Drum Lesson: Something Good by Alt-J

Recently, I was fortunate to get a full-length feature article published in the July 2013 issue of Drum! Magazine. (If you have a chance, check it out!) In that piece, I talk about creative drumming.

After the magazine had already come out, one of my students (Dan) came to his lesson curious about Thom Green’s beats in a song called Something Good by Alt-J. Never having heard this band, I was a bit skeptical until I checked out a video of the song. I was pleasantly surprised.

 

Here are the two drum patterns found in the song.

Ex. 1: As an intro and verse groove, Green plays a double paradiddle-diddle between his a cowbell mounted off the floor tom (he uses a StickBall attached to his right stick to get a shaker sound) and the snare drum with his left stick. I notated the StickBall part as a hi-hat to reflect the high frequency sound.

Ex. 2: The simple chorus pattern is the perfect foil to the busy verse groove. Notice the syncopation that Green adds at the end of the two-measure phrase. A sort of funky comma.

Green demonstrates creativity in a number of aspects outlined in my Drum! article.

• Respond to Other Musicians–Check out the ingenious way the verse and chorus patterns fit like puzzle pieces along with the rhythms supplied by the vocal melody, guitar riff, and bass line.

• Use Rudiments–The double-paradiddle-diddle was the perfect choice for this tune.

• Manipulate with Feel and Phrasing–Green does this in spades, especially in the area of changing up rhythmic density to create momentum.

• Experiment with Kit Set-Ups...Drum Stick Implements–The sound of the stick (with attached StickBall) striking a mounted tambourine puts a unique stamp on the chorus groove. This high-frequency vibe contrasts nicely with the prominent bass line.

Your Assignment–If you’re in a band, come up with a cool rudimental groove and throw repeated tantrums until your bandmates allow you to use it in an original song.
If you’re not in a band (why is that?), design your own awe-inspiring rudimental groove and play it repeatedly in your drum closet. When you take your trash out, ask your neighbor what they thought about it.