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Second Line drumming, also known as the Traditional New Orleans Funeral March is a New Orleans style of drumming with a long history. It's influences can be heard in Dixieland, Jazz, Funk, Rock and Pop styles.

A traditional New Orleans funeral ceremony involved a band comprised of brass instruments and drums. They would play somber dirges on the way to the cemetery with the mourners following just behind. The group of mourners became known as the "Second Line".

On the way back from the cemetery, the drums (snare & bass) would increase the tempo, playing an open, slightly syncopated march that was MUCH happier than the music heard on the way to the cemetery. (See Fig. 1)

The mourners or "Second Line" would dance in the streets behind the band to release/purge their sorrows. The rhythms played by the drums during this portion of the ceremony became known as "Second Line" rhythms or "street beats".

Basic Second Line

To fully understand these Second Line rhythms, one needs to spend a great deal of time listening. Every player has their own unique way of playing these grooves, not to mention the vast number of rhythms, use and application over the years. Explaining what Second Line sounds and feels like using only words and notation is a difficult task. I can tell you that they have a rounded or rolling quality to them not unlike contemporary Funk rhythms. Since there are two or more players involved with the snare and bass drum parts, there is a contrapuntal rhythmic approach resulting in patterns that are not symmetrical ... like traditional military marches.

Listening suggestions:

Zig Modeliste
Stanton Moore
Johnny Vidacovich
Idris Muhammad
and others!

Bart Elliott Bart Elliott is a degreed professional musician and founder of the Drummer Cafe. His 35+ 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 and gifted teacher, appearing as a guest artist and clinician throughout the USA.

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