How to play Reggae

Back in the day, when I was a baby, my father apparently found out this trick to make me go to sleep. He would put on some reggae music, lift me up with my head against his chest and then slowly dance around the living room to the beat of the music. A guaranteed nap time success.

While my dad used reggae for it’s powerful baby-calming properties, it was my mom who was the real reggae fan in our household. I don’t remember how old I was exactly, but I do know that she taught me the bassline to ‘Stir it up’ from Bob Marley and the Wailers. A magical moment, that moment you notice that music actually consists of multiple parts and that the lowest part, the bass part, is usually the hardest to identify but also the coolest 🙂

Needless to say, there’s reggae in my blood and it needs to come out once in a while, so I’m very happy with the lesson I created for you this week.

I wish I could say playing reggae is all about chilling out, but unfortunately drumming a solid reggae groove is hard work man.

A few things to keep in mind when trying to make your reggae groove sound more authentic:
– The part of the bar that feels the ‘heaviest’ should be the three, not the one.
– You can emphasize this by playing a kick on the three and no kick on the one.
– Don’t play anything on the one sometimes, that makes it even more reggae-sounding
– It’s better to crash on the four than the one
– Replace your regular snare hits with shallow rimshot hits for those typical reggae snare rolls

If you’re new here and want to know about the pad layout, and basic techniques, check out the free beginner course or this article about basic finger drumming technique and the standard QFG pad layout.

When you’ve learned the patterns, you can download the reggae backing track I’m jamming over. There’s multiple versions depending on what type of metronome (or no metronome) click you prefer.

Drumless backing tracks ▼

   Reggae track no click   Reggae track w click on afterbeat   Reggae track w click halftime   Reggae track w click on every beat

Reggae beat A (swing feel) ▼

One
a
Two
a
THREE
a
Four
A

Reggae beat B (triplets) ▼

One
TRIP
let
TWO
trip
LET
Three
a
Four
A

Crazy fill (triplets with one double tap) ▼

One
trip
a
let
Two
trip
let
Three
trip
let
Four