Hi-Hat and Ride Cymbals Variations for Funk Drumming

ride cymbals variationsSo you want to get more funky? You want to learn how to groove and jive? Funk is not only a passionate genre, but it is a unique one as well. First things first, you have to know what the funk is all about.

Funk drumming is based off of syncopation. I know, the term does sound very funk-tastic, but it’s the truth.

What’s Syncopation?

Syncopation is a funny little word that means your notes are played on the off-beat. Let’s say you are playing quarter notes in 4/4. Now, with syncopation, you would be playing between the notes.

Sound crazy?

Well, it’s really not. When you count out your measure, you count by and’s (one and two and three and four and…). With syncopation, you would be playing notes on the ‘and’ in between your counts.

How is that funky?

Think about it. Playing between notes is an odd concept. That is the basis of funk; being odd. Makes sense now, huh?

Keeping syncopation in mind, creating hi hat and ride variations should be a cinch. Before you even sit at your kit though, analyze your cymbals. The ride has an edge, a middle, and a bell. The hi-hat has all three sections as well, plus the fact that those choices are doubled by the ability to actually close the hi-hat.

Now we have syncopation and striking variations.

Analyze Your Strokes

Do you constantly perform double strokes or flams? If you do, try adding ghost notes and grace notes. Funk is as much about feel as it is about oddity. When you are playing, syncopated grace notes and ghost drum notes can make a world of difference to your sound.



Try performing a syncopated flam on the ride, accenting right before you strike your next note. This technique adds an undeniable flavor to your playing.

Another Great Variation Is To Combine Cymbal Sections

Begin your stroke on the bell and then accent on the edge of the ride. With your hi-hat, experiment with different patterns while opening and closing it. The goal of funk is to create dynamic contrast, and the best way to obtain this is by experimenting with combinations. Short rolls on your close hi-hat can add an unexpected, yet pleasing effect between notes.

To accent your groove, perform a line of paradiddles on your ride, utilizing the bell. This will lend a flow to your drumming, creating an undeniably head bobbing groove.

If you find yourself accenting the ride with the bass, move your feet off of the pedals and try a linear approach. Linear drumming is simply striking one note at a time. I know harmony can be very tempting, but force yourself to take a more melodic approach.

Don’t add other instrumentation. Perform rudiments using only the ride in between your snare hits. This will give your playing more effectiveness, as sometimes too many voices at once can confuse a listener. Let your ride be the voice the sings between notes. This will catch listener’s attention.

Now that you have some ideas for hi hat and ride variations, try implementing them into your playing. When you are jamming, slow yourself down and take notice of what notes you are playing. Funk is an art, so be sure to treat it as one!

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