Funky Drummer – James Brown – Drum BreakSteve Ley
Clyde Stubblefield's drum break in James Brown's "Funky Drummer" is one of the most instantly recognizable and popular funk grooves of all time. The eight measure drum feature has become one of the most sampled elements in hip hop and popular music.
Late in the piece (around the four-and-a-half minute mark) Brown tells his band “fellas… one more time I want to give the drummer some of this funky soul we got here”. He then instructs Stubblefield “You don’t have to do no soloing, brother, just keep what you got… Don’t turn it loose, ’cause it’s a mother”.
After Brown gives a ‘four count’, the other musicians drop out, leaving Stubblefield playing subtle variations on this one measure pattern (notation and player above).
To assist in learning the pattern, I have broken the beat down into several steps.
Breaking it Down:
- Begin with the basic bass, snare and hi-hat pattern without ornamentation:
2. Add hi-hat slurps on the e’s of beats 2 and 4:
3. Add the ghost notes, leaving out the hi-hat slurps:
4. Add the hi-hat slurps back in to complete the beat (see top image and player). Keep it funky!