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As one of the most recognizable Rock tune introductions of all time, the opening four-bars of "We're An American Band" by the legendary band, Grand Funk Railroad, is still one of those drum licks that every drummer wants to learn, and should learn, to play.

"We're An American Band" (from the album of the same name) is a 1973 song by the band Grand Funk Railroad. The group's first #1 single, written by Don Brewer and produced by Todd Rundgren, was a huge chart success and broadened Grand Funk's public appeal. The song was also sung by Don Brewer rather than Mark Farner, who usually took lead vocals.

The first two bars start with a rhythmic-displacement groove (ala Fat Back) between the Kick and Snare drum; quarter-note pulses being identified with the Cowbell. The third and fourth bars incorporates sixteenth-notes, phrased in three-note-groupings between the hands and feet; Snare/Toms and Kick drum.

We're An American Band - drum intro

After listening to the original recording and comparing it to early performances by Don Brewer, you may notice some discrepancy in the third and fourth bars. I personally believe that what Don has always done live is what he did on the original recording. The difference comes from how the drums were mixed on the record as well as the nuances found in Don's recorded performance.

If you want to sound more like the record, in the third measure put more emphasis on the Snare drum, and in the fourth measure, focus more on the Tom Toms. You can achieve this sound even when performing the Double Stops (aka French Flams) on the Snare and Tom Toms. Another option is to only play the Snare and Kick drum in the third bar, then go around the kit, beginning with the Snare drum, in the fourth bar. My notation, however, follows what I've seen/heard Don Brewer play live with Grand Funk Railroad since 1974.

Bart Elliott

Bart Elliott is a degreed professional musician currently residing in Nashville, Tennessee. His 40 years in the music industry, over 100 albums to his credit, as well as his understanding of contemporary and classical music, makes him a complete and skilled master musician. A highly sought after drummer and percussionist, both live and in the studio, Bart is widely known as a top music educator, visual artist, consultant and gifted teacher, appearing as a guest artist and clinician throughout the USA and abroad.

Bart Elliott is the founder and sole proprietor of DrummerCafe.com — established in December 1996.

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