Please excuse my ignorance, but until I purchased the Drumming System (affiliate link), I never regarded folk drumming as anything more than rock beats. I learned a lot when I went through the section on this style of music. Fortunately, this has helped me as a professional drummer. I play drums for a variety of folk singer/songwriters, such as Pete Mroz, Brian Franke, and Andrea Nardello. Andrea’s latest album, My Aeroplane, was nominated for a Grammy Award in the American Roots – Adult Contemporary Folk category.
Folk music began in the 1950’s and became really prevalent in the 1960’s. Artists such as John Denver, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and Bob Dylan really popularized folk music. Groups such as Simon and Garfunkel along with Peter, Paul, and Mary also helped set folk music in motion.
Folk drumming isn’t very technical. The beats serve their purpose for the music with very simple grooves. One feature that you will notice in classic folk music is a tambourine. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, singers would play a tambourine as they sang. Singers who have the ability to sing and keep time with a tambourine possess a very unique quality. As a drummer you have the option of using a mounted tambourine in folk music.
The Drumming System (affiliate link) shows you how to play essential folk beats. Most of the beats are your basic rock beats with a mounted tambourine played in place of the snare drum. Even though the beats and fills that you play can be similar to rock, it is your feel that is gonna make it sound like folk music. The best way to develop a good folk drumming feel is to play along to folk music
Several years ago, I saw Patty Griffin live in New York City. The show actually started with her drummer laying down the groove. Had I not known it was folk music, the groove he played would have felt like the beginning of a funk tune. One of the amazing things about playing drums is that so many of our beats can be used in so many different styles. I remember talking with Andrea Nardello before we were about to perform. She said that “folk” is a term that’s an umbrella for a variety of musical styles.
When people hear the term, “folk music”, it can have a certain connotation (acoustic guitar, mellow, slow). Lately the music industry has been using the term “Americana” to describe and market contemporary folk music. Regardless of what you call it, having a folk drumming vocabulary is essential to mastering this style. Be sure to check out the Drumming System (affiliate link).