Basic Reggae Groove

Build up a simple reggae style groove step by step. The full pattern involves offbeat 8th note hi hats and cross sticks.

In this lesson you will be learning a rudimental reggae groove. Let's start with a list of key features of grooves in this style:

  • Prominent use of notes on the '+' counts, usually with the right hand on the hi hat.
  • Bass drums on the '2' and '4' counts, usually accompanied with a cross stick.
  • Sparse use of bass drums elsewhere in the bar.
  • These grooves are often in a swung 16th time, but this will be covered in later lessons.
  • Slower tempos are more common in this genre.
  • It is quite rare for a reggae piece to be in any time signature other than 4/4.
  • Grooves are often played no louder than 'mf'
  • Splashes are as common as crashes.
  • Second snares are quite common.

More spefically, the style of groove you are going to learn here is generally referred to as a 'One Drop'. There is a good explanation of this On Wikipedia that is very worth reading.

A reggae groove is quite different to those that you have covered previously and may take a bit of work to get fully comfortable with. Through this lesson you will be building up various patterns around the One Drop idea with some subtle difference. The '+' count accents will be the trickiest bit but the shit in back beat accent may also give you a bit of grief. Just take your time with the grooves and build them up slowly.

Below are several One Drop grooves with a quick explanation of how to play them. Before working through this list it may be worth looking at our lessons on Cross Stick Use In Grooves, Offbeat 8th Note Accents and Offbeat 8th Note Right Hands.

Step 1

To start with you will be playing straight eighths on the hi hat with a cross stick and bass drum on beats 2 and 4. This will work as a reggae groove but isn't ideal and should be treated as more of an exercise. The aim of this is to get you comfortable with hitting the cross stick and kick drum at the same time whilst not using bass drums through out the rest of the bar.

A reggae groove exercise.

Repeat this part over until you can play it consistantly at a tempo of around 110bpm before moving on.

Step 2

In the next couple of steps you will be experiment with different right hand parts. First of all you are going to remove the hi hats from all numbered counts, which is quite a co ordination challenge. Don't be afraid to slow the groove right down to get familiar with how it all fits together. This is the most simple generic reggae groove there is.

A reggae groove.

As before, repeat this part over until you can play it consistantly at a tempo of around 110bpm before moving on.

Step 3

For this version of the basic reggae groove you are going to combine the two previous patterns. You will play constant eighth notes with the right hand but will now accent all of those that fall on an '+' count. Again, this is a big co ordination challenge so you may need to spend some time working on the part at a lower tempo.

A reggae groove.

It is important that the '+' counts are louder than all others so watch your stick height while practicing. Aim for a tempo of around 110bpm again.

Half Time Version

Finally I'll show you how this groove will work in half time. You'll keep the same right hand patterns but now the side stick and kick will fall on beat 3. I have shown this below with offbeat 8th right hands as well as accented '+' counts. Notice the use of minims here.

Half Time Reggae Groove 1

A reggae groove.

Half Time Reggae Groove 2

A reggae groove.

And that covers the absolute basics of groove construction for this genre. Try playing some of these grooves a long to some Bob Marley, they are very prominent in his songs and many of them are very low tempo numbers that will be great for absolute beginners.

In later lessons you will be varying the right hand further, adding in some swung 16ths, decorating the pattern with offbeat 16ths and of course there will be similar lessons covering fill construction.


  1. Learn all given examples up to a tempo of at least 120bpm.
  2. Try fitting these grooves into some reggae songs.

To help with fitting these grooves into more practical settings I have included a few four bar patterns. I have included some simple fills and have included crashes at the start.

Phrased Example 1 A short phrase in the reggae style.

Phrased Example 2 A short phrase in the reggae style.

Phrased Example 3 A short phrase in the reggae style.