‘Progressive Steps to Syncopation For The Modern Drummer’ – snappy title eh? When I first came across this book some 12 years ago I was non-plussed; it appeared to me the most boring book in the world. And by itself it is. Page after page of single line rhythms leading nowhere and with no orchestration. However in recent years, I’ve discovered that this book is a veritable treasure trove for the serious drummer be they beginner or advanced players. Over years of study, this book has helped develop my:

  • Reading
  • Coordination
  • Feel/time/syncopation
  • Improvisation
  • Listening
  • Single and double bass drumming

So how can this humble book develop all these skills? Let’s look at a simple example. I have included the first two lines from the 20 bar exercise on p11 below.


The first exercise I’d like to share is as follows.  8th notes are to be played on the bass drum and the 1/4 notes with the snare. Over the top of this  play 8th notes on the hi hat. Here’s what the first two lines should sound like.


Of course, there is a multitude of ways of tweaking this exercise, for instance by playing different hi-hat patterns, or by playing rudiments (I’ll address this in future articles). How many can you come up with? Subsequent pages are great for practicing bass drum technique and double bass facility.

Below is a more advanced application of Syncopation. This time we’re using p38, the first of the mixed exercises from the syncopation section of the book. From now on, I’m playing the 8th notes using a swung interpretation (more on this in subsequent posts).



Play 2 and 4 with the hi-hat foot, and a triplet roll (sextuplets) on the snare.  Quarter notes are played on the cymbals with the bass drum, 8th notes are accented on the snare drum. Here’s what it sounds like.

Below is another example from the same page, mixing up the above approach with 2 others (see ‘The Drummer’s Complete Vocabulary’ by John Ramsay).


‘The Drummer’s Complete Vocabulary’ is an excellent resource for guiding the intermediate and advanced player’s practice with Syncopation. Following the scheme of study here will transform the feel of you’re playing in whatever style you choose, by embedding the triplet feel into your playing – whether you’re aiming to play jazz or if you want to play a fat lazy groove like John Bonham, these exercises will help (why not do both!)

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