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Billy Cobham is one of the pioneers of jazz-fusion drumming as well as applying drum rudiments to drumkit/drumset.

In 1971, Cobham and John McLaughlin co-founded a new jazz-fusion group, Mahavishnu Orchestra, shortly after Cobham had worked on McLaughlin's solo album the prior year. The group's debut album, The Inner Mounting Flame, which features Cobham on drums, McLaughlin on acoustic and electric guitar, Rick Laird on bass, Jan Hammer on acoustic piano and synthesizers, and Jerry Goodman on violin, made history with its powerful mix of hard rock and jazz influenced improvisational forms.

The third track on the album, "The Noonward Race," is a fantastic example of Billy Cobham's signature speed, creativity, expression, and linear groove concepts. Here are two drum grooves from this instrumental track (studio version) that you will want to add to your drumming vocabulary. While you can work towards playing these as fast as Cobham, approximately 155 beats per minute (bpm) to the quarter-note, the drum grooves work very well at much slower tempos ... which is where you will want to begin.

Billy Cobham - The Noonward Race (groove 1)

In this first drum groove, Cobham makes use of Kick, Snare and Hi-Hat. While it is not a pure linear groove (notice the Hi-Hat and Snare unisons), it most certainly has a linear feel. On the record, Cobham is driving the groove with the quarter-note pulse on the Hi-Hat, however in live situations (see video below), he incorporates straight eighth-notes. It is up to you which route you choose to take; tempo and desired sound texture will help you in your decision. The ghost-notes on the Snare drum should be played very soft. To create the proper feel and texture, work to make a large contrast between the ghost-notes and the accented backbeats on the Snare — the ghost-notes should be even quieter than the Hi-Hat.

Billy Cobham - The Noonward Race (groove 2)

In this second drum groove, Cobham changes up the feel by moving from downbeats on the Hi-Hat to upbeats on the bell of the Ride cymbal. Again, notice the ghost-notes on the Snare drum. THIS is a fantastic linear drum groove ... and it really cooks!

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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