Want to significantly improve your rudimental drumming so that you can throw down some sick beats that make you feel great?
Well, Grid exercises will help you do just that.
You see, the Grid is an extremely beneficial type of drumline exercise that enables you to develop your tone, timing, technique, and rhythmic comprehension - all at the same time!
It isn’t one specific drumline exercise but rather a concept or formula with thousands upon thousands of different variations.
So, if you've never heard about the Grid before, or even if you just want to brush up your Gridding knowledge to become a true Grid Guru, this article will teach you what you need to know.
What is the Grid?
There isn’t an official definition for the Grid, but you can define the concept of the Grid as shifting an embellishment across different partials of a rhythm or rudiment that you’re working on.
For example, if you're gridding sixteenth notes with accents, you would have four different patterns to focus on.
In the first pattern, you would put the accent on the downbeats or the first partial of the sixteenth note. In the second pattern, you would shift the accent back one sixteenth note partial so that the accent is on the "e" of the beat. In the third pattern, you would shift the accent back another sixteenth note partial to the "and" of the beat. Finally, in the fourth pattern, you would shift the accent back one more sixteenth note partial to the "ah" of the beat.
You'll notice that the accent simply moves back one sixteenth note partial from one pattern to the next until you've worked your way through all of the partials.
Simple enough, right?
Here's a video that helps break down the concept of the Grid in a little bit more detail and provides a playing example for you to follow along with.
How to 4-2-1 the Grid
Now that you understand the basic concept of the Grid, it's time to take a look at the second concept frequently associated with it.
This second concept is the 421 concept or 4-2-1 Formula.
The 4-2-1 Formula is essentially just a standard formula that dictates a specific number of times you play a particular rhythm, rudiment, or pattern.
The 4-2-1 Formula involves three sections - the Fours, the Twos, and the Ones.
In the Fours section, you play four of whatever rhythm, rudiment, or pattern you’re playing and you play that entire section one time.
In the Twos section, you play two of whatever rhythm, rudiment, or pattern you’re playing and play that section two times.
In the Ones section, you play one of whatever rhythm, rudiment, or pattern you’re playing and play that section four times.
As the saying goes, “Fours once, Twos twice, Ones four times.”
To learn more about the 421 concept and see a playing demonstration, check out this video:
The Two Essential Grid Exercises
Now that you understand the general concept of the Grid and the 421 concept, it’s time to combine them and learn the two most essential Grid exercises.
The two most essential grids are the Sixteenth Note Grid and the Triplet Grid.
These two grids are essential because they are the most fundamental building blocks of more elaborate Grids.
For example, the 16th Note Grid is the foundation of all sixteenth note based Grids and the Triplet Grid is the foundation of all triplet based Grids.
Here's a video lesson that teaches you how to play the 16th Note Grid
Here's a video lesson that teaches you how to play the Triplet Grid
You can download free sheet music for both of these grid exercises by registering as a Free Member of Drumline Chops.
5 Steps to Effectively Learn the Essential Grids
1) Focus on the Concept. Be sure that you understand the concept of the Grid and the 421 Formula. Do a few mental walk throughs of each concept and ensure that you understand what they are and how they work. Test yourself by teaching it to someone else.
2) Read through the music. Download the free sheet music on DrumlineChops.com by signing up as a free member. Read and count through the Sixteenth Note Grid as well as the Triplet Grid and associate each section of the sheet music the appropriate section of the formula.
3) Slowly play through the main patterns. Focus on the each individual pattern of the Grid and practice counting out loud through each one. By doing this, you'll really start to understand what each accented partial feels and sounds like.
4) Slowly play through each individual section. Now that you're comfortable with accenting all of the individual partials by themselves, it's time to plug them into the actual 421 formula. Start with the Fours, then the Twos, and finally the Ones.
5) Put all of the sections together and play the entire grid. Practice playing the entire grid slowly from the beginning to end while counting out loud. Do this slowly so that you can really focus on maintaining a consistent pulse while shifting the accents around.
Grid Practice Tips
• When you're practicing any type of Grid, make sure that you are focusing on the underlying rhythm. It's easy to allow the accents or embellishments to alter the underlying 16th note or triplet rhythm so make sure that they remain consistent and smooth underneath.
• Practice with a metronome! Practicing with a metronome is always important but is especially true with Grids. Understanding how to shift accents around while maintaining a consistent pulse is absolutely crucial when learning and playing Grids and a metronome will help you do that.
• Exaggerate the difference between your accents and taps. If you play through the Grid with high accents and low taps it becomes very difficult to tell what you're playing. Ensure that you keep your taps low and your accents high so that the entire exercise is well defined.
Grids are a great style of drumline exercise that enable you to improve your tone quality, chops, timing, and rhythmic comprehension all at once. Start by understanding the concept of the Grid followed by the 421 Formula. Once you have those down, learn the Two Essential Grids which are the Sixteenth Note Grid and the Triplet Grid using the 5 steps provided.
If you do these things, you will be well on your way to throwing down some sick beats that make you feel great!
Remember, you can get free sheet music to the grid exercises mentioned in this article as well as many other drumline exercises and video lessons as a Free Member. Click Here to Register as a Free Member.
Get FREE Drumline Exercises Today!
Create an account and get free drumline lessons, exercises, and routines that help you break through your glass ceiling and turbocharge your chops!
Pat McLaughlin is the founder of Drumline Chops. He graduated from the University of North Texas with a degree in music education and is currently the percussion director at West Bloomfield High School.