Canadian Musician


Jeff Salem

Q & A on Developing Independence & Coordination

Jeff salem Multi Tasking

Greetings fellow drummers, here is a recent question I received from the educational director from Modern Drummer magazine.

What are your favourite methods/techniques for developing independence and coordination?

I always remember one of my early drum lessons, when my teacher asked me to apply quarter notes on my bass drum to a simple quarter-note/8th-note snare exercise. I will never forget how much of a challenge it was to avoid flamming my hands with the bass drum, especially when the bass note had to play in unison with my left hand.

One coordination exercise I give to all my students is what I call the Big 4 foot patterns. They aren’t too difficult but will have plenty of application at all levels and styles of playing. Try playing them under a variety of hand patterns.

The Big 4

Pattern 1: quarter notes on the bass drum

Pattern 2: quarter notes on the hi-hat (with the foot)

Pattern 3: Half notes on the bass drum and the hi-hat (with the foot) on beats 2 and 4

Pattern 4: Quarter notes on the bass drum with the hi-hat (with the foot foot) on beats 2 and 4

Once students are comfortable playing the Big 4 underneath simple marching-type snare drum exercises, I will move into drumkit applications. Pattern 2 is great to apply to any rock beat playing off the ride cymbal. Pattern 3 is a great one to introduce students to a two-beat jazz feel. Pattern 4 is great to demonstrate a 4/4 jazz feel.

It’s important to help students develop a nice balance between all limbs. I will give them a pattern or rhythm to play on the bass drum, and then move it to the hi-hat (foot), and then to the ride cymbal and snare. The video below demonstrates a 3-2 rumba clave played in this context.

I also try to get students to learn songs open-handed. I will have them first play it traditionally, with the hands crossed over, and then switch at the second verse to open-handed playing, while listening to see if the groove or dynamic alters. This is a great coordination exercise.


Some more advanced approaches I use with students involve reading of page 38 of Ted Reed’s book Syncopation. (It was page 37 in the original printing.) Alan Dawson wrote a book titled, The Drummer’s Complete Vocabulary, which shows many ways to practice this page to develop plenty of independence and coordination. I also like using Modern Text Reading by Louie Bellson. Have fun, and be patient. The world of independence is a life long journey, so enjoy the ride.

Catch you next month,
Jeff Salem A.K.A. Noise Organizer

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