When it comes to heavy metal music, the driving force behind its powerful sound is often the drums. Metal beats provide the foundation for the genre’s intensity and aggression. However, within the realm of metal, there exists a wide range of variations and styles that drummers employ to create their signature sounds. In this article, we will explore some of the common variations for metal beats that add depth and diversity to the genre.
1. Blast Beats
One of the most recognizable and widely used variations in metal drumming is the blast beat. Blast beats are characterized by rapid and relentless drumming on the snare drum and bass drum. The drummer alternates between striking both drums in quick succession, creating a continuous barrage of sound. This technique is often employed in subgenres like black metal and death metal, lending an intense and chaotic feel to the music.
1.1 Types of Blast Beats
Blast beats come in various forms, each with its own distinctive pattern. Here are three commonly used blast beat variations:
1.1.1 Standard Blast Beat
The standard blast beat involves playing constant 16th notes on the bass drum and alternating snare hits. The snare drum is played on the offbeats, creating a rapid and aggressive sound. This type of blast beat is frequently used in genres like grindcore and extreme metal.
1.1.2 Hammer Blast Beat
The hammer blast beat adds an extra bass drum hit between each snare hit. This modification results in a heavier and more punishing sound, commonly used in death metal and hardcore genres.
1.1.3 Gravity Blast Beat
The gravity blast beat is a more complex variation, where the drummer uses their fingers on the snare drum while employing the heel-toe technique on the bass drum. This technique creates a unique and intricate sound, often found in progressive metal and technical death metal.
1.2 Double Bass Drumming
Double bass drumming is a technique that involves using two bass drums or a double bass pedal to create rapid and powerful bass drum patterns. This technique enables drummers to play fast, intricate patterns and execute rapid fills with ease. It is commonly used in various subgenres of metal, including power metal and thrash metal, adding speed and complexity to the music.
2. Syncopated Rhythms
Another common variation in metal beats is the use of syncopated rhythms. Syncopation involves accenting offbeat notes or emphasizing weak beats, creating a distinctive and dynamic feel. In metal, syncopated rhythms often contribute to the genre’s complexity and groove.
2.1 Offbeat Snare Hits
One popular way to incorporate syncopation is by adding offbeat snare hits. Drummers accentuate or ghost notes on the snare drum, emphasizing the “e” and “a” subdivisions of the beat. This technique creates a sense of anticipation and adds a layer of complexity to the overall rhythm.
Polyrhythms are another form of syncopation frequently used in metal music. A polyrhythm involves layering multiple rhythms simultaneously, often with different time signatures. This technique can create intricate and mesmerizing patterns, enhancing the complexity and intensity of metal music.
3. Diverse Cymbal Patterns
Cymbals play a vital role in metal beats, contributing to the overall energy and texture of the music. Drummers employ a wide variety of cymbal patterns to enhance their performances and bring unique flavors to their beats.
3.1 Ride Bell Patterns
In metal music, drummers often incorporate ride bell patterns to add accents and dynamics to their beats. They strike the ride cymbal’s bell in specific patterns, creating a distinctive and cutting sound that stands out amidst the heavy guitars and vocals.
3.2 China Cymbal Swells
China cymbals are known for their unique and explosive sound. Drummers utilize china cymbal swells to punctuate certain sections of a song, adding drama and impact. These swells often occur during breakdowns, transitions, or powerful moments in the music.
3.3 Hi-Hat Choking
Hi-hat choking is a technique where the drummer abruptly closes the hi-hat cymbals using their foot. This technique produces a sharp, short sound that can be used to accentuate specific beats or create rhythmic tension within a song.
4. Dynamic Tempo Changes: Adding Intensity and Nuance to Metal Beats
One powerful technique in metal drumming is the incorporation of dynamic tempo changes. By altering the tempo within a song, drummers can create moments of heightened intensity, build suspense, and add an extra layer of nuance to their beats.
4.1 Accelerating Tempo
Accelerating the tempo is a technique used to increase the speed and energy of a song. Drummers gradually increase the tempo, often leading up to a climactic section such as a guitar solo or a breakdown. This sudden burst of speed adds a thrilling and exhilarating element to the music, intensifying the impact on the listeners.
4.2 Slowing Down the Tempo
On the other hand, slowing down the tempo can create a sense of heaviness and create an opportunity for headbanging-worthy moments. Drummers employ slower tempos during breakdowns or heavy sections to allow the instrumentation to breathe, emphasizing the weight and power of each note. This technique adds a crushing and deliberate feel to the metal beats, enhancing the overall impact of the music.
4.3 Tempo Transitions and Time Signature Changes
Drummers can also experiment with tempo transitions and time signature changes to add complexity and surprise to their beats. Shifting between different time signatures or abruptly changing the tempo creates moments of unpredictability and keeps the listeners engaged. These transitions can serve as pivotal points in a song, marking transitions between sections or adding a progressive element to the music.
Forging Sonic Landscapes: Embracing the Versatility of Metal Beats
Metal beats are incredibly diverse, offering a wide range of variations and styles for drummers to explore. From the blistering speed of blast beats to the intricate patterns of syncopation and the creative use of cymbals, metal drumming continues to evolve and push boundaries. By experimenting with these common variations, drummers can add their own unique touch to the genre, contributing to its ever-growing legacy of power and intensity.