Drum Grooves Provide The Foundation

Most songs have a foundation that provide an anchor.

The foundation is usually held down with the rhythm section of drums, bass and keyboards, but for the most part, the drums are the sole provider of the foundation — the beat.

So when people tell you they like a song because of the beat, they are saying they like the foundation, and the way it makes them react to songs.

If you let five people listen to the same song, you will probably get five different reactions. That’s a good thing. It reveals that the same five people listened to a song and came away with five different interpretations.

Some weeks back, I wrote about guitar solos that I enjoy. Being a drummer since age 10, here are some rock drum grooves that I can listen to again and again. I am limiting the genre to rock because that’s what first captured my attention. I remember seeing Three Dog Night on some TV talk show sing “Joy To The World.” I saw drummer Floyd Sneed play a clear set of drums, probably a set of Ludwig VistaLite Drums, and I was hooked on drumming. This was late spring 1971. I liked the sound, but most of all, I liked the rhythm and punch that accented certain parts of the song.

Here are some other songs that have influenced me in one way or another.


As I have previously written, Neil Peart was a drummer’s drummer. He was more than just a drummer in a famous progressive rock band called Rush. From 1974, to about 2015, when Peart announced that he retired from drumming, he forever changed the way a drummer approaches his parts. He was the foundation of a power trio that made music — great music — to their diehard fans. Peart redefined drumming for many drummers including myself. When 1981 arrived, so did “Moving Pictures.” From that, the band’s most recognizable anthem, “Tom Sawyer” was released. That opening drum pattern was enormous and set up the song perfectly. To me, that’s when I knew Peart was a musical genius.


Steve Porcaro was great session drummer as well as being one of the founding members of Toto. This is a song that featured the Bernard Purdie half-time shuffle. It’s a variation on a theme as it is not exactly the shuffle, but was Porcaro’s interpretation. The song can be found on “Toto IV.”


What more can I say about Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham that hasn’t already been said. He is a legend and still inspires many drummers today. Listen to any Zeppelin song and you may instantly fall in love with Bonham’s playing. He was heavy, but intricate as well. I not only liked his grooves, but his drum tone was also exceptional for the size of drums he played — a 26-inch bass drum, a 14-inch rack tom, a 16- by 16-inch floor tom, a 16- by 18-inch floor tom, and a 6 1/2- by 14-inch snare drum. All Ludwig drums of course. But again it’s his intepretation of the Purdie Shuffle. It’s one of my favorite songs and drum grooves of all time. The song can be found on “In Through The Out Door.”


The real Purdie Shuffle is heard on this track, played by Purdie himself. Purdie has impeccable time, and when he lays down this groove, the song flows around it. It can be found on Steely Dan’s “Aja.”


Again, the real Purdie Shuffle is heard on this track as well performed by, you guessed it, Purdie. Like “Home at Last,” this song also flows around the track. Steely Dan brought in the best studio musicians to play on their albums. Co-founders Donald Fagan, vocals, keyboards; and Walter Becker, guitar and bass, made the correct choice enlisting the talents of Purdie. This song can be found on “Gaucho.” An ironic fact is that Porcaro also was a studio musician for the duo.


Steve Gadd uses a Mozambique beat to propel the song made popular by Paul Simon. It’s beautiful and intricate. Gadd plays the song with two pairs of drum sticks. It looks so simple watching him perform the groove, but is so hard when trying to perform it yourself. The song can be found on “One Trick Pony.”


Another Paul Simon song, t and to me this song’s hook is the drum cadence that Gadd developed. It begins the song and it ends the song. He made the cadence fit perfectly. If you are a drummer, it makes you want to play. When you first hear the song, you may think that there is not a groove, but the cadence is the groove, and the song is built around it. The song can be found on “Still Crazy After All These Years.”


You have probably heard this Journey song played many times throughout the past decades. Steve Smith came up with a very original part to this song, and if you can find the video on YouTube, Smith explains how he wrote the part and built upon it. As a drummer, he is one of my greatest influences. The song can be found on “E5C4P3” (Escape).


Clem Burke stepped out of the box on this song by Blondie. He used single stroke rolls to come up with the groove. When I first heard this song, I couldn’t stop listening to it. It’s a real workout, and demonstrates how Burke can play effortlessly. The song can be found on “Eat To The Beat.”

As always I welcome your feedback.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)


Starting at $4.75/week.

Subscribe Today