Guns N’ Roses’ most famous song is now part of the Trinity Rock & Pop Grade 3 syllabus. So if, like Axl & the gang, you’re wondering “where do we go now?” It’s quite simple… you go to watch the video of me playing the song:
This version of the song is about two and half minutes shorter than the original. Part of the introduction has been sacrificed along with large chunks of the guitar solos (sorry Slash!) and at least one chorus. However it does feature almost all the main drum parts of the song and will certainly help you if you want to attempt to play the whole song at a later date. Let’s look at some of the trickier parts.
During the chorus of the song you’re required to play crash cymbals on Beat 1 and the And of two. This second crash provides a lot of forward momentum for the groove and seems to “push” the song forward. The same effect is also often achieved by playing a crash on the And of 4 – Metallica’s Enter Sandman uses that push during the pre-chorus.
You may find it unusual hitting a crash on the And of Two at first; often students are comfortable playing a crash on beat 1 and also beats 2 & 4, but playing on the Ands can feel a bit strange. Hitting two crashes in quick succession can also cause problems. Taking your time to master this & being able to play the crashes with either hand and in any combination will help you to avoid panicking when it comes to playing the crash.
Try playing the crashes using the patterns in the exercise below. If you have 2 crashes, one on the right & one on the left, have your right hand play either cymbal for extra practice (assuming your kit is set up right handed.)
For a bonus practice pattern, if you have 2 crashes, hit both simultaneously to get that true rock star look & feel! In the video I opted to mostly use my left hand & left crash as I find this most efficient and easiest with my setup. Due to space constraints my right crash is right over top of my ride cymbal & makes it tricky to move between the two quickly. Luckily I’m comfortable crashing with my left so I can adapt quite easily. If I was playing the song live, and had space to move my right crash away from the ride, then I would probably play pattern # 3 or #4 as they look good visually.
No, No, No, No, No, No Bad Triplets Please!
The climax of the song features Flams played around the kit using the Quarter Note Triplet Subdivision. Triplets are defined as 3 notes in the space of 2. If we play a whole bar of quarter note triplets, we get 6 quarter notes where previously we had only 4. A lot of drummers learn to play quarter note triplets by feel; I certainly did, by playing along to the original version of the song a lot.
Whilst you can learn it that way, it’s good to be able to practice it away from the song & to know how to develop it. The easy way to get used to this rhythm is to play 8th note triplets using the single stroke roll (starting with the right) and then take away the left hand – then you’ll be left with quarter note triplets – like so:
To start with you may just want to move to the left hand away to another surface – the hi-hat, rim of the snare, your leg – so you can hear the sound of the quarter note triplets on the snare. As always, work with a metronome & count – you’ll soon get the feel of it. For bonus points, add the bass drum on quarter notes & you’ll be playing a 6 over 4 polyrhythm!
Where do we go now?
Sweet Child O’ Mine is a classic rock song that every rock drummer has to learn to play at some point. It’s a very commonly requested song for cover bands even some 30 years after it’s release. The Trinity Rock & Pop version provides a good starting point for anyone wanting to learn the song.
Apart from getting good at playing pushes and quarter note triplets, you’ll also benefit from learning the classic fill that appears during the verses. This fill has been used in countless rock songs and essential for the rock drummer to have in their fill vocabulary. You can see it at the 50 second mark in the video.
The 2018 version of the Trinity Grade 3 Rock & Pop book is great to work through if you’re around 18 months to 2 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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