Groove #3: Billie Jean
It would be impossible to list all the songs that feature this groove: it’s certainly the daddy of all pop grooves and often nicknamed "the money beat". I'd guess it’s the most played groove of the past half-century. Most famously heard on Michael Jackson’s "Billie Jean" from the album Thriller this basic pop groove is instantly recognisable. Another great example of this groove is on AC/DC's "Girl's Got Rhythm". There isn’t much difference between this groove and My Name Is however now you will be playing 8th-notes on the hi-hat (Figure 3-1).
WHAT ARE 8TH-NOTES?
If you cast your memory back to My Name Is I used the analogy of the beating heart as a regular pulse, and how we can divide these pulses into groups of four to make four beats in a bar (or measure). In musical terms we call these beats quarter-notes because there are four of them in a bar. For the first two grooves of this series you were playing quarter-notes on the hi-hat. Now you will play the hi-hat twice on each beat, doubling the amount of hi-hat strokes in the bar to make eight. So it is logical to call these 8th-notes because there are eight of them in a bar. This extra hi-hat stroke happens precisely in the middle of each beat, no earlier or later, otherwise it would have a different note value, and more importantly a different musical effect.
WARM UP WITH 8 STROKES ON EACH HAND
To get a really good understating of the feeling of playing 8th-notes I recommend you spend some time mastering the warm-up 8 On A Hand before trying this groove. You will need to develop the coordination to strike the hi-hat both on the beat and in between the beats whilst only playing the bass drum or snare on the beat. The "8 On A Hand" warm-up helps you work on the coordination to do this.
PLAY-ALONG WITH THE TRACK OR A CLICK
Play these exercises with the slowed down track or a click to make sure you have an even pulse at all times; accuracy is more important than speed. A "click" is short for "metronome", a devise that marks time giving a regular tick. I recommend using the app Tempo for this. Don’t be tempted to move onto other grooves before you can play Figure 3-1 along with the track first. Playing simple exercises slowly and correctly is the only way of making true progress.
USE THE 4,2,1 SYSTEM
Once again try using the 4,2,1 system (Firgure 3-2) to make sure you can effortlessly switch between playing the snare and bass drum.
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The next groove in this series will be adding 8th notes to the four on the floor groove and can be heard on the song Another One Bites The Dust by Queen, until then happy practicing!