Knock on wood was a hit for Eddie Floyd in 1966 & has been covered many times since. It’s a soul classic written on a stormy night by guitar great Steve Cropper & singer Eddie Floyd. The challenge on this song is locking in fully with the band; the horns, the rhythm guitar & the singer all play unison figures with the band. Here’s my attempt:
This song features a number of off-beat figures that need to be played perfectly in sync with the band; the introduction ends with the bass drum & crashes being hit with the horns on the & of 4 and the & of 1; the chorus ends with snare hits on the off-beats with the guitar & singer; the song ends with same figure as the chorus but played with the bass drum & crashes. If you are not confident playing on the off beats then these figures will cause trouble.
My favourite exercise for building confidence with off-beats is this one:
To start with use a metronome that has an 8th note setting. (I recommend TempoPerfect on your computer or on your phone – search for “tempoperfect” by NCH software). Start slowly at 60 bpm, your aim is to play right on top of the metronome; you shouldn’t be able to hear the metronome when you strike the drum. You may want to dampen your snare drum so you get a dry sound so you can really hear if you are on top of the beat.
Record yourself playing the exercise and listen back to see if you are really on top of the beat. Then, if you are really on top of the beat consistently, set your your metronome to just play quarter notes, repeat the exercise & see if you can make it sound the same as it did when you had the metronome playing 8ths. Gradually increase the speed, see how fast you can go while keeping the accuracy. If you work on this regularly you will be able to play off beat figures confidently at speed.
The verse of this song should provide little trouble, however listen to the rhythm guitar and make sure you are locking in with it. I enjoy nothing more than locking in with a good rhythm guitarist. A good rhythm guitarist can really help to make your time keeping duties easier and aid in creating the right feel for the song; a bad one is a nightmare and all you can do is try to ignore them!
The pre-chorus (bars 17-21 – about 0:41 in the video) provides a nice change of groove with its syncopated bass drum pattern, but do note it is 5 bars in length which can feel a little weird and may catch you out. Try and get all the snare accents on the 5th bar the same volume; on the video I played them LRLR but you may try playing them all with one hand, this will give you a chance to throw in some showmanship with your free hand… a twirl perhaps?
The chorus features the same funky syncopated groove as the introduction with the tricky off-beat figure at the end. After playing the chorus the first time we get to play the turnaround; this features the snare on all four beats with the bass joining it on beat one. This section needs a fair bit of attention as you need to get the snare & bass perfectly in sync on beat one and crescendo over the three bars. You may want to practice this section on it’s own for a while. It looks easy but there is a lot to get right.
After repeating the verse, pre-chorus & chorus we move on to the outro; this is just a continuation of the chorus using the ride cymbal instead of the hi-hat and has the off-beat bass & crash figure discussed earlier. The final bar has hits on beats 1 and 4. Don’t rush the last hit on beat 4, practice it with a metronome to get it accurate, and count during the last bar. Too early or too late and it’ll sound wrong and will leave a bad last impression on your audience.
In 2014 I saw The Rolling Stones performing live and Charlie Watts was totally off on the hits at the end of one song; it was very obviously wrong. It was a great show, but I still remember that bad ending. When I miss something on stage (which doesn’t happen very often – honest!) I remind myself that even a legend like Charlie Watts gets it wrong sometimes & then laugh off my mistake and get on with the rest of my life & enjoy the rest of the show – and concentrate a little more!
Knock On Wood is a great song to work on and provides some great opportunities for working on your timing and dynamics and locking in with a band.
The 2018 version of the Trinity Grade 2 Rock & Pop book is great to work through if you’re around 6 months to a year into your drumming career. You don’t have to take the exam to benefit from the book. The songs are great to work on & fun to play and will help to improve your drumming. In Singapore you can find the book at Robert Piano – Paragon Shopping Centre (and probably their other outlets). It’s also available from Amazon if you’re happy to pay the shipping!
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