnation of a 4 beat measure anyways.

The 9 note phrasing as opposed to the 6 or 3 note phrasing is so much more hip. Why? In triple time it goes over the bar line or resolves on the upbeat, making some of the accents fall into interesting beat territory. But it totally comes with a word of caution. These types of linear licks are almost always explosive and full on attention grabbers. I could totally see this lick getting you some nasty glares from the rest of the band if not careful. Let’s be honest, most folks could care less if you’re resolving on the upbeat or playing over the bar line. Most bands just want the crash on the 1 anyways. But say you’re feeling frisky and you know where this thing is gonna land, this could leave you feeling like the beat ruler you are.


The first measure is the beginning 9 note pattern. And just for emphasis, the two notes before the 3 strong snare hits are really meant to be played soft. When played up to speed and just soft enough, it really gives this a great sound. And the last 6 notes of each phrase are the first 6 within the 9 phrase to complete the measure and fall back onto the 1 (because in all seriousness, playing it this way will be the preferred method in most musical applications (but don’t play it safe)).

But once that is up to speed, the next 5 phrases are just displaced phrases of the parent lick. There are bunch you can do with this one, but I found those 5 to be pretty interesting. In general, displacing your phrases are a great way to maximize their creativity and sound fresh without having to learn anything new. Though offsetting it by one or more can be surprisingly difficult, more so than you may imagine.

In addition to that, the 6/8 phrase is there just to show how neatly the phrase fits in 6/8. Cool!

The last one is a back beat with the 9 phrase beginning on the 3, therefor making it cross the bar line and eventually resolving at the end of the next measure, causing it to be played a cycle of 4 times. It can be experimented with on all the downbeats and upbeats. The and of 3, the 4, the and of 2, etc. Since this lick shifts from downbeat and upbeat, both places make great starting and stopping points, and the more experimentation with them will yield cooler results! And of course, the placement and sticking of this is totally up to interpretation of the player but I’ve been navigating this by way of: KKRLrrLRL.

Happy grooving!

Eric Harland Transcription


This week’s transcription is reviewing some playing by the one of the most innovative, metronomic (yet somehow simultaneously non-metronomic), meticulous, groovy and pocketed drummers of our time. Eric Harland is a rhythmic anomaly. Probably a humanoid: half-man, half-machine. He plays with the grid-like precision of an Ableton Push yet his dynamics and overall feeling is beyond the limitation of any musical algorithms. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he turned out to be a T-1000 in disguise, sent from the future to the past to terminate all other inferior rhythms.

Anyways, the clip I’m sharing today is a three bar fill whipped out during a Berklee soundcheck. Here’s that sweet piece. This performance was with Julian Lage. And if you haven’t listened to his sultry sounds, stop reading this and listen to this. His sounds are so sweet, it’ll make your teeth hurt. Just be sure to gargle some water afterwards if you can’t brush.

But getting back to the main attraction. One of the more interesting qualities of this fill are all the subdivisions he just enters and exits and transitions through so quickly. In three bars you’ve got a transition of quarter notes, triplets, 8th notes, sextuplets, 16th notes and 32nd notes. He’s dicing the quarter note feel into a bunch various sized time chunks seamlessly, and in a way that isn’t exactly predictable. And presumably all happening in the moment. This fill rolls out on beat 2. It could also be played on beat 4 for a similar effect. The setting is just a backbeat (at its core), kick on 1/3 and snare on 2/4 (but naturally with all the tasteful idiosyncrasies typical of this cyborg man). Check it out.

I’ve found it to be challenging, especially with beginning the first of the sextuplets with closing the hi-hat. Overall though, this lick hosts a sweet set of ideas to have in your pocket. There aren’t too many drummers now that would play something like this over a backbeat, so expanding into this new vocabulary will definitely unlock some idioms of your own as your explore all the nooks and crannies of the beat. Here’s another link if you want another resolution of the transcription: Eric Harland Fill.

There will be more EH in the future, along with some EH inspired licks and grooves.

Stay tuned.

Wes Watkins Groove

I discovered Wes Watkins (youtube channel link) last week and instantly became an admirer of this guy. It seems like a lot of drumming channels on the tube are really bloated with chop guys these days, but I found Wes to be really thoughtful in how he uses his chops. As opposed to just unleashing a barrage of mind-shattering chops at human-defying speeds (don’t get me wrong, that is still there), there is something in his form that makes all that come together really well and seem less like chaotic free-form and more close to what is an exploration on a theme. Dude’s, got it going on, bottom line. Very flavorful and an inspiration to watch for sure. Anyways, here is the video that got me looking into the specifics of a certain groove he is playing.

Here is the transcription that will be sure to get your hands and feet some nice exercise.


And here is a video of me playing it around 100 bpm.

One of the biggest challenges for a groove like this is the placement of the ghost notes. It’s easy to get trapped in a very linear movement with the flow always being one drum at a time, especially with the softer notes. It seems many people begin this type of playing with David Girabaldi and Future Sounds (grab a copy if you don”t have one already) that mostly focuses on paradiddles and their displaced counterparts. Once again, very linear. But with this Wes Watkins groove, it will really work on your coordination to get some of your softer notes overlapping with the harder upbeats and the kick.

Happy Grooving, ya’ll.