Funk/R&B Drums


Authored by Jim Payne


Course Code: OPERC-263

Next semester
starts June 24

12 Weeks

Level 2

Level 2

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


Funk/R&B drums plays a major role in much of the music we hear today. For example, Clyde Stubblefield, James Brown's drummer and the original "Funky Drummer," created one of most sampled rhythmic breaks ever — a key component of countless songs found in both hip-hop and popular music.

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In Funk/R&B Drums, you'll focus on developing solid time and an "in the pocket," laid-back time feel to your playing. To that end, you'll explore topics such as triplet-based blues and gospel patterns, shuffles, New Orleans style R&B, ghost notes, bass drum technique, sixteenth-note patterns, various hi-hat patterns and openings, fills, displaced backbeats, playing and setting up ensemble figures, and drum breaks. You'll learn about the history of this style, starting with the blues and gospel music and moving toward the highly syncopated and sixteenth-note based rhythms of the 70s and 80s.

Each lesson includes video demonstrations, listening analyses, transcriptions, practice exercises, and an assignment in which you will perform over a song track that contains the elements covered in the lesson. The course also covers many of the artists who were instrumental in creating this style, including Clyde Stubblefield, Earl Palmer, B. B. King, James Brown, Jabo Starks, Ray Charles, Average White Band, Kool and the Gang, The Meters, Joseph "Zigaboo" Modeliste, Tower of Power, David Garibaldi, Aretha Franklin, Bernard Purdie, Earth, Wind & Fire, Herbie Hancock, and Medeski, Martin & Wood.

The course is geared to players who have a basic knowledge of rock and are interested in expanding their skill set, students who may be on the path to a professional career, and jazz players who may not be familiar with funk and want to learn the genre. The goal of the course is to enable you to play songs and improvise rhythms in the style of funk and R&B.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Identify the blues and gospel roots of R&B and funk drumming
  • Perform triplet-based blues and gospel rhythms, the up-tempo two-beat gospel/R&B groove, basic and double shuffles, and New Orleans eighth-note groove syncopated bass drum patterns
  • Put swing feel into R&B and funk rhythms
  • Apply eighth-note and sixteenth-note hi-hat patterns with various openings
  • Play syncopated 16th note bass drum patterns
  • Play R&B fills
  • Perform with kicks, ensemble figures, and fills
  • Perform rhythms with displaced backbeats and ghost notes
  • Perform linear rhythms with swing feel
  • Analyze and play four classic drum breaks
  • Orchestrate the Latin clave, the rhumba and two latin cowbell patterns on the drumset
  • Apply the "buzz" and other embellishments to your playing
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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors
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Lesson 1: Blues, Gospel, and the Shuffle: The Roots of R&B and Funk

  • Slow Blues and Gospel
  • Song Form
  • The Basic Shuffle
  • The Double Shuffle
  • Listening and Playing Exercises

Lesson 2: New Orleans R&B—The Eighth-Note Groove

  • Eighth-Note New Orleans-Style Rhythms: The Basic Framework of Funk
  • Adding Syncopated Bass Drum Patterns to the New Orleans Groove
  • Adding Hi-Hat Openings to New Orleans Rhythms
  • Repertoire Development
  • Listening and Playing Exercises

Lesson 3: Ghost Notes

  • Sixteenth Note Count
  • Ghost Note Rhythms 1 (Single Ghost Notes)
  • Ghost Note Rhythms 2 (Double Ghost Notes)
  • Listening and Playing Exercises

Lesson 4: Focus on the Bass Drum and the Groove

  • Funk with Sixteenths on the Bass Drum
  • In the Groove
  • Listening and Playing Exercises

Lesson 5: Up-Tempo Shuffles and Soul Ballads

  • The Shuffle Continued
  • Soul Ballads
  • Listening and Playing Exercises

Lesson 6: Focus on the Bass Drum and Playing with the Bass Player

  • Getting Started
  • Playing with the Bass Player
  • Listening and Playing Exercises

Lesson 7: Fills, Kicks, and Ghost Notes with Sixteenth-Note Bass Drum Patterns

  • Fills
  • Kicks and Ensemble Figures
  • More Ghost Notes With Sixteenth-Note Bass Drum Patterns
  • Listening and Playing Exercises

Lesson 8: Displaced Backbeats and the Sixteenth-Note Hi-Hat Pattern

  • Displacing the Backbeat
  • Sixteenths with The Right-Hand
  • Listening and Playing Exercises

Lesson 9: Focus on the Hi-Hat

  • Sixteenths on the Hi-Hat with Two Hands
  • Hi-Hat on the "Ands"
  • Paradiddle Possibilities and Other Hi-Hat Patterns
  • Creative Hi-Hat Openings
  • Listening and Playing Exercises

Lesson 10: Linear Drumming, Contrasting Sections, and Swing Feel

  • Linear Drumming
  • Contrasting Sections
  • Swing Feel in Funk and R&B
  • Listening and Playing Exercises

Lesson 11: Half-Time Shuffle, Drum Breaks, and Latin Influence

  • The Half-Time Shuffle
  • Drum Breaks
  • Latin Influence: The Clave, the Rhumba, and Latin Cowbell Patterns
  • Listening and Playing Exercises

Lesson 12: Dynamics, Embellishments, and Putting It All Together 

  • Dynamics
  • Embellishments
  • Following the Form and Putting It All Together
  • Listening and Playing Exercises


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Completion of Music Theory 101 and Drum Set Fundamentals, or equivalent knowledge. You should be able to play basic rock and blues songs on the drum set, have a basic understanding of standard drum set notation, and be able to play simple rhythms in quarter notes and eighth notes in standard drum set notation.



  • Students are required to record video while performing with a backing track for their assignments. Options for recording video include:
    • Smartphone
    • Digital camera
    • Webcam (using either video recording software, or the video recording tool that is built into the learning environment)


  • Acoustic or electronic drum kit
  • Drumsticks


  • Students are required to capture their drum performance, as well as monitor audio output. Options include:
    • Input (one required):
      • Electronic drum set connected directly to audio interface (recommended non-acoustic option; alternatively, the microphone options below can be used with amplified instruments)
      • Electronic drum set connected directly to computer via MIDI/USB to control software samples
      • XLR microphone(s) and audio interface (recommended acoustic option)
      • USB microphone
      • Built-in computer/mobile device microphone
    • Output (one required):
      • Headphones (recommended option; required if multitracking and/or input monitoring a microphone)
      • Studio monitors and audio interface
      • Built-in or external speakers
  • Note: Depending on your setup, you may also need XLR/instrument cables and microphone stand(s).
  • Music stand
  • Recommended: Isolation headphones, such as Vic Firth SIH2 Stereo Isolation Headphones
  • Recommended: Printer, if you would like to print out examples used in the course.


  • Metronome (hardware or software/app)

Student Deals
After enrolling, be sure to check out our Student Deals page for various offers on software, hardware, and more. Please contact with any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Chats. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Jim Payne

Author & Instructor

Labeled the "Buddy Rich or Billy Cobham of funk drumming" by JazzTimes magazine, Jim Payne has had a long career as a drummer, educator, producer, and collaborator with the best in jazz and funk. He has performed with the J. B. Horns, Maceo Parker, Fred Wesley, Pee Wee Ellis, Michael Brecker, Dave Liebman, the Radio City Music Hall Orchestra, and his own band Jim Payne Band, in addition to playing every major European and US jazz and blues festival, including the Montreaux Jazz Festival, the North Sea Jazz Festival, and the Paris Jazz Festival.

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Payne is the author of several books, including Drumming with the Mambo King (written with the late Tito Puente). He has also released a number of albums and DVDs. He is a well-known clinician, having performed clinics at many colleges, drum stores, and the annual PASIC International Percussion Convention. He taught at Drummers Collective for 10 years, teaches privately at Drummers World in New York City, and also runs the Manhattan Jazz Workshop at the Church St. School of Music and Art. He is a regular contributor to Modern Drummer magazine.

Payne has produced records for Medeski Martin & Wood (It's A Jungle in Here and Friday Afternoon in The Universe), The J.B. Horns (Pee Wee, Fred & Maceo, and Funky Good Time), Mike Clark and Paul Jackson (The Funk Stops Here), and more. Read Less

What's Next?

When taken for credit, Funk/R&B Drums can be applied towards the completion of these related programs:


Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at

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