If you play one drum with two sticks, and you don't hit the head simultaneously with both sticks, then you're linear drumming: each note is struck seperately. Carrying this idea to a drum kit - with the potential to hit four voices simultaneously - the concept of linear drumming can be an interesting exercise for fluidity, timing, independence, and groove.
In most kit drumming - rock, jazz, folk, ballade, country - the drummer sets up an ostinato on the cymbals and plays the rhythm pattern on the rest of the kit against this ostinato. The cymbal voice remains steady, so subsequent notes on the kick and snare are played simultaneously with the ostinato.
Another method of playing time is linear phrasing: playing each voice seperately. Our previous example, played in a linear fashion with no ostinato, looks like this.
Basically, any pattern that can be played as an ostinato can be played as a linear pattern. Examples follow.
Some examples of linear drumming. Practice them slowly, building speed as you become comfortable. Steadiness and feel are of primary immportance: chops will naturally follow.
This pattern is similar to Linear Pattern #1 above. It's not "symmetrical" in the traditional manner most rock drummers are used to. You'll find you won't slip into this groove as quickly. This pattern can be used to great effect as a fill, playing different voices than the ones pictured here: toms, cymbals, percussion...
This pattern basically doubles the above pattern - using eighth notes - but throws in a little curve at the end.
This pattern begins to develop some different rhythmic structures. It shows the potential power of the linear pattern as applied to various grooves.
Continuing the development of the previous pattern, this exercise is a bit "heavier".
Here are some additional patterns to try out:
I will be placing other examples on this page as I develop them. Try to come up with your own: take any traditional ostinato pattern you've been playing and strip the ostinato. For greater independence and fluidity, try playing them ambidexerously: for more information, see Ambidexterity.
Let me know what patterns you've developed.