Today we are going to check out some of the drumming concepts of Reggae..!
Reggae is a Jamaican popular music created through the influence of various forms of music and was registered as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2018. Wikipedia has a detailed description of its drum play style.
I learned a lot from the Wikipedia article above because I didn't know very much about regage until I read that. Let's look into the 3 main categories.
With the One drop, the emphasis is effectively on the backbeat (usually on the snare, or as a rim shot combined with bass drum). But one is empty except for a closed high only used, which is unused in popular music. There is some controversy about what other reggae should be counted so that this beat falls on two and four, or why it should be counted two as fast, so it falls on three. An example played by Barrett can be heard in the Bob Marley and the Wailers song "One Drop". Barrett often used an unused-triplet cross rhythm on the hi-h, which may be many years on records by Bob Marley and the Wailers, such as "Running Away" on the Kaya album.
On the other hand, every reggae song has a bit of percussion, which is an important element of spatial expansion, liveliness, and rattling. So I don't think we can create a full-blown and authentic sound like Bob Marley and the Wailers without percussion. First of all, we have the small number of percussionists out there and it is not easy to introduce it, which sets a hurdle higher.
An emphasis on the backbeat is found in all reggae drumbeats, but with the Rockers beat, the emphasis is on all four beats of the bar (usually on bass drum). This beat was pioneered by Sly and Robbie, who later helped create the "Rub-a-Dub" sound that greatly influenced dancehall. Sly has stated he was influenced to create this style by listening to American drummer Earl Young as well as other disco and R&B drummers in the early to mid-1970s, as stated in the book "Wailing Blues". The prototypical example of the style is found in Sly Dunbar's drumming on "Right Time" by the Mighty Diamonds. The Rockers beat is not always straightforward, and various syncopations are often included. An example of this is the Black Uhuru song "Sponji Reggae".
I understand by listening to I Need A Roof and Right Time of Mighty Diamonds that Rockers is like typical rock drums, with high-hats accented on quarter note. Mighty Diamonds' Right Time goes like this.
In Steppers, the bass drum plays every quarter beat of the bar, giving the beat an insistent drive. An example is "Exodus" by Bob Marley and the Wailers. Another common name for the Steppers beat is the "four on the floor". Burning Spear's 1975 song "Red, Gold, and Green" (with Leroy Wallace on drums) is one of the earliest examples. The Steppers beat was adopted (at a much higher tempo) by some 2 Tone ska revival bands of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
This is also a pattern that can effectively produce Reggae style. High-hat is polyrhythmically hit at a specific timing on top of four bass drum kicks in quarter note to make it go Stepers style. One drop style may also include this high-hat (for example: Running Away by Bob Marley and the Wailers), so it may not be a feature of Steppers alone. Bob Marley and the Wailers' Exodus steps like this:
Reggae Drumming Tips
The Wikipedia article also has some tips for Reggae style drumming:
Reggae drummers often involved these three tips for other reggae performers:
(1) go for open, ringing tones when playing ska and rocksteady,
(2) use any available material to stuff the bass drum so that it tightens up the kick to a deep, punchy thud, and
(3) go without a ride cymbal, focusing on the hi-hat for timekeeping and thin crashes with fast decay for accents.
Once you know some of these classifications of styles, you will be able to play in a wider range of drumming styles. I think we can take a different approach from a plain One drop cliche when we try to make a song sound like Reggae.