How to play the famous ‘Funky Drummer’ beat

The funky drummer beat might be the most famous drum beat of all time. A quick google search told me it has been sampled and used in at least 1440 songs and that’s just the ‘official’ records. Think about how many bedroom producers who have this thing somewhere on their computers or inside their beatmaking workstations. It’s everywhere.

Sampling is one thing however. Actually playing this thing requires skill. A lot of skill. You cannot ‘kinda‘ play the funky drummer beat. As soon as you do that it’s not funky anymore and that’ll lead you to feel like you’re not a real drummer, which means there’s nothing left of it. Do not fret however. It might not be easy to play, but it’s definitely learnable and doable. I tried playing this thing a couple of months ago and wasn’t even close. And when I recorded this video a couple of months and lots of practicing other stuff later, it still took me a quite a few takes to get it right, but I got something I was happy with. That’s progress. And if I can do it… you know.

Some of you who watch the video and are paying close attention might notice that I actually don’t play the groove 100% the same as Clyde Stubblefield plays it.

The open hihat is in the wrong place and should actually be played twice at different spots. I played this groove from the top of my head when shooting the video, being 100% convinced I knew it. Turned out I remembered it wrong but this was pointed out to me 6 months after the video was published. Up until then I thought I nailed this thing :-).

Anyways, we all make mistakes and it’s still a great groove to play so I’m gonna leave the video and this blogpost up for everyone to enjoy!

For information on pad layout, basic techniques, equipment and more you can read this introduction article or sign up for one of the free courses on this website.

The funky drummer

Diagrams for finger drumming a shuffle groove