6 Basic Beats, by Barney Arathoon,

The phrase ‘Four on the Floor’ was coined to describe the ‘doof, doof, doof, doof,’ sound of the dance and electronic music of the 70s. This beat pattern was used to provide a simple and solid accompaniment to the loud, brash tunes that infected the discotheques of the time, and was created by very simply thumping the bass drum four times a bar. These days the definition of the phrase has broadened, and it is now used to describe the simplest drumbeat one can produce with a standard kit. This beat is what you will be learning first, and it is what we’ll be basing every other beat or rhythm on. Everything in drumming comes from Four on the Floor. This is how it goes. In your head, count to four. Now count to four again. Now add an ‘and’ between each number and repeat. And again. And again. You need to be counting in time, with each number (or beat) said with an equal amount of time between them. There shouldn’t be any more time between the ‘4’ of the first round of counting and the ‘1’ of the second. Like this:


Now keep counting. Now, as you continue counting (out loud if there’s no-one around/you don’t embarrass easily), sit down at your shiny new drum kit and make sure everything’s in the right place. For this exercise all you need is the snare, bass and hi-hat. Keep that counting going, you should be getting good at it by now. Your snare should be snugly between your thighs, in a position where you can easily strike the centre of the head with your LEFT drumstick when your LEFT arm is relaxed and vertical next to your body down to the elbow, then nearly horizontal from your elbow to your hand. You want to have as close to a right-angle as you can get in your elbow. The striking power from your LEFT stick comes exclusively from your elbow and wrist, so your upper arm can remain almost motionless during almost all your drumming. Keep that count going!

The tip of your RIGHT stick should be resting in the middle of your hi-hat, which should be positioned somewhere around your LEFT knee. You strike the hi-hat in the middle because if you hit it too near the centre then it’ll sound like a bell, and if you hit it too close to the edge then you’ll be tempted to hit it with the main body of the stick. You only ever hit the hi-hat with THE TIP OF YOUR STICK. This is because if you hit it with the main body of your stick it sounds like a snake with hiccups. Too loud, too messy. So gently, with the tip of your stick, in the middle. Keep counting!

So by now you should be reaching across yourself with your RIGHT arm to hit the hi-hat, and your LEFT hand should be underneath your RIGHT, ready to hit the snare. Place your LEFT foot on the hi-hat pedal, and your RIGHT one on the bass drum pedal. I hope you’ve been counting, because this is where it gets complicated.

1. Press down on the hi-hat, and keep the pressure on.
2. Count. 1...+...2...+...3...+...4...+...1...+...2...+...3...+...4...+...
3. On every number and ‘+’ you say, hit the hi-hat GENTLY, WITH THE TIP OF YOUR STICK, IN THE MIDDLE
4. So you should have a steady tic...tic...tic...tic... Keep this going until you’re doing it without thinking.
5. Now, keep counting. On 1 and 3 you hit the hi-hat AND stomp the bass drum pedal. Do this for every 1 or 3 that you count. So now it should sound like, thoom...tic...tic...tic...thoom...tic...tic...tic...
6. Be sure to keep hitting the hi-hat on 1 and 3 too, no cheating!
7. Keep the count going. Now, on 2 and 4 you hit the hi-hat AND the snare drum. So now it should sound like, thoom...tic...tang...tic...thoom...tic...tang...tic... Keep hitting that hi-hat on 2 and 4 too, or you’ll start forgetting it without realising.

And that’s it; you’re playing Four on the Floor! Speed it up a bit, slow it down, play it for hours until you can do it without having to count. First exercise, done!