Breaking Down a Rock Beat

Breaking Down a Rock Beat

Dan Landis
[email protected]
Duquesne University

TI:ME Technology Areas Addressed:

Electronic Musical Instruments


Middle School


General Music


Keyboards with GM drum sounds, drum bop pads optional.


80 Minutes

Prior Knowledge and Skills:

Knowledge of the keyboard is helpful, but not necessary. Rudimentary knowledge of rhythmic note values is not really necessary.

NAfME standard of 1994 Addressed:

NAfME standard of 1994: Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.

NAfME 2014: Performing 

NAfME standard of 1994: Evaluating music and music performances.

NAfME 2014: Responding 


Only the GM keyboard is indispensable to the lesson. A GEC3 system or headphone splitters (Y cords) may be helpful to the lesson.


The student will be able to play the three main components of the beat (bass drum, snare drum, high hat) individually, in pairs and all together at 80, 100, and 120 bpm or some other (slower) pre-established tempo.


After discussing with students the importance of a drummer to a rock, jazz, or blues band (5 min.), the instructor will teach the class the correct key (or pad) on which to play a bass drum sound. On this key he will demonstrate a basic quarter note on beats 1 and 3. After listening, the students should join in, playing in headphones. Once the students are comfortable with this , the instructor should repeat this procedure with the snare drum playing on beats 2 and 4. Students should play with this new pattern.

The teacher at this point should play the bass and snare together, having the students join in, playing both notes together as well. Follow similarly with the high hat eighth note pattern on all four beats, having the students practice pairing up the bass with the hat, and the snare with the hat comfortably before attempting to sum all three parts. Students can practice together at this point, trading off snare, bass, and hat parts with each other, and playing the f ull pattern. Emphasis should be put on keeping the pattern in time for approximately 16 measures (or more). (35 min. or first day)

The second day allow for some significant practice time (20 min.) and then have the students perform for each other. (15 min). Recap the importance of good rhythm to all that is musical.


Essentially, evaluation breaks down into two parts: tempo and technique/notes.

Those who can only play cleanly and correctly more slowly should receive better grades than those who attempt to play more quickly (or up to tempo), but miss notes or play incorrect parts. This is to encourage correct practice discipline. (Obviously, those who can play flawlessly (within a 16th note discrepancy at the progressively faster tempi of 80, 100, and 120 bpm, no note errors) should get the highest grades (playing 8 measures each for the all together and one set of pairs (teachers choice) for the evaluation), perhaps with extra points going to those with the initiative to attempt improvisation in fills, the extra eighth note on the bass drum before beat 3, and so forth.

A+ = no wrong notes or rhythms
A = 1 wrong note or rhythm total
A- = 2 wrong notes and/or rhythms total
B+ = 3 wrong notes and/or rhythms total, etc.

Grades are recorded in the gradebook for a full grade.

Follow Up:

1) The introduction of fills is easily accomplished into the basic format, as is the introduction of the eighth note before beat 3. (This last can be an exercise for those who are graded earlier in the evaluation process).

2) Substitution of different styles other than rock (Swing, Hip-Hop, Texas Shuffle, Samba, Bossa, etc.).

3) Playing along with sequences and/or MIDI bands.

Items to Purchase:


When budget should be submitted:


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