Rock Drums


Authored by Rod Morgenstein


Course Code: OPERC-261

Next semester
starts June 24

12 Weeks

Level 2

Level 2

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


Rock drumming is an incredibly diverse drumming style filled with subtlety and artistic expression. Rock Drums is a hands-on, performance-based course full of top tier musical examples and playing opportunities that will teach you the time-tested techniques behind playing a variety of rock drumming styles. The course, authored by world-famous drummer Rod Morgenstein (Winger, Dixie Dregs), begins by exploring the tried and true patterns from the earliest days of rock and roll, which continue to impact virtually every genre of rock music today. From there, the course covers topics such as different kinds of beats and fills, how to change the sound and feel of a groove, the influence of Latin rhythms on rock drumming, ghost-stroking techniques, syncopated grooves, odd time, double bass drumming, and the rudiments as they apply to rock drumming.

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The course explores the influence of the 60s drumming icons (Ringo Starr, Mitch Mitchell, Ginger Baker, John Bonham, Charlie Watts, and Keith Moon) that laid the groundwork for many of the rock bands that followed. The course features musical drumming examples from over 100 artists including The Beatles, AC/DC, Blink 182, Green Day, Led Zeppelin, Motley Crue, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Rolling Stones, Rush, Incubus, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kiss, Radiohead, Judas Priest, Slipknot, Dream Theater, Grateful Dead, System of a Down, Pink Floyd, The Police, Opeth, and more. Each lesson also includes play-a-long tracks to inspire you to create your own unique drum parts based on the material covered. The course is geared to part-time hobbyists as well as drummers who have their eyes set on a career in music. Course author Rod Morgenstein bases the material on his 35 years of real-life recording and performing experience, which includes recording on over 50 CDs and playing over 3,000 concerts in roughly 25 countries, in venues ranging from clubs and theaters to arenas and stadiums.

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

  • Understand various drumming concepts, approaches, and techniques for playing effectively in diverse rock music settings
  • Identify why grooves sound and feel the way they do
  • Orchestrate effective grooves and fills around the drum set, such as basic eighth-note patterns, more complex sixteenth-note patterns, syncopated grooves, blues grooves, shuffles, half-time shuffles, ghost stroking patterns, odd time feels, double bass beats and fills, Latin-influenced rock patterns, rudiments applied in a rock context, and unusual approaches to creating grooves
  • Play with an authentic sound and feel
  • Strengthen your knowledge of and ability to play various rock drumming styles through the study of some of rock music’s most significant drummers
  • Change the sound and feel of any groove to accommodate different rock genres
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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors
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Lesson 1: Back to Rock Basics

  • Seven Tried and True Basic Eighth Note Kick/Snare Patterns
  • Changing the Feel of a Groove
  • Respecting Simplicity
  • Listening and Analysis

Lesson 2: The Backbeat and Beyond

  • Single Backbeats, Straight-Four Snare Drum, Snare Drum Variations, Snare Drum Beat Displacement
  • Bass Drum Variations, Drum Set Colors
  • Beyond the 2 and 4 Snare Backbeat
  • Listening and Analysis
  • The Medium Phenomenon

Lesson 3: Rounding Out the Basics

  • Introduction to Fills
  • The Beat Fill
  • Eighth Note Fills
  • The Backbeat Fill
  • Listening and Analysis

Lesson 4: Building on the Rock Basics, Part 1

  • Introduction to Sixteenth Notes
  • Sixteenth-Note Ride Patterns
  • Changing the Feel of a Groove
  • Sixteenth-Note Kick/Snare Patterns
  • Listening and Analysis

Lesson 5: Building on the Rock Basics, Part 2

  • Sixteenth-Note Kick/Snare Patterns, Continued
  • Straight Four Snare Drum, Open Hi-Hat Beats, Tom Tom Beats
  • Additional Ride Patterns
  • The World of Sixteenth Notes
  • Listening and Analysis

Lesson 6: Triplets and Shuffles

  • Triplet/Shuffle Ride Patterns
  • Changing the Feel of a Groove
  • Half-Time Feel, Snare Drum Variations, Shuffle Variations, Tom-Tom Beats, Drum Set Colors
  • Triplet, 6/8-12/8, Shuffle, and Half-Time Shuffle
  • Listening and Analysis

Lesson 7: Beyond the Eighth-Note Drum Fill

  • Triplet Fills
  • Sixteenth-Note Fills
  • 32nd Notes and Sextuplets
  • The Medium Fill Phenomenon
  • Listening and Analysis

Lesson 8: The Guys Who Started It All: Signature Grooves and Classic Fills

  • Six Groundbreaking Drummers
  • Signature Drum Grooves
  • Classic Drum Fills
  • Listening and Analysis
  • Creating Signature Drum Grooves

Lesson 9: Ghost Strokes/Syncopated Grooves

  • Ghost Strokes
  • Ghost Stroke Transcriptions
  • Syncopated Groove Transcriptions
  • Listening and Analysis

Lesson 10: The Influence of Latin Rhythms

  • Clave
  • Brazilian Rhythms
  • Afro-Cuban Rhythms
  • Calypso and Reggae
  • Listening and Analysis

Lesson 11: Odd Time/Double Bass 

  • Odd Time
  • Rock On in Odd Time
  • Double Bass
  • Listening and Analysis

Lesson 12: Everything Is Connected

  • Rudiments In Rock
  • Expanding Your Drumming Palette
  • Listening and Analysis
  • Final Thoughts/Putting It All Together


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Completion of Music Theory 101 and Drum Set Performance 101, or equivalent knowledge and two years of playing experience. You should have an understanding of note values, coordination studies, and basic time keeping. Some live performance experience would be a plus but is not necessary.



  • 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.

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


Rod Morgenstein

Author & Instructor

Rod Morgenstein is a professor in the Percussion department at Berklee College of Music, currently in his 20th year of teaching. He is a founding member of the ground-breaking progressive rock fusion group the Dixie Dregs, whose recordings have received six Grammy nominations for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. The band, in its heyday, was touted by the Philadelphia Inquirer as "possibly the most important, and certainly the most technically advanced instrumental group in progressive fusion."

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Rod is also an original member of the heavy metal band Winger, whose recordings have reached gold and platinum status around the world. The band, having received an American Music Award nomination for Best New Heavy Metal Band in 1989, is still actively recording and touring.

He was part of a select group of drummers chosen to play on the Buddy Rich tribute album, Burning for Buddy. In addition, he was the resident drummer for Thoroughbred Music's annual Guitar Expo from 1995 through 1999, jamming with the likes of Slash, Billy Sheehan, Yngwie Malmsteen, Mike Stern, Zach Wilde, and Ace Frehley.

Rod was named the Best Progressive Rock Drummer by Modern Drummer in 1999 and is a five-time winner of the Modern Drummer Reader's Poll for Best Progressive Rock Drummer.

His instructional materials include the books Drum Set Warm-Ups (Berklee Press) and The Drumset Musician (Hal Leonard) with Rick Mattingly; the videos Putting It All Together (Warner Bros.) and Drum Tips/Double Bass Drumming (Warner Bros.); and the audio books Grooving In Styles/Filling In the Holes (Cherry Lane), Double Bass Drumming (Cherry Lane), and Odd Time (Bamo Productions). Read Less

What's Next?

When taken for credit, Rock 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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