The Specials – Ghost Town – Trinity Rock & Pop Grade 6

What’s so special about this song? Well… it’s about my home town: Coventry, England. Not the most positive song ever written about Coventry I must admit; inspired by rising unemployment, bars and clubs closing down, times of economic hardship… it’s not exactly uplifting! It is however part of the Trinity Rock & Pop Grade 6 syllabus, so lets take a look at it.

The Specials – Ghost Town – Trinity Rock & Pop Grade 6 Drums

Make That Groove Smooth

The main focus of this song is the groove. It features one handed 16th notes played at 74bpm with some 16th note bass drums thrown in to make it sound funky. The tips given in the book for this song indicate that the 16th notes on the hi-hat should be played evenly yet with a bouncy feel. Normally when I think bouncy I think of a shuffle, but this song is not a shuffle. So how do we play evenly yet bouncy?

I believe that evenly refers to the spacing of the 16th notes – they need to be a perfectly spaced  1 e & ah 2 e & ah 3 e & ah 4 e & ah – all notes equidistant apart. To add the bouncy element, I decided to accent the &s on the hi-hat. If you watch my right hand on the hi-hat, you’ll notice that I allow my right hand to drop down a little bit on the &s so the shoulder of the stick catches the edge of the hi-hat a little more and produces a slightly louder, thicker sound than the other three 16th notes. You can experiment with this, you might want to accent all of the 8th notes which another common way of adding movement to a 16th note hi-hat pattern. Whatever you do, just make sure it doesn’t interfere with the even spacing of the notes.

By accenting the offbeat in this manner you also tie in rhythmically with the guitar for most of the song. You may want to experiment with just accenting the offbeats when the guitar is playing the same rhythm.

Woof Woof – Is That A Barking Hi-Hat?

Most of the fills in this song feature hi-hat barks. It’s something you often hear funk drummers doing & we previously encountered in grade 5 with Prince’s Musicology. Working on speed exercises with your feet will help with the execution of this fill. Practice playing 16th notes between your feet until you can get them clean & even.

hi-hat barks - drum lessons in singapore - rhythm house
Prepare to bark

Once you can play clean 16ths between your feet, then you can introduce your right hand hitting the hi-hat hi-hat together with the bass drum.

Hi-hat barks exercise 2

If you have been playing clean 16 notes between your feet, then you should now get consistent sounding open hi-hats barking on the es & ahs. Try altering how much you open the hi-hat by controlling it with your foot. Opening it different amounts will give very different results. Normally you don’t want to open it very much at all as you want the hi-hats to sizzle together. The less you open the hi-hats, the easier it will be to do it at faster tempos as your foot doesn’t have to go up  down so far.

Keep working on this until you can get a consistent sound for all the open hi-hats. You can cheat on this by setting your hi-hats to be open just a little bit when your foot isn’t on the pedal. However, I recommend learning to control your left foot though & being able to choose how open the hi-hat is so you have full control of the sound you get.

32nd Note Fills

Unlike most other Trinity rock & pop songs, all the fills for this song are spelt out for us. Most of the fills occur after the hi-hat barks on the & of four and are played as 32nd notes on the snare. The song is at 74bpm, so playing 32nd notes is the same as playing 16th notes at 148bpm. Hopefully you’ve been working on your single stroke roll speed! We only need short bursts of speed for these fills so they should be achievable. Work with a metronome to lock in your timing.

Did You Get Spooked?

This is probably one of the easier grade 6 songs to play as the groove stays consistent throughout the song and the fills are quite repetitive. However, you need to commit to making that groove sound good and to keep it sounding the same throughout the song. Work on playing the hi-hat in a relaxed manner so you’re hand doesn’t get fatigued playing all those 16th notes. Make those hi-hat barks as consistent as possible too.

The 2018 version of the Trinity Grade 6 Rock & Pop book is great to work through if you’re around 3.5 – 4 years 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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