How to Make a Beat GROOVE: 5 Professional Drummers Share Their Insights

By Magesh MageshContributing Author

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The drums are an interesting instrument. If you wrote out a drum beat and had 10 drummers play it, each drummer would make it sound different. Some would play it loose and others would make it sound stiff. I wanted to know what made a drum beat groove. I asked 5 of Australia's top drummers for their advice.

#1 by Leon Kechayas

Leon is one of Australia's top touring and session drummers

Article photo - How to Make a Beat GROOVE: 5 Professional Drummers Share Their Insights

The physical aspects 

Personally, I find that there is a tonne of little aspects (in the physical sense) that all go together that allows a beat "groove" so to speak... I would say that it starts with the basic fundamentals that lay down the core foundations of a groove. For example, for me, it starts with setting up your kit in a way that everything feels natural to play. This is subjective and each player has their comfort zone when setting up their kit. Possibly the selection of gear you choose also has a massive impact in the physical sense - certain cymbals/drums for example all have different voices, which (I find) influence the way I feel and play a groove. Then from that it would go into technique and so on...

The mental aspects

Someone who is "grooving" is a musician who is playing their part in a way that feels and sounds as if you are playing the music freely, flowingly, without hesitation yet with full commitment... as we would say, the musician is "in the pocket". People dance to the rhythm, the heartbeat of the "groove" in a song - it is a natural thing that all humans can feel a rhythm, even people who don't play an instrument - it is embedded within our core. In terms of how a musician (specifically a Drummer) can deliver a beat and make it groove in this way, I would say that it first comes down to how well we can listen to the rest of the band members and what they are playing on their instruments. For example, what is the rhythm guitarist playing? And most importantly (as a Drummer), what is the bass player doing? If you can pay attention to the fine details, the beat will be easier to "feel" and it will flow and groove naturally.

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 #2 by Joe Licciardello

Joe is one of Australia's top drummers/drum educators

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Many aspects can greatly influence the feeling/groove when performing on drums. From a physical perspective, the relationship between the kick, snare, and hi-hats play a crucial role. For example, the dynamic mix of these three parts of the drumset can alter the feeling/groove of a song. Try playing the hi-hats either softer or louder to see what kind of feeling this will produce, you may also consider accents to make a fairly straight standard beat come to life. Another example could be where the snare/kick drum hits are landing in relation to the click. The snare could be played slightly behind the beat creating a more laid-back feel or slightly ahead to generate some more urgency.

The subdivision on the hi-hat and how it can be manipulated from a straight to swung feel is also an integral part of creating a drum part that really grooves. This is more of a mental aspect as to find these grooves written on paper is almost impossible. Some areas of study to help in this space may include:

✔️ Practice groovy songs

✔️ Record and compare yourself to grooves you enjoy

✔️ Study and play with great musicians and expose yourself to a variety of styles of music

Remember groove/feeling will differ from genre to genre and will require subtle shifts in physical and mental application. Listen, practice, play and most importantly have fun!

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#3 by David Jones

David is a legendary Australian drummer

Article photo - How to Make a Beat GROOVE: 5 Professional Drummers Share Their Insights

Groove is the dance in the music.

In terms of drumming, it’s being very consistent, towards metronomic, and yet at the same time there’s a flow and feeling that is indescribable.

There’s a personal way of playing any beat that is on the grid and even sometimes a little in between the grid i.e. consistently behind or consistently in front of the center of the pulse. It’s the zone! Drummers playing the same beat with the same pair of sticks would all sound different. There are all of the technical microscopic differences of placement and tension in arms, wrists, and fingers which affect the resonance of the stick and the instrument played.

Beyond that, there is the intention and the feeling in the mind that drives everything through the body and then through the instrument. It’s something mystical and yet we all hear it and we all feel it. We don’t need to be technical wizard to experience groove. We don’t even need to play an instrument to experience it.

Groove moves you and moves through you and around you. Groove is the energy behind the beat. Groove is a “pulse energized by soulful feeling.” For something to groove, yes, the player needs to be relaxed, but also there’s a certain amount of tension, posture, and drive in the way of playing. The Spiritual, physical, and emotional attitude animates everything.

Groove is life.

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#4 by Justin Humphries

Justin is one of Australia's top session drummers/producers

Article photo - How to Make a Beat GROOVE: 5 Professional Drummers Share Their Insights

The physical aspect that makes a beat really groove is the synchronization between my body and the music. It's about finding the right balance of energy and control in my drumming technique. I focus on maintaining a steady tempo and providing a solid foundation for the other musicians to build upon. It's essential to have precise timing, whether it's hitting the snare, bass drum, or cymbals, and ensuring that each stroke has the right intensity and feel. I pay attention to being in a relaxed state and to my posture, grip, and limb coordination, allowing me to play with ease and fluidity. By staying physically in tune with the music, I become an integral part of the rhythmic heartbeat that drives the band's groove.

The mental aspect that makes a beat really groove when drumming is the ability to listen and connect deeply with the music and the other musicians. It requires me to be present in the moment, actively listening to the melodies, harmonies, and rhythms created by my bandmates. I focus on internalizing the overall groove and feel of the song, understanding its dynamics, and anticipating the transitions. I constantly adapt and respond to the musical cues and subtle nuances from the other instruments, allowing me to lock in with their playing and create a cohesive sound. This mental connection enables me to make conscious decisions about accents, fills, and variations, enhancing the overall musicality and groove of the beat.

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#5 by Tomas Inglese

Tomas is an up-and-coming drummer in the Melbourne music scene

Article photo - How to Make a Beat GROOVE: 5 Professional Drummers Share Their Insights

For me, making a beat groove usually includes toying with a repetitive beat; giving yourself a box to work within. Once the ‘feel’ has been established you can start breaking apart what is familiar, interchanging it with unexpected fills, accents, or breaks at varying times. Making sure these in-between moments of improvisation lean back on the beat keeping it grounded in the feel of the music.

It’s a meticulous balance of keeping the feel and taking chances with improvisation. Beats that excite and catch you off guard command attention for longer, in my opinion. If you can retain the feel of the music and add moments of idiosyncrasy to the groove that’s when it elevates the groove. Important ways to achieve this is by paying much attention to dynamics influenced by lyrical, rhythmic, or melodic composition.

Moments which tie a composition together are also integral to holding a groove down, sometimes these small spaces can shine and provide in-between moments that define the groove. Finding the balance of freely improvising and acutely expressing it with a keen sense of the feel is essential, so that while listening it is natural for one to get locked into the groove.

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About Magesh Magesh

Magesh is a musician and producer who has worked with Rihanna, Lionel Richie, Ricky Martin, Chris Brown, The Pussy Cat Dolls, Nelly Furtado, and Vernon Reid of Living Colour. He released an instructional drumming DVD called "Unique Beats" where he mixed the drum kit with electronics and Indian hand percussion. He recently moved from Australia to the UK to explore new musical opportunities.

Contact Magesh Magesh at

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