Linear Drumming With Sensory Percussion: Recreating The 'Cissy Strut' Groove On One Drum
Welcome to Mixed Bag, a series of musings on drums/rhythm that might not necessarily relate to Sensory Percussion, but we think are worth sharing nonetheless. For our fourth installment of the series, we're looking at linear drum grooves, specifically the A section of the Meters' classic "Cissy Strut". We'll break down what makes it special and then recreate the whole groove using just one drum and Sensory Percussion!
Make sure you check out the previous installments if you missed them: The Rhythmic Worlds of Bembé, Recreating J Dilla's 'Fall In Love' With Sensory Percussion, and A Deep Dive into 5
What Is Linear Drumming?
Linear drumming refers to any drum groove in which no two limbs hit together at the same time. It's called this because when it's notated, you can draw a single line through every note of the pattern. This linear quality is pretty unusual for drum set patterns; if you think of a typical rock backbeat groove, the hi-hat is keeping constant eighth notes, so any time you hit the kick or snare, it's hitting at the same time as the hi-hat. You would think only hitting one thing at a time would make a pattern easier to play, but linear grooves are often quite tricky. They're mostly found in funk music with lots of syncopation and off-kilter feels. To illustrate this concept, let's take a look at a classic linear groove and break it down.
The Meters' "Cissy Strut"
The song "Cissy Strut" by The Meters is a must-know for any funk band, and it's been covered and reinterpreted countless times. The original recording features Zigaboo Modeliste on drums, and the A section groove is an iconic example of a linear drum pattern. Let's take a look at a transcription of this groove:
As you can see, the groove calls for kick on beats 1 and 3, and snare on beats 2 and 4, which is pretty typical. But between these beats, there's some syncopation of both the hi-hat and the kick. Emphasizing the third hi-hat hit in particular gives this groove its particular swing. And speaking of swing, Modeliste plays this (and many of his other grooves) somewhere between swung and straight, right in that funky pocket that you'll hear in a lot of music from New Orleans.
Looking at the notation, you might be thinking "Hey, you said this was a linear pattern and linear patterns only have one limb playing at a time. But there are three spots where two limbs are hitting together!" And you would be correct. The truth is there are no hard and fast rules about these things. You can find a lot of academic exercises of linear patterns that adhere strictly to the rule of one limb at a time, but you'd be hard pressed to find a musical example of a groove played on a record where the drummer never plays two things things at once. Usually, what makes a groove "linear" is when the hi-hat/ride is not playing consistent eighth/quarter notes, but rather a distinct interlocking pattern that's unique to that groove. The first instance of two limbs hitting together in the "Cissy Strut" beat is a group of two kicks and two hats, where the second kick overlaps with the first hat. This partially overlapping concept is a bit tricky, and can be found in a lot of funk grooves, like the one played by David Garibaldi on Tower of Power's "Soul Vaccination", which is also considered a linear pattern despite a few overlapping hits.
Recreating The "Cissy Strut" Groove With Sensory Percussion
One of the great things about Sensory Percussion is that it can turn a drum into a whole kit. With this concept in mind, we went about recreating Zigaboo Modeliste's "Cissy Strut" groove using just one drum and one sensor. Of the ten possible zones, we're only using three: the hi-hat is assigned to the rim, the kick is assigned to the edge, and the snare is assigned to the center. So if you're looking to save space packing for your next gig, forget the kick, hi-hat, hi-hat stand, kick pedal, etc. Just bring one drum and one sensor, and you can still get a full kit sound!
Try it yourself! You can grab the Cissy Strut single-drum kit to try out your own linear grooves on a single drum.
Make sure you have Sensory Percussion installed and activated, then just double-click the
Cissy Strut.sps file.
In the kit:
- center pad - a fat snare sample
- edge pad - the kick drum sample
- rim tip - hi-hat sample